It’s a small story but of interest, I think, because of what came after.
In 1995 I worked as a freelance writer and print designer and I had just made up my mind to put more of my time and attention into designing and building websites, something I had started doing the year before. Pitching web work back then meant selling clients on why they needed a web site at all – sometimes even selling them on what the World Wide Web was and why it mattered to their business -- and most still preferred the familiar comfort of a (paper-bound) marketing brochure. I was nervous about my decision then, but can happily report in hindsight that I bet on the right horse.
In August of that year I took a two-week contract to do some technical writing for the Excel product group, and spent my two weeks on Microsoft’s Redmond campus in, as it turned out, the same hallway occupied by Steve Ballmer.
I was warned that Ballmer had a scaled down Louisville Slugger baseball bat that he liked to carry and thwack into his hand, repeatedly, when he had a point to make. I was told it was unlikely that I would encounter him while I was there.
And then I did.
Or rather: I heard him. One afternoon, shortly after the launch party for Office 95 (remember those halcyon days? That was 18 years ago today.) I heard a strange muttering in the hallway. And a loud thwack. And then another thwack. A steady thwacking cadence emerged accompanied by a persistent, angry mantra. My office door was open just a crack so I could see his burly mass as it passed by my door, paced the hallway to its end and then back again, repeatedly.
I don’t imagine he paced for long, but the fear it struck in my heart made it feel like an eternity. The mantra he was repeating?
Screw the Internet.
And that’s my story. It’s a small story but of interest, I think, because of what came after that.