Basking in the dot-com misery

Observations

March 18, 2001|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff

"You seem much better this week."

"Better, doctor, yes ..."

"Can you talk about why?"

"In a word, in one wonderful word, doctor: Schadenfreude."

"A good word -""- excellent word, only the Germans - ah, but that's always so hard to say, isn't it? I mean, who else would think to couple Schaden, "to harm," with freude, "joy," and come up with exactly why it is that the more the NASDAQ falls the better I feel. Schadenfreude: glee at another's misfortune."

"The dot-coms' demise, you mean ... "

"Yes, yes, yes. I can breathe again. I can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror without seeing an idiot, a complete loser. I can walk outside and get into my car and turn on the radio and not hear endless variations on the same song: `The train is leaving the station. Hear that ol' whistle blowin' ... Why aren't you on it? BECAUSE YOU'RE A TERRIFIED LITTLE BONEHEAD, THAT'S WHY ... "

"This has been hard for you."

"Doc, if I heard another story about another 24-year-old with a baseball cap on backward who just made $9 million selling a company that has no profits, no building, no product, nothing but a fabulous FUTURE and a few 20-something employees in jeans and T-shirts, who get jizzed up on latte and drive to work in their new BMWs, who know all about browsers and servers and HTMLs, who have to hire bodyguards to keep venture capitalists from assaulting them with burlap sacks of cash - I thought if I heard another one of those stories I would suffer the most horrible post-modern fate of becoming a journalism cliche ` ... 45-year-old white male loner, blah, blah, blah ... '

"Perhaps you could put that Freud statuette down now."

"Sorry."

"You were saying ... "

"I was saying that the past three years have been like living in a casino. Everywhere bells are going off and coins are gushing out of machines and lights flashing and everybody in the place is having a fabulous time and I'm standing there by the quarter slots clutching a 10-spot that's so wet with my own premature flop sweat you could use it to preserve cut flowers. And nobody is losing. And I'm not playing because I heard somewhere that eventually you lose. Eventually, if you keep playing, you lose, and you see that the casino is inside a hotel with 4,000 rooms and they're charging $27 a night and they're building a new wing the exact size and shape of Mount Rushmore and the hot buffet is free and you figure they're not doing this because they're losing money. But everybody keeps winning."

"So ... ?"

"So, so maybe I'm wrong about EVERYTHING. Doctor, I'm telling you, I tried. I tried reading Money magazine and Kiplinger's and logging onto "SmartMoney.com" and in 12 seconds I'm daydreaming like Willy Loman veering off the highway and I'm thinking I can't live in this new world at all. I'm an utter pterodactyl - "

"Well, not everyone -"

"Yes, EVERYONE! Losing money and getting rich. EVERYONE. Who is that guy? Bezos or Bozo, or what-the-heck-ever. The guy who runs Amazon-dot-com. He loses, what, $300 million and the next thing you know he's on the cover of Time and the stock keeps going up and I coulda shoulda mighta bought it for a nickel and now it's over $100 a share and kids who never read a book in their lives are buying their second house already and nobody I talk to can explain how any of this stuff is going to make money and YET THEY'RE ALL MAKING A FOR- "

"Please, the Freud."

"Uh, sorry. What is it, Limoges or something? Lemme guess - e-Bay.

"Anyway, the thing I kept saying was: `I don't understand. I don't understand. I don't know squat about finance, but what about profits? Doesn't there eventually have to be a profit?' And nobody who knows about this stuff seems to be concerned about that. It's as if I'm at a raucous New Millennium bash saying `Yes, but according to the Gregorian calendar ... ' Traders, analysts, guys with Italian suits and MBAs who read Kiplinger's for the sheer poetry of it, they're all running to their place in the Hamptons and ordering another case of Veuve Clicquot and they must know. Of course they do. AND I'M A COWARDLY IDIOT."

"And now?"

"And now the whole house of cards is coming down and the papers are full of those panicked trading floor photographs where everybody's mugging and gesturing like a Mannerist religious painting. It's just a matter of time before I have to start worrying about my own job. Ask not for whom the dot-com tolls, and so on ..."

"You were feeling better, though."

"Schadenfreude, yes, a most shameful and fleeting thing ... Seems ages ago. But what a great run it was while it lasted."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.