Rat Man

We were a small startup in 2005, and a few years later we were bought up by a larger business. Everyone got half their salary in a lump sum to share the spoils. We grew a bit, not wildly so, and a few years later I moved to another company.

Nearly 15 years and a career later, I was getting my things in order to switch countries for good. My new country, New Zealand, had some questions for my prior country, The United States of America. Had I really worked in these jobs? Could I prove it? Was I really healthy, not a criminal, and able to support myself? Prove it, prove it, prove it.

And that’s how I found myself back in the new building of my old company, asking for a favour. I had asked if they had proof that I had once worked there, and they told me to stop by. A bit odd. After all, I was their only design-oriented engineer back then. I set up this cultural thing, and this process thing, and had this memorable series of feature releases, including one that my kindly CEO had told me would be the sort of product he’d remember well into his retirement. I had made an impact. Not outsized, but memorable.

I didn’t recognise the office manager and she didn’t recognise me. I waited awkwardly to see if something could be pulled up. I looked across the open floor plan and saw no one I recognised. It was strange being at a company I once knew so well, and had helped build before the buyout, feel so distant. The office was different, the logo was different, the people were different. In a company, that’s pretty much everything. At least when you run into an ex, they’re roughly the same person buried in there somewhere. This wasn’t that.

The CEO came around the corner, and I actually did recognise him from 15 years ago. Back then, he was a skinny, nervous kid intern. He had an air of impatience and arrogance. Came across back then a little rat-like, and now I felt the same rat vibes, just with more grey in his hair. And he didn’t remember me. Not even a little bit. I tried to refer to people we had both worked with, and I saw little flickers of recognition in his face. But no, he didn’t recall. The servers didn’t have anything older than seven years on them. Sorry.

I threw out another few stories. Remember Doug, the old CEO? Remember when Mike sold the company and we all got half our salaries? Remember Jake? I was friends with Jake. Sorry, he said. I had clearly worked there, but he couldn’t vouch for me.

New Zealand let me in anyway.