4 Hours Under The Verge And Some AT&T thoughts
Hello residents of the internet,
I have been connected to the World Wide Web since it became available in my city. Yes, it was a dial-up that required 6 technicians and more than a month to install. It wasn't pretty, but I was happy when I finally got it. As with any teenager, I used it mostly for IM. The application of choice was ICQ. Everybody was on ICQ, all the time, and I can still hear the 'oh ou' sound in my head when I think about it.
Back then, if you were to tell me that people would get their news, music, movies and even groceries on the internet, I would dismiss what you were saying and show you how cool it is to change the background of ICQ. I think we can all agree internet is huge and it has touched each and every one of us in a different, strangely personal way. And it has proven to be a successful tool for our friends at The Verge to make their living.
We all love The Verge. Our love is probably varying in degree but for me, it goes like this - if I were to create a website that covers technology and culture, it would most closely resemble The Verge.
I've had a friend who was a summer intern at Forbes and my brother's girlfriend has a full time job at CNet. Admittedly, I don't an exceptionally large amount of direct experience, but I do know how publications work in general. The Verge, from what I've heard and seen, works more like a start-up - people play on videos games, they produce quality, not quantity and the whole site seems to act more like a living community, rather than a 9 to 5 job. And this is unheard of, not in the reputable published magazines in newspapers, no in the new Web 2.0 world of blogs and "quick hit" websites.
I am only an year away from college and I thought it would be a great idea to go to one of the best institutions of higher education in the world, and experience first-hand the life of the undergraduate student. I applied for New York University's summer program. I signed up for my courses (Text and Ideas, Media/Communication and Economics) and I was excited that I would be spending my summer in one the most exhilarating and innovative cities in the world. I got my visa, booked my flight and left on June 29 (thanks for the free business-class upgrade, British Airways!).
Per tradition, my first experience with New York City was rather dismal. As soon as I landed on JFK, my phone decided that it was a good idea to automatically connect to America's largest
fake 4G network, the beloved giant, AT&T. After I got my bags, I decided to call my two friends. On the first time, I had 4 bars, but the call dropped 10 seconds in. Then I called my second friend, but as soon as started the call, my bars dropped to zero and the status changed to 'Searching'. America is different than Europe, but I will never be able to understand two things. Firstly, how AT&T is the largest telecommunications provider but Verizon's FiOS has penetrated has yet to reach 40%. Where I come from FTTH (fiber to home) is almost ubiquitous and dead cheap - I get 94 Mbps for less than $11 per month. And secondly, why would LeBron James moved to the Heat. Oh, and why are you people so frantic about your religions? Gee, relax!
(1 "лева" = $0.64; source)
After this, I have been loving NYC, with all its peculiarities and oddities. Yesterday, I saw a woman ride an office share with wheels through the street, while she was singing the anthem of the American teenager, Call Me Maybe. But that's OK, because this is New York.
It was all calm and serene in my head until I had a dream that I was got a job at Apple because I knew how to most efficiently pick apples of high trees. Then I thought that it would be cool to get any job while I am in New York City - I won't have to go to college and I could start working early. This idea was just one of my daydreaming never-going-to-happen-in-a-million-years-not-even-then scenarios. I know how it sounds, I know it is crazy.
But then, I went to my first class in NYU. It was OK, at best. I guess I am spoiled by all the interesting TV shows and podcasts that I am exposed to and I had almost forgotten that talking could be boring. I had chosen my classes, so I thought it would be interesting, or at least engaging. It wasn't. The professor stood there, discussing the recent CNN/Fox News mishap. Then he asked us questions. Then he expanded on our answers. Cool, but I wanted to get my hands dirty, I wanted to get screamed at, I wanted to be there, in the middle of The Newsroom, getting screamed at, being promoted and fired and hired again in the span of a day.
And then began - I thought that I could get a job at The Verge just by going there and asking for it. I don't know about you guys but when an idea so crazy and so utterly absurd gets into my mind, I can't get it out unless I run through all the scenarios and possible outcomes. Of course, I spend most of my brain time on the best possible scenario - I envisioned myself sharing gifs with Ross, being the horse head in the next 90 Second On The Verge or just talking to Paul about pixels. Josh has a tough time triaging all his email, maybe I could help with that! I know this is crazy. I knew it back then, I know it now. But I didn't have anything to lose. Joshua cites 'the streets' as his only education, so I thought that I could use my 'street smart' and get myself a job.
Almost all my friends describe me as rational, (painfully) straightforward, liberal and as-coldblodded-as-possible. But I just couldn't help myself. Once I got it into my system, it was hard to get it out. So I did a little research and after less than an hour, I knew exactly where The Verge HQ was. To add fuel to my madness, it was 8 blocks away from my dorm. My flawed human mind immediately perceived that as a sign that I should go ahead with my ridiculous plan.
So on the morning of July 3, 2012, I left my dorm at 7.30 AM Eastern Daylight Time. This is the part of the post where it starts to sound like the diary of a stalker. I had to skip two of my classes, but that was no price to pay for that infinitely small chance of getting the job. But I also started to regain some of my former rationality. Why on earth would they hire someone with almost no experience at one the world's foremost technology publications? I read a lot and I live technology, but I don't think that qualifies me. But then Mr. Hyde took over again - "Who would turn down a eager young boy who offers to work for free," I thought.
To make it clear, I had no plan and I didn't know what I was going to say. When I got there, some 8 minutes after I had left the dorm, I double checked to see if it was the right building. it was. But now what? Do I just go in and say that I wanted to work them? I thought that it might be better (it wasn't) that I stayed in front of the building and wait until some of the familiar faces show up. Then, I would approach them and do something. I hadn't figured out what yet. And the reason I hadn't figured out was because there was nothing to support my wantings. Nothing at all.
But that didn't matter. I was so deprived to meet some people that shared some of my interests that I was ready to go to extremes. I have my friends and all, but I dream of the day that I have people who actually understand my references and who actually enjoy talking about technology, entertainment and culture. And believe me, I have looked for them. A lot.
So there I was, sitting in front of the building, waiting for something to happen. It is New York City, strange things happen all the time.
After I waited for my more than 4 hours, I decided that it was better for me to go to their office and ask someone there, rather than wait outside for 5 of the people I knew to show up. I walked pass the guard and pressed ‘10' on the elevator. I almost lost track of time in there, as the reality was hitting me hard on the head. But the devil and self-destructive part of my brain kept shoving the small bits of supposed ‘prove' in my face - The Verge hired forum member who was two years out of high school (BUT HE HAD INSIGHTFUL POST ON THE FORUMS), their HQ was surprisingly near my dorm (SO? THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IS ALSO NEAR!) and I could definitely see myself hanging out with some of the Vergers (?!?!?). The neo-classical style populated the hallway. There was a minimalistic gray bench and a locked glass door, leading to the office. I sat on the bench, waiting. I just waited there for 20 minutes or so. Finally, one of the videos guys (so, I didn't remember your name!) got off the elevator and headed for the door. I did what every human being who has ever been on The Verge would do - I praised him for the exceptional and one-of-a-kind work he is doing. He was modest and sweet, so I decided to arrogantly and intrusively ask for a tour of the office. He said they don't usually do that, but he was going to ask. He went through the door and came back in a minute, saying that there was almost no one inside and he couldn't really do it. I said thanks and left.
As I think about it now, I realize that the outcome was more than expected. The mathematical representation of the story would look like this:
Getting into The Verge = 10000000
Everybody has their thing. Some people like to faint at Justin Bieber concerts, others like to watch people dying, then there are the crazy ones that still use WebOS. And then, there is me, trying to cheat the system, to skip the boring stuff and get right into the fun. Life has been unfair to all of us at certain times. My mistake was to assume that I could be unfair to life, too.
I know I did something crazy, even bad, potentially illegal. But please try to respect the fact that I decided to share it here. Oh and I have tried out both Android 4.1 and iOS 6.0 and I think I am ready to make a scientific conclusion that will end to the thermonuclear war: I miss WebOS.