November 28th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey


He knows that pity-potted barista down at the coffee shop next to his office is calling him Benny Bucks and thinking he doesn’t notice.

He knows his own programming staff, especially that geezer-at-35 Pratt, is plotting against him in any manner of ways. For one thing, he’s almost certain they made him the model for an anonymously-created “Whack-A-Boss” game, upload to a website connected on some secret hidden link from his own company’s site.

He knows his neighbors would like to run him out of town if they could find a legal way to do so. Especially that pathetic old hippie in the building who, Benny knows, is plotting to take him to court over his eviction/redevelopment plans.

Benny takes all these hatreds very seriously.

The way he figured it, the more archaic whiners like those people feared him, the more he was on the right path. The path of the rebel–indeed, the path of the true revolutionary.

Like the Founding Fathers, like Susan B. Anthony, like Martin Luther King, like the Beatles, Benny was (to his own belief) a courageous destroyer of old ways and old paradigms. A great spirit, always encountering opposition from mediocre minds.

Benny pitied the small people, with their small minds, who could only react to with jealousy and reactionary spite to the inevitability of the future, of the revolution. Of the new world being created all around him, at the speed of the Net. A world in which there would be no boundaries to success, no impediments to empowerment, no meddling labor laws or interfering government regulators stopping him from doing any damn thing he wanted whever he damn well wanted to.

And what he wants to do right now is to get his coffee order done right for once, while he’s waiting on hold to get his company’s third round of financing cleared. (He can’t figure how anybody ever got business done before cell phones with three-way conference calling and four levels of call waiting.)

He doesn’t need more than two eyes to see everyone in the coffee shop staring him down. He’s already gotten the lectures and the catcalls about public phone use. As if conducting one’s own business had become politically incorrect.

Just look at them. Whining weaklings who couldn’t put a good deal together if they had to. Just to startle them out of their puritanical ways, Benny decides he’s going to yell into his phone even louder.

Besides, the exciting part’s just starting.

The final terms of the deal.

Seventeen million now, he shouts to his attorney; thirty-three million upon the meeting of certain performance milestones. Yeah yeah, he says; be sure to tell the venture-capital guys that he’s bound to be losing at least a little less money by this time next year.

Barry laughs his usual haughty horse-laugh. Then Benny goes silent. Because he was the only person who could hear himself talk in the coffee shop, the entire place is now mute.

This lasts a good thirty seconds.

Then–What are you telling me?


are YOU…

telling ME!!

He slams himself up, then sits back down. He spills his lidded drink.

I SAID they could bring in consultants. NEVER did I EVER tell you you could tell them they could bring in their own management! And NOOO, I DON’T want a FUCKING SEVERANCE PACKAGE from MY own company! You can tell them to take their…

Benny comes out of his mindspace just long enough to realize everyone in the coffee shop is still looking at him. Only they’re not staring him down. They’re watching him like an audience. The little people must think it’s funny to see him facing only the mere potential end of everything.

He storms out one long obscenity; half-aimed at the attorney on the other end of his wireless connection, half at the humans in the same meatspace room; then storms out with a look of half made-up bluster, half real fear.

What he doesn’t realize is the other people in the coffee shop weren’t laughing at him, not even silently.

They were pitying him.

Something he’d hate even more.

TOMORROW: Heralding one of electronic music’s pioneers.

NEWSPAPER STRIKE WATCH: Crossword fans who missed Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzle (bumped from the Seattle Scab Times for space) can find it online at this link, courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer (which runs it one week later than the Times has done, which means the puzzle you didn’t see on 11/26 will go online on 12/3).


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