Monday, June 05, 2006

'Maybe I'll go look for the next big thing'

It's August 2001. The "country club" magazine you ran has collapsed.

All the people who worked for you are staggering around like WTC employees after the first plane hit. Their lives are ruined, at least for the short term, maybe forever.

The San Francisco newspaper calls you. Most likely, it's a business reporter who was hoping to jump ship and start working for your luxury operation. Now he's glad he stayed put.

Nonetheless, he figures you'll slither back to prominence one way or another. Best not to cross you. Best to bury the voices of the ruined.

"His associates offer differing opinions of Battelle's role in the magazine's rise and fall," was all the S.F. Chronicle reporter could manage to report. The future, who knows where it goes?

But then Battelle is offered a chance to say something to his suddenly unemployed colleagues and underlings. He can take the humble path and tell all those people with worthless Industry Standard stock options and crushing house payments: I'm so sorry. From now on, I'll try to do something good. I'll spend the rest of my life working for those who were destroyed by atavistic railroad men like myself.

Did he? Of course not. And we shouldn't expect anything better. It's the old story of the frog giving the scorpion a piggy-back ride across the stream. ("You stung me!" cries the frog. The scorpion replies, "Well, you knew I was a scorpion when you gave me the ride.")

So the reporter asks Battelle about "long-term plans."

Young Mr. Battelle replies, "Maybe I'll go look for the next big thing."

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