Dot Com For Locals

Two things inspire me to write this, one, that I was reading Fortune’s Web Celebs and a post about it got a snarky comment from a local. The other thing- a new friend of mine that’s also local, and when she told me about her travels in the 90s, she and her friends basically took au pair jobs abroad because they were so sick of Dot Commers.

Everyone hates newcomers- it’s like, that’s the way it goes, populations tend to have anger towards other migrant populations that have a high influx: Chinese were hated when they were coming in for railroad work, heck, the Swedes during the potato famine, when they were coming into America in droves.

I can see both sides in a way, because I grew up here, and had the full expectation and career path that I’d be in teaching, earning 40K a year if I’m lucky. High tech offered opportunities to me at that time, and I went along with it, and enjoyed it. But for some that either weren’t offered the opportunities, or didn’t enjoy it, they saw things vastly change. I was the only tech person in my circle of friends, believe it or not. High schoolers were techie, but they all stayed in the South Bay. Of city friends, where I eventually moved, everyone was non-profit or English majors. I ended up making friends at work and getting a tech circle, but until then I did see the big difference between Dot Com and non-Dot Com. Here is a quick list of things I saw that were different:

– Rents went way, way up. I paid $650 for a studio, 1995. In 2000, a friend got a rent on a place on the Embarcadero, in a crappy kind of 70s apartment, for twice that.
– Restaurants got more expensive, and there are more, and they are all the same. It was odd- watering holes became inundated with new crowds or the owners re-did it and made it trendy. There were some holdouts, but those got crowded with other non-dot-commers.
– The rent thing meant that you were married to your housemate. You felt claustrophobic, you didn’t have the flexibility to find a cute one-bedroom in the Marina or Pac Heights like you thought (or your parents thought) you could afford. You got paid tons, but beyond all reason you were still broke all the time.
– All of your favorite places are full of people that are younger than you and richer. I remember one party at this guy’s apartment. He was 19, and didn’t know how to cook, so he had his drawers full of ketchup and mustard. He bought all his furniture at one place, it was ultra modern. Some fancy car in the garage. I know I was annoying to my older Cal friends- I bought silly little gadgets and they were struggling to pay the rent.
– Everyone has a web site, pager, cell phone, whathaveyou. Going from one communal phone in a flat to everyone having these clips on their belt, and email at work, and yet still had friends who didn’t have any of that. This is also the era of no-flaky-friends because we don’t have cell phones to flake on :)

Dot Com Conversations
I noticed a big shift in what I talked about after work. Before Dot Com, we had these conversations:
“Oh my god, did you see Sandra push the thermostat all the way to 70 and then leave for work.”
“Dude, we have to disconnect that.”

“I know why it’s so cold at work, because it’s all guys… and they want the servers to stay cold.”
“Dude, that’s lame.”

False Immigration
I think what happens now is that those that stayed, stayed. I was chatting with a guy on the East Coast recently who, when I asked him why he moved, said, “You know, the dot com thing?” So one more really annoying aspect was that people were moving here who really didn’t like the SF Bay Area. I worked in Seattle quite a bit and folks there, when they were bought by a SF company, were loathe to move. It was a demonically expensive place. They had these ideas of crime and urban despair, astronomic rent, and insane traffic. Mostly, though, they wanted a backyard and more square footage for their money. I couldn’t imagine wanting that in exchange for being near my sisters, beautiful hikes on the ocean, the open-mindedness, the diversity, the… you see, I’m a fan. So I can see how an influx of people who are here just for the money could be quite annoying, when you see so much more in it.

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