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For one year, I worked as a web designer at a newspaper. This paper, which we'll call The Daily News, was in a little logging town, which we'll call Bumpkinville, about 40 miles north of the town I live in. The drive was mostly a stretch of 70 MPH freeway, so my commute was only about 35 minutes each way. Now, driving to Bumpkinville was like driving through a time machine that took you back 40 years. So it was a lot like the 50's there, minus the good parts. Remember the movie "Pleasantville"? Well, this was Unpleasantville.

Bumpkinville, being a logging town, had paper mills. Four of them. So the entire town always smelled like an old person's armpit. Therefore, anyone with any ambition or brains tended to get the hell out of there, meaning the city was basically made up of retired people, most of them nearly deaf from working in the mills for years without ear protection, and uneducated idiots just too stupid for life in the big city 50 miles to the south.

I was hired as part of the three-person Internet Department at the paper. It became clear early on that my boss, Kirk, knew nothing about the Internet. He had been the paper's owner's son's best friend all through school, and after stints as a Marine, a firefighter, and a financial controller for a southern California airport, Kirk wanted to move back to Bumpkinville. The owner's son offered him a job as Online Manager despite Kirk's complete ignorance of the Internet. After all, the owner's son was here on a free ride, so why not get his best buddy in line for the gravy train?

However, Kirk had one skill, sort of: The gift of bullshit. He could make the yokels actually believe that he knew what he was doing, despite much evidence to the contrary. He could lie all day long without stopping to take a breath. When he hired me, he told me that 200 people worked there. I found out later it was more like 110. One day, I asked him why the Advertising Department was still stuck with Photoshop version 4.0 on their machines while our department had 5.0. He went into a big speech about he really took care of things in our department, while the other departments were lax in this area. A few minutes later, I realized I had gotten it backwards. Advertising had 5.0, and we only had 4.0. When I told him, he gave me a blank stare, which is what he always did when he got caught in a big lie, which was often.

The other person in our department was a bright young girl named Karen. Being bright meant that she was overqualified for nearly any job in Bumpkinville, including this one, which was running an Internet Service Provider with 1800 customers. Since we were actually just an agent for a real ISP in the big city named Transport, and Transport was an incredibly unreliable provider, she spent most of the day on the phone with angry bumpkins. But she did her job well, and even went well beyond the call of duty at times.

Once, Karen agreed to represent our newspaper at a local "Safety Fair", manning a booth from 9 AM to 1 PM on a Saturday. Kirk was supposed to relieve her at 1 PM. He never showed up, so she was forced to stay there until the fair ended at 4 PM. When she asked Kirk what happened, he said, "Well, I looked at my watch and it was 1:30, and I figured you were out of there by then, so I didn't bother." This was typical for Kirk, an irresponsible, lying piece of human garbage with rich parents, who had basically spent his whole life avoiding education and actual work. I remember he always spent Thursday afternoons golfing with the owner's son before the new management took over.

Kirk was full of ignorant ideas befitting someone born and raised in Bumpkinville. At one point, he decided that we were going to "sell" our older, archived newspaper articles to the locals, like the LA Times does. He had me copy all the web pages relating to this from the LA Times website, changing the name of the newspaper to make it our own. He honestly believed the yokels would be willing to pay for past articles from our little turdtown newspaper. Naturally, that idea sank like a stone.

And it's just as well, because the paper never did get a secure server running to deal with e-commerce transactions anyway, despite Kirk always telling the customers that it was forthcoming. The Information Systems department at the paper was, of course, staffed by a bumpkin too.

Jay, an ugly, zit-covered loser from the IS department, had his own problems. Born and raised in Bumpkinville, Jay had made only one attempt to get out of town, which failed miserably. He was quite an accomplished computer geek, and a web-related company in the big city hired him. He lasted less than a day, returning to Bumpkinville in the afternoon and begging for his old job back.

Jay was one of only two people in the IS department and before long the other person left, making almost everyone in the company dependent upon Jay for computer support. He used this "power" to bestow favors on people who pretended to like him, while putting off those who refused to pretend. Naturally, I was in the latter group. One day, I had trouble with a Jaz drive in my computer at home. I removed it and needed to test it on a computer with a SCSI bus. I asked for Jay's help, but he told me he didn't have the time. I knew this would take all of about 5 minutes. After Jay dropped by our office later that day to talk to Karen about nothing in particular, and hanging out for 20 minutes or so, I began to understand what a lying little asswipe he was. So, later on, with Jay about 40 feet away in another department, I popped the top of my own computer and did all the testing myself, right behind his back. He never found out. Which was a good thing, because Jay was weirdly possessive about all the computers, and he would have freaked out. He considered himself my boss, which he wasn't, but he was such an incredible kiss-up to Kirk that he could get away with anything.

Jay had a complete lack of social skills. There was this really creepy way he'd get all giddy and excited every time he was around Kirk. You expected him to go down on Kirk at any moment, and he'd laugh out loud with this mulish braying every time Kirk said anything even halfway funny. This, combined with he and Kirk going out for long lunches together a lot, made a lot of people think he was queer. No wonder he lasted less than half a day in the big city. Here at The Daily News, he was hot shit. Once outside the building, however, he was just another lonely zit-faced freak. It was hard to believe that he had been married at one time, until you found out that he had impregnated his bride first. Not long before I started working there, she left him for some German guy she had met on the web but never met in real life, dropping off their daughter at Jay's mother's house and just disappearing for a while. I don't blame her. A judge, apparently recognizing Jay's many social handicaps, granted custody to Jay's ex-wife despite this.

Now, like all ugly losers who had been made shunned by nearly everyone while growing up, Jay had fantasies of being a policeman. When the paper was bought out by a conglomerate shortly after I was hired, they put up a firewall which was programmed to block any and all websites unsuitable for anyone under 18. This cut everyone in the building off from about a quarter of the web. I pointed this out to Kirk, and he laughed it off. No lazy little shit on a free ride like Kirk was going to make any waves with the new management. That was when I started looking for a new job. Eventually, reporters in the newsroom got the ban lifted by pointing out that they couldn't do much research with a huge chunk of the web off limits. The new management, which owned 11 other newspapers and should have known better, was amazingly stupid to have ever tried this in the first place.

This bothered Jay immensely. He hated the idea of not being able to control what his co-workers could or couldn't see on the internet. But the new management still had a partial firewall in place, sort of a "Net Nanny" that could log when one of their workers went to certain types of sites. They had it set to notify Jay whenever someone went to an adult site on their computer. Now, the program was capable of informing on all kinds of sites -- entertainment sites, racist sites, religious sites, gambling sites -- but the management chose only to inform on adult sites. I remember Jay showing me the two dozen or so types of sites that could be selected, and bitterly informing me that if it were up to him, they would ALL be checked. What a voyeuristic, ignorant freak. After all, it didn't affect Jay in any way where anyone surfed to on the web. He just loved the idea of playing web cop. It was an opportunity to get back at a world that made fun of him throughout his childhood. He'll make a good Republican someday.

One day, Jay and Kirk called me into their office to have a talk with me. I had visited one of the banned sites! Horrors! Now, "having a talk" with me was basically their only recourse. Firing me meant I could collect unemployment, so they were unwilling to do that. So they got together beforehand and made up some stupid story that was supposed to scare me. Jay went on about how at some places, anyone caught visiting a forbidden website was simply marched out of the building between two security guards and never allowed to return, no chance to tell his side of the story, no nothing. Right. It was a lot like two farm-boys telling me that I'd get mugged if I ever dared to venture into the big city. They could tell I wasn't buying it, which I'm sure bugged them to no end.

The thing about Bumpkinville was, it was such an incredibly undesirable place to live, you wondered what the problem was with people who chose to live there. But you didn't wonder for long. Nearly everyone I worked with had some odd quirk or nutty problem that made them unfit for the big city.

There was Kirk, with no work skills whatsoever, an irresponsible human leech. His best friend, the owner's son, left the company after the conglomerate took over, leaving Kirk with no future at the paper, which is a good match for his no skills. Even his wife, born and raised in Bumpkinville, wants to move back to California, showing that she has better sense than Kirk. Kirk is still working at the paper as of this writing although the Online department is supposedly going to be folded into the Marketing department, making him just another salesman instead of a department head. Apparently there's nobody for Kirk to leech off of in California.

There was Jay, who both looked and acted like a weasel, the company's digital Barney Fife. He was working 12 hour days when I left. Hey, why not? After all, at home there's nothing for him to do but pop zits and masturbate.

Their top ad salesman, a really nice and personable fellow named Scott, had this quirk: Whenever he laughed, he'd repeat the last thing he said while he was laughing. This would cause people who had never heard it before to look at each other with an expression on their face that said,"Did you hear that? What the hell is wrong with this guy?" It was just weird, and the type of thing that would make him a social outcast -- except in Bumpkinville.

This sort of thing was not limited to the employees of The Daily News, however; the yokels who signed up for web access were pretty much the same story. A normal looking guy would walk in, and you'd be glad that, finally, someone intelligent-looking was about to sign up with the ISP. Then he'd open his mouth to reveal missing teeth, or a harelip, or he'd express what a relief it was to finally be out of prison. Most of the women over 30 in Bumpkinville had long since given up on trying to look good, and mostly consisted of waddling, obese, stringy-haired hose-monsters with masculine facial features. Often, they would come in to cancel their account because their husband or boyfriend was headed to jail.

Just before I left The Daily News, the Marketing Manager left and was about to be replaced by a 26 year old squirt who's about 5 feet 6 and looks like he's 19. Most of the employees were calling him "Doogie" behind his back before he was even hired, but I saw Doogie walking around with the publisher one day wearing the same suit, which naturally caused me to label him with the moniker "Mini-Me". On my last day there, which was about three days before Mini-Me was to take over a department wherein everyone was much older (and taller) than he was, I saw that a box of business cards had been delivered to his desk. I took one out, crossed out his name and replaced it with the name "Mini-Me", and carefully placed it back into the box.

After nearly a year of employment in Bumpkinville, I finally got out of there. I was the 58th person to leave the company, out of 110 employees, since the new management had taken over 6 months earlier. So desperate was I to leave that I took a job as a temp for an internet start-up named iChristian.com. But that's another Unspeakably Stupid Story.

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