This is a dream I had a couple of nights ago.
I was entering some kind of convention hall along with an excited and somewhat hip throng of people (I, of course, was in no way hip). I didn’t enter alone, though my companions were unidentifiable to me, sort of faceless. I don’t know who they were even though I “knew” them as the time. Whomever it was directed alerted me to the presence of one person who seemed to be the center of a great deal of attention.
It turned out to be Josh Topolsky, editor in chief of the tech site The Verge. In real life, when Topolsky does TV, he’s very snappily dressed, and carries himself with great confidence, belying what I suspect to be his gangly nerd nature underneath. But here, at this convention (or whatever it was), he was dressed like the Hollywood stereotype of a music mogul, wearing a white sparkly suit with yellow accents at the lapels and cuffs. Also notably, he didn’t sport his trademark spectacles.
Watching him chat boisterously with some fans, I became aware that, in this dream scenario, I was myself a recent hire by The Verge, newly writing tech columns for them, though I had yet to meet my actual boss. I was ushered over to Topolsky to finally allow my employer to match a face to the name.
“Mr. Topolsky, I’m Paul Fidalgo. It’s great to finally meet you,” I said, as I extended my hand. Becoming aware of me, his festive mood immediately shifted to one of detached indifference. He limply reached his own hand to shake mine, but allowed me only the tips of his fingers, and then pulled them away after about a half second of contact.
“Yeah, hi,” he said, sourly, avoiding my eyes.
More commotion surrounded us, as the din of conversation was becoming somewhat overwhelming. I couldn’t think straight through the fog of activity, and his attention was already being pulled away, but I had to know what was going on here. Had I pissed off Josh Topolsky?
“Mr. Topolsky, is something wrong?” I asked. “Should we talk?”
“Yeah, I think so,” he said curtly, never making eye contact, keeping his gaze always fixed on nothing in particular farther away. He began to make his way out of the hall, and I presumed to go along.
It was kind of a long walk, and as he navigated through the bustling, energized crowd of the technorati, I scrambled to follow in his wake. Eventually we found our way to a side room, littered with hotel and conference effluvia like chairs and partitions. It was quieter, but still noisy.
Topolsky, still avoiding making eye contact with me, said, “We’ve got a problem.”
I stayed silent, having no idea what was wrong.
“We know what you’ve been doing on our computers,” he said. “We’ve seen what files you’ve accessed. What sites you’ve visited. I’m not happy.”
I tried to imagine what he might be talking about. I couldn’t for the life of me think of what I could have done on company computers that could be construed as inappropriate. But, afraid to look like a fool who couldn’t even remember using company computers at all (remember, I only “realized” I was an employee as I spotted Topolsky at the beginning of the dream), I simply refuted the idea that whatever I had done might have been for malicious reasons.
“Whatever, I don’t want to hear it,” he said.
There was a painfully awkward silence that seemed to go on for a while. “Am I fired?” I finally asked, with genuine disbelief.
“Yeah,” he said, remaining standing, not looking at me.
I remained for half a moment, and walked away.
I next recall finding my faceless companions, telling them what had just happened (or perhaps they just knew). I complained that I had been treated unjustly, that someone at The Verge had perhaps misinterpreted some online shopping I had done for my wife as some kind of nefarious activity. At one point, I postulated that ingredients for making homemade bread that I may have bought on Amazon for my wife might have been mistaken for bomb-making material.
Eventually, my unidentified pals nudged me toward another part of the building.
“These are the Macworld offices,” one of them told me. “I bet they’d like to know what Topolsky’s done. They have their headquarters in the same building as The Verge.”
Now, as an “employee” of The Verge, you’d think I’d already know that.
Regardless, it suddenly dawned on me that the folks at Macworld hated the guys at The Verge, and vice-versa. (This is not at all true in the real world, but for some reason, my brain decided it was so.) In my mind, Macworld was immediately characterized as a highly-scrupulous and dogged investigative journalistic outfit, a kind of ProPublica for the tech industry, and The Verge became a kind of evil corporate behemoth, like Fox News for gadgets. (Again, not true in real life by any means. I think The Verge is freaking awesome.)
I was approached by a man who looked an awful lot like Macworld editor Jason Snell, but in the dream world, it wasn’t quite him, but just a regular Macworld employee. I think my mind had set up a situation where everyone at Macworld looked a little like Jason Snell, like they were all related or something. This Not-Snell told me Macworld would be very interested in hearing my story about my unjust termination from The Verge, and ushered me into their offices, but with great stealth, as it was crucial that I not be spotted by anyone at The Verge.
I was brought to what looked like an editorial meeting of Macworld staff, and they were very receptive to my story. Said one Snell-being, who sat severely reclined in an office chair with a pencil behind his ear and a pad in his lap, “We’re going to look into this. This is an important story.” All the Macworld Snells were really nice, I should say, and I bet that’s also true in real life. Except they’re not all Jason Snells, of course.
I felt a real sense of vindication and acceptance. Not only was I going to get back at Topolsky and have my reputation restored, but I also had my overall sense of self validated — the fact that this group of people was going to do right a wrong done to me made me feel, well, that I might be a person worth righting wrongs for. That I was not just some dumbass to be summarily discarded, but a person of value, worthy of some degree of respect.
Things quickly escalated. As I remained inside the Macworld offices, again, to avoid being seen by anyone from The Verge, the activity around the story picked up steam. When talking to folks around the offices, I had to speak in a kind of code to make sure nothing about the story or my location leaked out. As the suspense reached a fever pitch, I was told that this was going all the way to the top. I was going to go on Oprah.
I don’t understand it either, but I was minutes away from going into a small television studio within the Macworld offices (because that’s where Oprah works too, you see) to record an interview with Winfrey herself, to exonerate myself and expose the tyrannical madness of Josh Topolsky.
The “studio” looked a lot like a hotel conference room. I was seated next to Oprah, all of us in what I think were school cafeteria chairs, and there were all sorts of cameras and microphones around, as well as a studio audience. The sun shone through enormous windows.
Oprah checked in with me and made small talk as we prepared to begin the interview. I felt a little odd, as I realized I was not well dressed at all, that I had my hoodie slung over one arm, and my ratty computer bag hanging off my shoulder. Ah well, justice and the news move quickly.
The show began, all eyes were on me, and Oprah asked me to explain what had happened.
“Well, look, my wife wanted to make bread at home, and she asked me to look for some ingredients on Amazon.”
And then I woke up.