Remember when work used to be everything? Only a few months ago, if you didn't have a great job (or a lousy job — with stock options) at a company that was getting ready to spring the big O, you had nothing. Now if that's all you have, you have nothing. I really have nothing.
It's the only explanation I can come up with for falling for Camilla Waterman. It must be love: Last week, I put in only 73 hours at work, down from my usual 85. I don't sleep. That is, when I get in bed and pull up the covers, I can't fall asleep. Not to be confused with I-can't-sleep-because-I'm-crashing-on-a-"wow"-project. I can't eat. That is, I don't eat when the take-out bag is sitting in my lap. Not to be confused with the terrible table manners that my ex-girlfriend, Deantra (you probably know of her from her Web log, MeditationsDuringMyPedicures.com), used to accuse me of having. In the e-Dear John letter that she sent me, Deantra said that although I may be a genius, I should try to remember that an animal brings his face down to his food, and a human brings his food up to his face.
I hated to see Deantra move on. But she and I were very old new economy. We shared the same ideas about how to land a new-economy love affair. We were hip enough to know that while you can't micromanage love, there is nothing wrong with the IPO approach to amour. We inflated our good qualities and our ability to deliver completely out of proportion. She was gaga over my "brand me," and I worshiped at the altar of her "brand her." We were very happy.
Deantra and I were mad about each other — that is, until we spent two consecutive hours together. It felt as if we were marooned on a raft in the middle of the Pacific. We were much better virtually: I loved her more before I knew her. But she was yesterday's love for yesterday's business environment.
Camilla Waterman is not interested in abstract ideas. Her idea of a relationship is predicated on solid performance. Results. Discipline. She's my love for the new new economy. I started to give her the same brand-me pitch that wowed Deantra. Camilla listened, transfixed by my verbal razzle-dazzle. Then she said, "Why don't you call me sometime and ask me out on a date?"
A date? What did she mean by that?
I kept my devotion to Camilla to myself. I couldn't tell Spud and Darth that I was smitten with a girl who doesn't have a Webcam, a Web site, instant messaging, ICQ, a cell-phone, or a pager. I have fallen for a retro-techie — a perversely proud nondigital person. No email. She calls her computer a "word processor." And she eats her meals sitting down at the table — with a fork.
One night, around 10:45, I called Camilla. She picked up after six rings. I think I woke her up. She spoke in this nice, husky voice. What was she doing in bed at 10:45? Why wasn't she still at work? I began my brand-me pitch, hoping that she would ask me to come over right away. Instead, she responded, "You're really full of hot air."
Hot air? Hot air? "I'm a visionary."
"Oh," she said, laughing. "May I ask why you're calling me at 10:45 PM?"
"Uh," I said.
"Are you calling to ask me out? To spend some time getting to know me? To see if we have anything in common? And if we do, is it enough to outweigh the things that we disagree about? Do you want to find out if there's true chemistry between us, the kind that lasts past the first year of courtship?"
"Uh," I said and then hung up.
I logged on and found Deantra. I ICQed her: "Got a second?"
She ICQed me back: "For you, virtually any amount of time."
"Good. Can you teach me something about forks? I think I need some help here."
This is the latest episode in The Spy's continuing saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).
A version of this article appeared in the February 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.