Putting the Customer First

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.


“So, Mr. Paterson, I have heard great things about your business. The earnings reports you gave me look stellar. But there aren’t any real details about what your business does. I couldn’t find specific information on your considerable series A funding. As a series B investor, I would like to know a little more before investing.”

We listen in on a business meeting between the founder of a company and a potential investor. What is the business? Well, that fact may surprise you.

“So, Mr. Paterson, I have heard great things about your business. The earnings reports you gave me look stellar. But there aren’t any real details about what your business does. I couldn’t find specific information on your considerable series A funding. As a series B investor, I would like to know a little more before investing.”

“Certainly, would you like me to tell a couple stories about the company’s founding? Many find them quite informative.”

“I would be glad. Just give me a minute to get out my notepad.” I stared at the young investor. She was quite cute, with curly blond hair and a petite body. She reached forward and pulled out her small laptop. I waited a bit for her to get ready and then began.

“When I was young, I watched a special on TV about a sterling executive, Bill Randon. He was quite young at the time and headed a Fortune 500 company. Bill was a kindly man, very hard working and a home-town boy. While other executives were receiving massive compensation packages, he only made a workman’s salary. He would sit in the workshop thinking of some new idea or creating it instead of buying a yacht and going fishing. He gave an interview during the special about his early years and it entranced me. He hailed from a little known town in Illinois called Johnsburg. He’d spent many years working in his father’s grocery store. Nothing special but he learned a lot. His father had a habit of disappearing to an old cabin several miles north in Silver Lake. Normally, no one would come with him; he preferred to go alone and sequester himself from the world. His buddies would often joke, when they came by the store and asked Bill where his father was, that his father went to jerk it. The mother had passed away years ago and his father was not interested in finding someone else. One time, Bill had nagged his father about the cabin and he took him up to Silver Lake one weekend. His father had built the cabin himself. It was small and wasn’t completely sealed—there were holes where some logs met and when it rained the place would become extremely uncomfortable. The morning after they arrived, Bill lay on the floor and stared at the wall for hours. Not a single noise would permeate the room and he often looked over and checked to make sure his father was there. His father sat with his eyes closed and knees crossed, somewhat reminiscent of the Buddha. A small stream of water poured onto his balding forehead, but he didn’t budge. The following morning they got in their old Ford and drove back south to Johnsburg. This single trip greatly affected Bill, not right away, but with time. He began to understand, as homework piled up and duties at the store increased, why his father routinely took these trips. He needed to clear his mind. That last sentence stuck with me and still guides my work.”

“That’s a touching story.”

“Yes. I believe…relief…is what many people seek, but it is hard to find in modern society. I provide solace, a way for people to reflect and move forward. People like it.”

“I heard other things about the business…”

“Yes, yes. Let me tell you,” I said, shifting in my seat a bit.

“I had moved out West, to the glittering metropolises of LA, San Francisco, and Phoenix. Unlike the congested Northeast or the dreary Midwest, these people knew what it meant to be relaxed, to have a good time. I lived for a while the Bay Area, a little south of San Francisco. Walking around the city, traveling in the surrounding areas, and doing business in the downtown also taught me another thing: there are an extraordinary number of con artists in the world. I had the pleasure of working in software at the time and was courted by the most respected companies, many of which you probably don’t remember. They would often host events where people from competitors or freelancers in the Bay area would come and sell their wares. I would often see pitches for amazing pieces of technology, some of which seemed too good, too professional, to be a one man job. As you might infer, I’m a bit arrogant and at the time, a bit of a hardass as well. Now, I would start to question them, beginning with the dreaded ‘Why?’ questions. This would eventually reveal their falsehood. But not always, some were rather clever. They came prepared and answered my questions with a plethora of jargon and other industry speak. I would eventually relent and go find another person to harass. However, not everyone at my company was so…cautious. There were a couple products we bought for large sums of money only for them to turn out to be duds. Big, fat duds that didn’t live up to their billing,” I said with a bit of a grimace and stared at the wall for a second.

“That’s life, right?” she said, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

“Yep. I hadn’t encountered conning at that scale before. To this day, I’ll never forget the look in those men’s eyes when my boss shook their hands. They were in a world of bliss. I realized conning could be a profitable business.”

“So, you launder money?” she asked and her left eyebrow began to rise.

“Not quite, I make people happy. Let me tell you one last tale,” I said, leaning forward.

“Sure,” she said as a hint of interest and confusion ran across her face.

“After a while out West I began to crave the hustle and bustle of the East. So I packed up and went out to New York. I never really liked the place, even though I grew up nearby in Jersey. I worked in finance, algorithmic trading. Very boring stuff: long hours, many egos, and good pay. I tended to go out with the boys for drinking and dinner at the high-end establishments. We’d play credit card roulette: all cards would go in the middle of the table and the waiter would choose a random one to charge the entire bill to. Fun times. Many conversations would inevitably center on people’s portfolios, the latest hack they’d figured out to make their algorithm run a nanosecond faster or other self-centered bullshit. You see, unlike conning, which required a dash of intelligence mixed with the balls to keep a straight face through the entire scheme, this was just… narcissistic.”

“What does this have?…”

“Patience, I’m about to finish. You can put a con man to use. A hard worker is even better, as was the case with Bill. But what do you do with people that are completely narcissistic? Well, I came across the brilliant idea that narcissistic people will pay big money to boost their ego and sense of self-worth. And there is no better way to do that then to find out what other people think about you, right? It’s true, so I help these types of people out. Then I realized, the con man and those seeking relief also would value my services. So I setup shop. And here I am.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Paterson. I love your stories, but what exactly is your business?”

“Oh, it’s quite respectable. I help people get themselves kidnapped.”

bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

additional articles to journey through:

setting the record straight
02 june 2012 | short story

The sun beat down and I raised my hand to cover my eyes. It had been days, weeks, maybe even years. Who knew? I surely didn’t. Th[...]e dry sands whipped our faces, blurring our vision and making us believe we saw things. Water, chief among them. Haha, it’s funny how that most abundant always seems to be the end of us. You either drown in it or die from not having it. No one wins. Someone told me that they’d managed to survive a month without water. I don’t believe it, but guess I’m about to find out. We’d seen other things. Silver buildings that rose into the sky, it blinded us and as we got close, a sandstorm would appear and when it was gone, so was the house. It is incredible what you imagine when under stress…

A return to writing short stories, this one focuses on the surreal memories of two hapless 'heroes' and the mystery of whether they are reliving real memories or just someone's simulation.

neuroscience and biology resources
09 may 2014 | science

A continually updated repository of scientific resources (journals, blogs, etc.) in biology with a focus on neuroscience.[...]

sochi olympic stats: medal count
19 february 2014 | america

There have been several articles that re-order the medal count ranking by comparing medals to population or GDP, which then show small coun[...]tries topping the charts. This analysis ignores some obvious facts: small countries are over-represented in the number of athletes they send and the relationship between athletes sent and medals is linear. I present a brief analysis to support and expand on these claims.

book review — the revolution: a manifesto
29 january 2017 | books

An old review of The Revolution: A Manifesto, a book that is well worth revisiting from time to time.[...]
©2006-2017 | biafra ahanonu | updated 12 december 2017
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