It was late 2012, sometime in November or December, when I was at Outbrain when I met Ellie. She was about to get married and told me she had just quit her job at Fast Company as an editor. She, like me, was pursuing a far less structured (?) and passion-driven life of freelancing. We exchanged business cards after I told her that I did some writing for Thought Catalog.
“I love that site!” she said. (I don’t know if she still loves us, but I’m going to assume she still does.)
Let’s fast forward a couple of months. I messaged Ellie on Facebook early April to let her know that Vice’s Eddy Moretti was going to be on a panel at Outbrain to talk about the fate of journalism. This was around April. We met up and asked each other how things were going. She got married and was about to venture on a startup that she thought was going to be awesome. (If you’re going to work at a startup, make sure you’re passionate about it.) I was (still am) very happy for her. It appeared that we did a complete 180º since we last met. Ellie had quit her job as an editor and I was on the verge of getting hired at a company. (This company and I had a month-long back-and-forth regarding the status of the position. It was around the end of May when it was finally revealed to me that the company had gone under a complete restructuring and that the position was no longer needed.)
Anyway, it was at this meetup that we met this eccentric man. His name was Bill. He handed both of us his business card after the event.
“I really liked your question,” he said to Ellie. (I don’t think he was really interested in me. He talked more to her than he did with me.) “You sound very articulate. Are you currently employed?”
Ellie said she had quit her job and was taking on freelance jobs.
“That’s great,” Bill said. He turned to me. “And what about you?”
I told him that I too, was a freelancer.
Bill smiled. He said that he was building a content-based website. “I’m working on the backend right now — using Drupal,” he said.
Ellie and I looked at each other. “Cool,” I said. I knew what Drupal was, but not enough to feign interest. Ellie felt the same way.
“Here’s my business card,” Bill said. “I don’t hand these out often. Please keep this under wraps.”
We thanked him for his interest and we walked away to get some pizza.
“I think I’ve seen that guy before,” I said to Ellie.
“Wait, where?” she said, her mouth full of pizza.
“I was at some meetup and he was saying something about how he made a ton of money after buying some telecommunications stock. Everyone busted his balls about it before, I guess. He said he made millions.”
“So you think he’s the real deal?”
“I guess. He’s weird, though.”
I saw Bill again at another meetup, this time, it was at a T-Mobile panel.
“Bill!” I said. “Remember me?”
“Oh Michael, what a pleasant surprise!” he said. He had a beer in his hand. I think he was drinking light beer.
“Did you get my email?” I asked him.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “I thought I CC’ed you and…Ellie?”
“No, I never got the message.”
“Ah, well, it was nothing. I basically talked about the website and what kind of content you guys would be writing. She said she wasn’t interested. Are you familiar at all with finance?”
“I’ve been reading up on it,” I said. “I thought about finance writing.”
“That’s good! Shoot me another email and we can go from there.”
He never replied to my email.
I met Bill for a third time at a Data Visualizations meetup. I was at the food table putting popcorn chicken and spring rolls on my plate when someone bumped into me.
“Michael, what are you doing here?” Bill asked.
“I’m still freelancing, you know, have to pay the bills,” I said. “And well, I think data visualization is interesting.”
“Oh, a man of many interests, is that it?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Bill was drinking light beer.
“Oh hey, what do you think about bitcoins?” I asked him.
Bill thought about it for a second. “I don’t know too much about it, you know? People have been asking me to invest in bitcoin. I don’t really think that’s a good idea. It’s too risky. Not like that other deal I made.” He was referring to the money he made a couple of months ago. “I made millions, Michael. Millions!”
The lights dimmed. “Looks like they’re about to start,” I said.
“Shoot me an email and we’ll talk more,” he said.
He never replied to my email.
I saw Bill for the fourth and final time at NYU — there was a huge tech panel held at some gigantic ballroom filled with rows and rows of chairs.
“Bill!” I said. He didn’t turn around. It was quite loud, so I had to repeat his name a couple of times.
“Oh, Michael! This is crazy! I never expected to see you here!” he said as we shook hands.
“Yeah, I might as well be stalking you,” I joked.
“Aren’t you funny! You’re a funny person, Michael,” he said.
“So what brings you here?”
“Oh just thought I’d talk to old friends, you know the deal.”
I nodded. “I’m going to finish my beer,” I said. “Talk to you later.”
“That sounds good,” Bill said. “Let’s catch up, over email.” He waved and disappeared into the crowd.
I didn’t email him.