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Alan Riquelmy: No Pokemon required for a hopeful future

Photo by Kamil S on Unsplash

During the first week on a new job, my boss approached, leaned in and said he wanted me to become the company’s Pokemon expert.

Six months later I and eight others with the company were without jobs. My knowledge of Pokemon had little to do with it.

This was in early 2000, when the dot-com bubble had burst, or was bursting. We sure didn’t know about it working first in a tiny office in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then in more spacious digs in a Birmingham suburb. All we knew was that we had the best jobs on the planet. We played video games and wrote about them. Sometimes we made short videos that were meant to be humorous. We learned about Pokemon.

Our bosses, for the most part, were dot-com chic. Hawaiian shirts and sandals while strolling to the Porsche. Discussing B2B and the “new economy.”

How did the company make money? We didn’t know. In hindsight, we should have paid more attention. The signs were there.

Twenty years later the signs have come around again.

Everyone’s been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. You might have lost your job, or likely know someone who did. We’re all wearing masks, or should be, when shopping and running errands.

One study says that California could lose 1.6 million jobs by June. That, coupled with almost 70,000 deaths nationwide, is sobering.

Sure, the signs of drastic change are here, but they came much faster and with a toll far greater than anything the dot-com bubble could ever muster.

The old bosses may have stumbled toward the Porsche with closed eyes. Current day leaders are worried about next week and applying for federal loans.

The Food Bank of Nevada County has stepped up its game. More people out of work means more folks who need food. Nevada County is trying its hand at a relief fund for small businesses and nonprofits, putting $100,000 in the pot and hoping more people follow suit.

There’s a, dare I say it, dichotomy between the Hawaiian shirts and new economy of the year 2000, and the quarantined world of the present day. God knows who throwing money at you because your business is “online” versus businesses that know what drastic cuts they must make to survive. Outrageous cars set against a line of cars waiting for a stranger to give them food.

Sadly, for many both roads lead to the same place.

Twenty years ago they caught me before I could reach my desk. A quick, sorrowful message from human resources and then an escort to the door. I collected my personal items later that day, forbidden to re-enter.

From this, a meandering road two decades long materialized that brought me here, to California, writing these words right now.

I hope what happened then is what occurs now to those who need it most. A path shuttered only to find a door opened you never knew existed. A new job, a new source of revenue and a new way of looking at things — a broadened mind and better appreciation for what we have.

No Pokemon required.

Contact City Editor Alan Riquelmy at ariquelmy@theunion.com or 530-477-4239.


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