Photo credit: ramseyarnaoot@flickr Their first correspondence was an unsolicited call from Vilhelm. "I'm calling because I hear you do web work." Gaye B. responded that yes, he did, and began collecting whatever scant details he could about the project, telling Vilhelm he'd need some time to prepare an estimate. Vilhelm casually mentioned "you know, your last name sounds familiar. You wouldn't happen to be the son of Bob and Alice, would you?" He was. "Oh, that's great! Our parents are friends, they met on vacation at the coast last year!"

Beautiful, Gaye thought, he's going to want the "friend discount."

"Anyway," Vilhelm continued, "I'm at 350 Park Place, let's get together on Thursday to discuss this further."

Gaye scribbled the address down and agreed to the meeting. Park Place? he thought, that's the second nicest street in the area! This made him feel better.

The Investment Trapezoid

A few days later, Gaye was feeling cautiously optimistic as he drove his beat-up rustbox past beautiful half-million-dollar homes with the occasional Bentley or Rolls Royce in the driveways. He'd been picking up odd coding jobs here and there to keep the bills paid while he was putting himself through school. And since freelance web projects were sometimes hard to come by, he couldn't imagine a project he'd turn down.

Gaye admired the nice house and well maintained yard while he waited at the doorway. It opened, and he began politely. "Hi, Vilhel-"

"I hope you're not allergic to cats," he interrupted.

"N... no, I'm not." Gaye looked down, and two cats had already begun vying for his attention, rubbing their heads against his shoes. Three other cats stood motionless inside, eyes fixed on him.

Vilhelm and Gaye entered a room that could've been quite nice if not for miscellaneous papers, binders, knicknacks, and cat toys everywhere. Vilhelm shoved some binders off a chair and offered Gaye a seat.

"So for a little bit of background," Vilhelm explained, "I quit my job three years ago to start an internet business. See, using The Investment Trapezoid," he said, rifling through some papers, "where, uh, the base is ambition, then the left side is... um... trend projections... no... ahh..." He was clearly looking for a visual aide that was somewhere in the heaps of stuff in the room.

"Anyway, business is going to be good. You might want to get in this program I'm in, if you're up late watching channel 62, this guy sells the internet business power program on these tapes. I'm up to tape seven, you should pick it up! Anyway, for now, this is what you'll be helping me with."

Gaye took a closer look – all of the binders were for various get-rich-quick programs sold on late night TV. It was all there; real estate, buying/selling from police auctions, classified ads, starting 900 numbers. This made Gaye feel a little worse about the project. Vilhelm could sense Gaye's unease, and explained himself. "I saw something that said you could make $1,000 a month working from home, so I bought it. Then I saw something else that was a similar deal, so I bought that too. I figured, if I do all of these, I can make some serious money." This was supposed to be reassuring.

Vilhelm continued speaking with wide-eyed excitement. "And the best part is, it's already almost done. Have a seat at the computer." Gaye's eyes searched the room; a sea of binders and cats and cat toys, finally looking at Vilhelm for help. "Over there," he said, sighing and pointing.

The Demo

It started dramatically. 100% red text on a 100% blue background swooped across the screen, then twisted until it was inverted, and then the browser was sent to index.php. A repeated straight-out-of-1997 background image made attempting to read the page's text an exercise in futility for the reader. All page links were to index.php with different GET variables. Gaye couldn't, and didn't want to imagine the code that held this all together.

"The guy that built this quit after billing $3,000.00. Something about the minimum he had to make per year to stay on some government program. Anyway, I want you to finish this. What do you say?" Vilhelm smiled and extended a hand.

Since Vilhelm was a family friend, Gaye couldn't run screaming from the house during the presentation; instead he had to improvise. "The web is very broad, and to be successful you have to find your niche. This project is a bit outside my niche, and I'm not too comfortable working with proprietary packages. You should consider specializing." He kept talking as he wrestled his shoes away from the cats that refused to release the shoelaces from their clutches. This would've been fun if he wasn't in such a rush to leave.

Hopping back into his beat up car, Gaye reminded himself that there are exceptions to the "beggars can't be choosers" rule.