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Piecrust Promises

Once upon a time . . .

How many stories have begun this way? Too many, I suppose. It's a catch phrase, designed to draw you into the beginning of the story. I think it's much better than "it was a dark and stormy night", but than who am I to know. For those who don't know, a piecrust promise is a promise that is easily made and easily broken. I used to think that it was just a catch phrase, but that was then, and this is now. My mother once promised me she would never again allow a boyfriend to interfere and distrupt in our families' life, that family came first.

Once upon a time, I was sitting in the dentist office staring out the window as the receptionist set up my next appointment when I noticed that she was using a standard Microsoft product to track clients appointments. It was at that moment I had an epiphany. In that small dental office, who had set up that Microsoft product, who installed the operating system, ran the cables, or even bought the power strips? Staring out the window of the dozens of other little offices, mostly medial and dental, I wondered who set up their computers. A new business was born. I would hire myself out to business too small to warrant a full time computer staff.

It wasn't bad work, but at least it was steady. I was never going to get rich, but it was better than contracting, and certainly better than working retail. The work of software installation for offices started to dry up as more and more people became computer savvy and installation routines become easier and easier. As the web grew in popularity, I shifted from software installation to web page requests. It seemed like everybody and their brother needed a web page for selling something. I suppose it was only a matter of time before porn and the web merged.

A person once told me that all internet technologies are the direct result of the porn industry. Like so many others, I could see the huge profit potential of a porn site with minimal work. I could sit in my home office, update the site, and let retailers and advertisers pay me for my traffic. And what traffic there was! A porn site, even a bad one, receives 100 times the traffic a regular site does. The only problem in entering into this business was the cost outlay. Unlike non-porn sites, everybody wants a piece of this cash cow. The cost of set up was a bit more than I could afford. Desperate to tap this golden faucet I did what all sons do when they run out of money. I turned to my mother. She in turn, asked her new boyfriend, who had money, and prior business experience to help.

I wish I knew then what I know now ( ah, hindsight, i sn't that a dream of all of us? ). When Glenn agreed to loan me the money, I should have said no. I should have just walked away, but I didn't. Glenn mailed off checks to pay for the hosting fees, setup, and domain name. I also wanted to cash in on others like myself, so I used the name of my business for the domain name with the idea of using it promote web page development. Any porn sites I would do would fall underneath that as demonstrations of my abilities as a web designer. Those web pages would earn me money, and the portal page would earn me clients.

As soon as the site was live, I got to work. I promoted the site with link trades, link lists, and mailing lists. Anything I could think of to drive traffic. I avoided the whole spam issue, though. I worked late into the evening trying to generate traffic and keep the sites fresh. I gathered advertisers and merchandise affiliates to generate income. The only time I took off was to run Charelen to the dentist, and to take her out now that then for dinner. Charlene wasn't happy with all this, but she started singing a different tune when the checks started rolling in. I paid Glenn back all of his money at the end of the first week, with interest for his trouble. The first month whizzed by. No web development clients came in, but the money from the advertisers, partnership, and affiliates was more than enough for me.

One bright sunny Monday morning, I woke to find I couldn't check the domain mailbox. Thinking it was just a glitch, I proceeded with my normal Monday task of updating the content, and checking the on-line statistics of my advertisers. I couldn't do either. Now I knew there was something very wrong. I put a call into the web host and discovered the horrible reason. I was told that the owner, the person who signed the checks, came down to see them personally several times during the month, and had informed them that he needed to change the pass codes since he had to let a disgruntled employee go. Yes, that's right folks , Glenn claimed the whole thing as his, and that I was "just an employee " - a disgruntled ex-employee. As if that wasn't bad enough, he had a notarized statement that showed he was owner of not just the porn sites, but the web development business as well. The notary public and paralegal that did the work? You'll never guess. It was my mother.

I was locked out of everything. All of it, the host, the domain name, advertisers, affiliates. All of them had been visited several times during the month by the true owner of the business, Glenn. I was listed everywhere as just an employee. I screamed, fought, begged, all to no avail. In the end, I had to accept the fact that all that I had done was taken from me , gone, and my mother was to blame.

I wish I could say that it ended there, but it didn't. Unbeknownst to me, Glenn also ponied up the money to help my mom prop -up her Paralegal business. In return, she handed over all financial control. She didn't just have him handle all her business accounts; she also gave him control of her personal finances, her checking account, credit cards, all of it! Everything was managed by Glenn. She was only allowed to keep the cash that came in through her already struggling business.

A few years prior, when my mother didn't have enough credit to secure a car loan, we put a car loan in my name. I had also given her a department store credit card on the promise that she would pay for any charges on said card. I never thought about it until the moment my whole business became somebody else's property with her help ....

After a few days of fighting with everybody , trying hard to convince them that I was the true owner of the business, and that Glenn was just the financier, I got a little call from Glenn. I was told that I was indeed his employee and that I should get used to it. He told me that I would not be doing any more web sites for anybody else other than him. He also wanted to have control of my finances as he did my mother 's. I told him what he could do with his proposal in no uncertain terms. He told me I wasn't "dedicated" enough, and needed to spend more time with the business and less time with Charlene. He threatened me and my wife with physical violence, but I shrugged that off. It was then he played his only trump card. Since he paid my mom's insurance, and making the car payments, he would stop paying them and leave the car, engine running, in a high crime area downtown so that it would be stolen and I would be responsible for the remainder of the loan. Since DMV listed me as the owner of the car, I retrieved the car from my mother, kicking and screaming, before he could pull any stunts.

Is it me or does this read like a bad Jerry Springer episode? Hoping things would die down; I started planning to rebuild my shattered web presence. I scraped up the money and started over, although my heart wasn't in it any more. I spent more time visiting job sites and going on interviews than I did updating the site. After a few weeks I got a real, 9-5, job and put the past behind me.

A few months after the above incident,I had completely forgotten about the credit card I had given my mom. We needed something and I went to use the account that I had given my mom (it was in my name afterall) . I got to the store and lo and behold could not use the card. The card was run to its limit and the account had been closed due to non-payment for 60 days. It now had to be paid in full to be re-instated. As if this wasn't bad enough, the only other time I had ever used the account was to buy Charlene the lipstick she needed for the wedding. A $15 tube of lipstick had now cost me $500 plus a black mark on my credit. I called Glenn to tell him to stop interfering in my family's private business; he said that there was nothing I could do about it since my mom had signed everything over to him. He said that he was not going to allow my mother to pay this bill. This was too much, I stormed over to see my mother, and she said that what ever Glenn said goes.

Then I got a call from the power company telling me that a bill had gone unpaid for 90 days (the maximum they allow) and my power was to be disconnected. I suspected some more Glenn funny business. I checked all of my statements and everything seemed on the up and up. I trundled over their offices to show them I was all paid up. It seems that when my mom got her apartment the bill was somehow set up in my name. I paid the remaining balance, and told them to shut it down because I didn't live their anymore.

I moved on with my life, saddened by the loss of all that I worked for, saddend even more by my mom's descent into virtual slavery. I still do web sites (like this one), but I always thing twice before I utter the words "I promise".

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