Lost in Cyberspace
Cyber  Kvetch
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

In what has been called a threat to free speech and employee rights on the Internet, America Online recently provided a California newspaper, the "Orange County Register," with the name of an employee who had created a website featuring rumors, gossip and complaints about the newspaper. But there's seldom a guarantee of privacy in cyberspace, especially from the same if-they-ask-tell company that told the Navy the name of a sailor who'd announced in a chat room that he was gay. Yet had the "Unregistered News" covered its tracks better, it might still be publishing today. Because lots of disgruntled employees have websites on the Internet if you know where to look, and sometimes even if you don't.

Frankly, I didn't know where to begin looking for websites by employees lampooning their bosses. But typing "disgruntled" into a search engine soon got me to more general kvetch websites, including "Disgruntled" <www.disgruntled.com>, an online magazine "For People Who Work For A Living." The webzine has pages with such upbeat names as "The Complaint Department," "Quitting Time," "Advice for the Disgruntled" and "Tales Of Corporate Horror."

"The Waitressing Gripe Page" <members.aol.com/GMAGates>, adheres to the philosophy that waitressing would be a great job if it weren't for customers. "Are you an annoying restaurant patron?" it asks, and provides a comprehensive list of symptoms, many of them sent in by other waitresses. Symptoms include "unattractive, dateless man ... who thinks your waitress is talking to you because she likes you"; "too cheap to order a drink, then ask to have your water refilled five times"; yelling, "we're ready to order"; asking to have food prepared "in some bizarre way that's not on the menu"; and, of course, stiffing the waitress. The bottom line, according to the website: "Be pleasant to your waitress. You'll never know when she spit in your food!"

Similar sites exist for pizza drivers, drive-thru restaurant workers, cabbies and hostesses. And then there's "Mindless Jobs of America" <www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/9932/mja.html>, with testimonials from people with such occupations as high school janitor, cemetery repairman, parking lot attendant, nursing home dietary aide, car wash drier, gas station attendant, telemarketer, cable guy and movie projectionist ("Considering the amount of work I do compared to the pay I get, I am getting paid pretty damn good, so there is no reason for me to take everyone out with a rifle.")

"Working for the Man" <www.urbekah.com/housewife/working2.html>, provides vengeful advice for "disposable cogs ... filled with self-loathing for working like a slave and letting yourself get kicked around for a few pennies." Created by Nikol Lohr, who also hosts "Disgruntled Housewife" <www.urbekah.com/housewife>, the tips include nurturing your passive-aggressive nature, plotting constantly, developing a work-related illness and faking work.

Speaking of faking work, "Don's Boss Page" <www.donsbosspage.com>, helps you pretend to be working while you are sleeping or surfing the net. The "Personal Protector" is a button you can click on when you are using your Web browser that will quickly load a window that makes it look like you are working on a spreadsheet. The site also has "Sound Busy," an audio-enhanced page that makes it sound like you're busy typing. 

Funny stuff, but I was about to give up on my quest to find a site like the short-lived "Unregistered News" when a journalist friend let me in on "News Mait Writers' Cooperative" <www.newsmait.com>. The site has a Newspaper Intelligence Page, which is mostly bitching and moaning about low wages and morale at newspapers. But there's also a lot of inside dish, such as the purported reaction from the staff of the "L.A. Daily News" that the newspaper donated $60,000 to a political movement that wants the San Fernando Valley to secede from Los Angeles. "It's a disgrace, and the staff is understandably outraged," according to the anonymous account. The site also has extensive links to listings of journalism jobs, and is conducting an unofficial salary survey of newspapers throughout the country.

Satisfied that I had found the kind of website I was searching for, I was all set to sign off when I decided to get my daily Monica shot by reading the latest "Drudge Report" <www.drudgereport.com>. But instead of using my bookmark, I mistakenly typed <www.drudge.com> in the address window, which took me to "The Drudge Retort: Putting the Yellow Back in Journalism."

The top headline of the counterfeit site was "Clinton offers blow-by-blow testimony of Lewinsky affair." In Drudge's breathless writing style (but the byline of Jonathan Bourne), the article claimed that Washington, D.C., police were investigating the president for violating the city's sodomy law, and that Vice President Al Gore's wife Tipper had consulted a decorator.

You heard it here first.

copyright 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.