There has been a lot of coverage of this AOL-Time Warner merger, but none of it has really pinpointed how it will affect me. Not only did the Time Warner share price jump on Monday to $90.06, making my portfolio worth $180.12, but I also suddenly had a whole new group of co-workers to hit on. I wasn't sure what the Securities and Exchange Commission rules are about waiting periods, but I figured I should get right to it so I could get the jump on Ted Turner.
I called the AOL headquarters in Dulles, Va., and introduced myself to the woman who answered. She asked surprisingly early in our relationship if I was having "technical difficulties" and seemed pleased when I insisted that everything was A-O.K. But when I told her who I was, she immediately said she couldn't talk and gave my number to AOL spokeswoman Tricia Primrose. She too was nervous about having her name in this article. My new company, it seems, has spokespeople who are scared of speaking. I told her I was a writer who was afraid of writing. That's the kind of bonding I figured co-workers did.
I asked Primrose what I could expect from my job, and she said AOL technology meant I could probably work from home. When I am at the office, she told me, the dress code is casual, and I could lose the Oxfords-and-blazer look. She spoke well of the company gym, which is soon to offer salsa dancing, and the cafeteria, which just that afternoon was celebrating kielbasa day. Then I asked Primrose the most important question at any new job: "How closely do you guys look at the expense reports?" She paused. "We are focused on that bottom line. You're going to have to watch it there." I told her I'd hold off on the dessert wine at lunch. I think she wanted me to sacrifice more, but you can't take blood from a stone, people.
Sensing no big raise coming my way, I inquired about being one of the voices for that "You've got mail" thing. She said I could probably distribute my column via AOL and say, "You've got Joel's column," which I thought would also make a much better movie than that stupid Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan thing.
Primrose told me the median age of my 12,000 new co-workers is 28, which is exactly my age. I was looking forward to finally being in an office with people I could relate to, but I was worried that all my 28-year-old peers would be millionaires and talking about their Porsches and five-bedroom houses. Even so, I asked Primrose to scan the room for me and check out the new crop. "I think there's a lot of good-looking women," she said. She thought I might meet them at company picnics, which often feature the AOL hot-air balloon. This sounded romantic enough, until I heard about the AOL race car, which David Hasselhoff drove in a Baywatch episode. I don't think there's a woman on the planet who wouldn't be putty around that thing.
I bid Primrose farewell and said I looked forward to seeing her at the office, though she seemed to feel that was unlikely. Still, as she got off the phone, she said, "I had a great time talking to you. I'm only sorry you weren't here for kielbasa day." The intraoffice flirting has already begun.