Check it, Peons: Your CNN Humiliation Compartmentalized

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Within my first two weeks of employment at CNN, it seemed to me that the place was rampant with horn dogs. This was partly due to an internal messaging system called BASYS which enabled faceless and occasionally anonymous sexual commentary. (The anonymous part happened because it was an open secret that CNN's style reporter Elsa Klensch's password was "garden". Not sure if she ever knew about the type of filth that was messaged under her good name.)
Back in the late 1990's people weren't as concerned about privacy issues in the workplace. It didn't occur to us that our comments could come back to bite us on the ass. Plus, some people working weird hours only had their co-workers as a social outlet. They never saw anyone else much of the time. Consequently, the CNN Center became a bubble community...filled with horn dogs.
So, whenever that blinking "message" sign popped up, you never knew quite what you were going to get, only that it was most likely not work-related.
A sampling of the types of messages I got during my stint as a VJ:

-Hi. My wife and I are really into threesomes. We talked about you last night over dinner (she's a great cook by the way) and she agrees that you are exactly the kind of person she'd like to bring home.

-You feel like getting stoned? I have a break at four.

-Hi. You don't know me. But I think you're cute. I've been noticing you now for the past few days. I'm too shy to talk to you though, because I have a fat ass.

-You look like a pilgrim hooker in that outfit.

-Hi. It was fun having drinks with you after work at Jocks and Jills. If you're ever into having a threesome, let me know. I'm pretty sure my wife would be into it. I know I would!

There was one CNN BASYS "rite de passage" that I never experienced. One co-worker was notorious for using BASYS as a tool to proposition women for anal sex. Apparently, I was not to his taste because he never asked me. While the offer was odious, I felt curiously left out that it was not extended to me. Kind of like when someone tells you, "Eww! This really stinks. Smell it."
And you DO.

1 comment:

J said...

Basys..that seductive temptress who lured you in, even when you declared you weren't going to get involved in any sex talk, gossip or idle chit-chat. You just couldn't help yourself. The promise of another blinking "message" light was too exciting to ignore.

Being that BASYS was like the Atari of IMing (we witnessed the infant stages of the text/instant messaging revolution) there were a few 'bugs' that needed to be worked out. The biggest problem about BASYS for me, was that people's login names would be mixed up while you were simultaneously messaging more than one person. There was only one messaging line, and quite often you had to check and recheck who it was that you were talking to. This feature was not particularly convenient, especially when there was breaking news and you were talking to many different people at the same time. As a matter of fact, this was so inconvenient that it got me in major trouble at least once, with several close calls in tow.

I had quite a few roommates while living in Atlanta, however, one particular roommate & CNNer(who somehow completely skipped being a VJ and went straight to feeds) was grinding on my last nerve. One day, after weeks of tolerating the typical roommate shenanigans from her and her CNN boyfriend (who stayed at our tiny, ONE bathroom apartment way too much) I decided that I was going to BASYS message another co-worker how annoyed I was with both of them. I arrived at work..all fired up to message away. Neither my roommate or her boyfriend were at work, and I made sure that nobody was sitting behind me who could read what I was saying and report it I was in great shape for a good bitching session.

As I was about to fire off my list of complaints, I wanted to double check that my roommate wasn't working. I did this by typing in her login name (her last name) and hitting 'enter'. If she had been at work, the words 'logged in' would appear at the top right. Since she wasn't, the words 'not logged in' appeared and I was ready to go.

I started messaging my friend, and a few lines in, I remembered that I needed to tell my roommate something about the rent or a bill or whatever. I re-typed her login name in, and told her what I needed to say. I then started my bitching session up again with my friend. Insults about my roommate were was a free for all. I was typing faster than I had ever typed before. "She's so conceited!" I declared. "Her boyfriend NEVER flushes the's nasty!" I cried. This went on for a good five minutes, and then..suddenly...I had a realization.

I looked up at the top of my computer to find that somehow, my roommate's login name was there...and not my friend's. GASP! I just messaged my roommate that she was annoying, conceited and a laundry list of other insults.

I spent the next eight hours trying to figure out my roommate's password, so that I could clear out the evidence that I was gossiping incessantly about her and her man. I tried nicknames, family names, birthdays, colors, colleges, the family dog's name, and even MY name. I was desperate. I was panicked. And I sure as hell didn't do one shred of work that day.

I never did figure it out. The next day, before work, I envisioned being called to into HR, or to my boss's office, or being led out by the infamous security guard who escorted those who were fired out of the building. I was so completely busted, that my lame story I made up that someone took over my computer and messaged my roommate these things while I was down getting a sweaty sandwitch from the Blimpie Nazi, would have been totally disregarded. I had no receipts, no proof.

I logged into my computer. The message light flashed on and off. The moment of truth had arrived...and there I was, back on the BASYS messaging horse.