Totten is an opinion writer and producer for the San Diego Union-Tribune. She lives in North Park.

In 2013, I started a new job as a reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

My beloved alt-weekly, CityLife, had just closed, and the editor of RJ was kind enough to let me interview for a new beat: transportation or tech.

The choice was obvious. Las Vegas was experiencing a technological boom at the time. The late Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had descended downtown with a plan to buy real estate, build startups and build community. Star-eyed aspiring Zuckerbergs had flocked to the city’s once-dilapidated core, bringing with them online services you never thought you needed and an insatiable appetite for networking and booze.

Every night there was a meeting of one kind or another, that’s where I found my first story.

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At the time, Bitcoin was around 4 years old. People had heard of him, but few knew him. It was a so-called unregulated cryptocurrency, which was not affiliated with any country, and from what most people knew about the FBI crackdown on Silk Road, it was a secret means of buy drugs or hire internet hired killers.

But it was getting more than that, flirting with legitimacy as the Winklevoss twins – the literal tech brothers who claimed Facebook was their idea – applied to start a business that would trade stocks like Bitcoin.

I went looking for a local enthusiast to explain this world to me, and I found Julian Tosh. Tosh had taken an interest in crypto to teach his daughters how to invest and ran a website listing physical businesses that were taking Bitcoin. We met at a kabob across from the airport, where he helped me create a Coinbase wallet and exchanged $ 10 in cash for a fraction of a coin. Although a few IRL companies in town agreed – you could get your car fixed, your teeth cleaned, or buy a chicken shawarma gyroscope, like I did that day, for the equivalent of $ 7 – sounded more whimsical than anything else. It could be used to buy things, but its real value was the ability to send money instantly, to anyone anywhere in the world, without exchanging currencies, paying bank charges, or leaving a government tell you how to do it.

But it was also sketchy, or at least a lot less user-friendly, at the time. You couldn’t just cash your Bitcoin into your bank account – you had to find someone to sell it to, either in person, like I did with Tosh, or to some stranger online that you hoped would realize his Part of the market. .

This is what I did in 2017, when Bitcoin went from around $ 1,000 per coin to over $ 20,000 in a year. It was all over the news, this new yet esoteric money that was turning working-class Americans into one percent overnight. There was just one problem: I had forgotten my password.

The problem with the unregulated nature of crypto, at least at the time, is that it was tricky. If you forgot your wallet password, there were no reset buttons or customer service reps who could take your social security number or ask for your mother’s maiden name to verify your identity. . The point was to keep your details out of the equation. So I tried intermittently for weeks and then somehow I finally got it right.

The change that I forgot in my account four years ago was worth almost $ 400. Despite Bitcoin’s spectacular rise, I still saw it as a fluke, a passing trend. So I sold it to a friend of a friend, who sent me the cash value on Venmo.

Ecstatic to reap my biggest investment yet, I rushed to Facebook to tell my old editor. I had just won over $ 300 from $ 3!

“Very good deal,” he replied. “If you don’t stop to wonder how much that sandwich cost you.” “

Slightly deflated, I still enjoyed my improbable climb.

Bitcoin fell soon after, validating my suspicion, and hovered around $ 10,000 per coin for two years. Then, last year during the pandemic, it came close to $ 20,000 again before hitting an all-time high of $ 68,521 just two weeks ago. I still bemoan how much this sandwich cost me and how my $ 3 change would now be worth thousands. I would have liked to understand that it was not a fluke.