While I find technology and innovation in technology to be intellectually fascinating and fun to read about, in my personal life, I am what product managers disdainfully refer to as “The Last Adopter.” I’ve spent the last 9 years living in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco as an outlier so extreme, I still yearn for the return of The Pony Express because I love hand-written letters almost as much as I love ponies.
I am not a journalist, a professional writer, or even a blogger. So: if you’re looking for breaking news you can impress your boss with, let me save you some time. Set this aside, read every other article on this site, and return to this when you’ve just finished your fifth coffee, find yourself staring into space, and absentmindedly wonder what the Kardashians are up to today. This is not hard-hitting journalism folks.
A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at the Sun Valley Resort during the annual Allen & Company Media / Tech boondoggle. 99% of the guests – ranging from moguls, to dogs of moguls, to reporters spying on moguls and dogs of moguls – were there for the conference. I was there for the weather, the pool and the outdoor skating rink.
My morning vacation routine does not usually include standing in line behind Harvey Weinstein and Tom Freston at Starbucks while Rupert Murdoch whizzes by the window on a golf cart. It was morbidly fascinating. And I quickly figured out that chatting with amazingly brilliant tech and media icons is actually very easy, provided you’re someone like me that has no idea what most of these “icons” actually look like.
I started up conversations with pretty much anyone I ran into, as if they were just Joe Bob from down the street. And I find that as a naïve-looking blonde, famous men tend to naturally assume I’m kind of a dope in that “Aw, how cute! She doesn’t realize I’m Master of the Universe” kind of way and will usually grant me the pleasure of a conversation.
Wednesday night I snuck into the hotel-bar-turned-MOGULS ONLY lounge to 1) have a drink and 2) share light bar colloquy with some famous dudes. To virtually guarantee success, I brought something I knew would be a conversation starter. No, not my boobs. I carried an enormous bright blue hardcover book that I planned to open and actually read.
Nothing communicates “I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE!” more brazenly than marching into a crowd that potentially contains every great tech innovator in Silicon Valley, disinterestedly looking around, making a face like you just smelled dog poo, heaving an audible sigh and finally, plopping down to animatedly read an old-fashioned book.
And what do you know? Not 20 minutes passed by before a lovely gentleman – who it later turns out was sitting with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – leaned over to ask what I was reading. We had a nice chat about my book (“The New Republic,” by Lionel Shriver) and he recommended I try “The Age of Miracles”. I tell him that the next time I visit the town bookstore, I’ll be sure to look for it. Immediately this kind man (who I’m sure is also terribly important) gets a twinkle in his eye before shouting to his table mates “Jeff! Guys! You have to meet this girl!”
Jeff Bezos is drawn to my enormous hardcover book like an area 51 fanatic to an alien. “So, is that really a book? Because you know, the color of the book matches your scarf.”
There is laughter all around as I reply sheepishly that yes, it is a book and no, I did not plan on wearing a matching scarf.
He replies, “So you know, I bet you could read that book on a Kindle”.
I say something absurd about how I’m not a big tech person and how I didn’t know that I could find a kindle that matched my scarf.
“Well, maybe not, but you could get a cover for it. And Kindles are really easy to use. Maybe you just need a tutorial? Do you have a Kindle”
“You know, I think I might?” I said, “I feel like someone gave me a Kindle as a gift last year, but it’s probably just sitting in the box somewhere. I don’t know that I even opened it.”
At this point, all fellows at the table are trying to stifle raucous laughter. The original gentleman I was speaking with says, “Ask her where she got the book Jeff!”
So naturally, he asks and I tell him all about the great little bookstore in town, and how the people there are so nice and helpful, and if he wants a book, he really should go.
“What about Amazon?” he said, without any disclosure, “If you ordered the book on Amazon, it could be here tomorrow.”
I thought about this for a second, then said “that’s true, but…at the bookstore in town, they have a cafe connected to it so you can buy your book and get a coffee at the same time. Now if I order a book on Amazon, it doesn’t come with a cup of coffee, does it?”
Not only is everyone now guffawing at Jeff Bezos failing to sell The EMPIRE HE INVENTED, they are also looking at me like “this girl is either dumber than a box of rocks or lives under a rock, because is this really happening?”
Jeff however, remains undeterred, perhaps hoping that flattery will land him a new customer. “You know, there’s a commercial out there that reminds me of you.”
“It’s this woman, and she’s reading a book. I don’t know if it matches her scarf – but she’s beautiful and charming and charismatic.”
I chime in hopefully, “a kind hearted Midwesterner on vacation?”
“Yes! But the thing is…she’s reading this big hard cover book and it makes her TERRIBLY unhip”
“Sounds about right.”
As the crowd laughs again at my cluelessness, I bid them farewell to head back to my room. Walking down the dimly lit resort pathways, I realized the following:
1. The bar quesadillas looked really good.
2. Jeff Bezos called me charming, charismatic and “terribly unhip”
3. Not one of the men at that table (Jeff Bezos included) was kind or gentlemanly enough to pipe in and say “Hey honey – before you totally embarrass yourself further, the guy you’re talking to founded Amazon and that’s why we’re laughing at you!”
4. Not one of the men at that table (Jeff Bezos included) knew I had a secret of my own…to be revealed next weekend in Part II.
Editor’s Note: As she confirms above, Susanna Burke has absolutely nothing to do with technology — Other than the fact that she may (or even may not) have met Jeff Bezos at a bar.
Image via Stuart McClymont