I am willing to wager a few shillings that Mozilla founder and former Facebook director Blake Ross has been to a Renaissance fair or two. For he hath bourne, on Facebook, the kind of dramatic play best enacted in a town square—and cast himself as the hero struggling to keep his dark, murderous desires at bay.
In fair Montreal where he lays his 1,200-word scene, Ross was trying to throw his brother a bachelor party. To do so, the software prodigy, who became a millionaire at age 19 (he's now 29), employed the aid of a local event planning company. That is, if these jesters even deserve the title!
When I landed in Quebec to kick off the party after months of phone calls, I learned it was a "company" in the sense that your Aunt Flora's egg-decorating Pinterest fetish is a "company."
Next, Ross offers his audience of 457,000 Facebook followers the Dramatis Personae. The character descriptions offer but a taste of the elaborate metaphors to come, with prose as purple as one thousand Yahoo logos:
The org chart was just three guys:
1. the owner, who thought the answer to every problem was his own smile, but who actually possessed all the charisma of dandruff;
2. the owner's cousin, and your perennial best friend: a smooth-talker in a navy blazer whose first words out of the womb were probably perjury. He prided himself on his showmanship, but he was like an agoraphobic magician who, having never left his own house, could never understand why his "walking the dog" illusion wasn't impressing anyone;
3. an intern with facial hair far above his paygrade, who, when asked if he could pick up a bag or two of Doritos, *would* have looked like he had just been handpicked by President Clinton to compete in the hunger games, had he been old enough to know who President Clinton was ("Didn't the Capitol call him Snow?").
The smiling buffoon did not follow instructions, which sets in motion our first act, featuring a tale within a tale and foreshadowing latent savage tendencies:
One afternoon, I decide to gently explain my displeasure to the owner, the way a knife explains itself to brisket.
He listens, and then, while the guys participate in various in-suite activities, the owner pulls me aside. "Let's go for a walk," he says. His face is worn.
This, I know, is the apology tour. "I still remember the day I got into this business," he'll begin with a heavy sigh. Then, in the shade of Old Montreal, he will lay it all on the field. I will learn the price of his daughter's orthodontia and his alimony, about that trip he should have taken and the one who got away, about the heartbreaking impact of recession on a white-glove concierge business fueled by the mirage of disposable income. And at the end, he will lay out his plan for making things right.
But, soft! What annoying startup pitch through yonder apology tour breaks?
"I have an idea for something awesome."
His prologue disarms me. Forget the guilt trip; he's jumping right to reparations. I'm hot with shame—really, I'm giving a father of two grief for some bachelor party shenanigans?—but I also feel, if I am honest, a little cheated. I have grounds for rancor, and I was looking forward to my moment. Secretly, we all like having a cross to bear.
"It's an idea for an app."
Silence. I want to tell you that we lock eyes like a couple of gunslingers nigh to settle scores, but that's not what happens. I sling guns; he looks back at me with a wide dumb smile on his face. He looks like an elephant who has just shit in the middle of the circus who doesn't know he has just shit in the middle of the circus.
"You want to build an app for apologizing?" I clarify.
Before the owner can describe the kind of bachelor party logistics app he wants Ross to help him with, we must pause for this brief aside:
(Names have been changed to protect the elephant; "Pete" is derived from the Latin "incomPetent," meaning Alejandro, his actual name).
Here is our where our hero's mettle is truly tested. All he needs to do is get through this yokel's startup pitch so he relay the impudence—the atrocity!—to his hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers back home. Ross calms his nerves by imaging the owner of the bachelor party company as a doomed chicken destined to be crushed by forces more powerful than himself:
"This kind of opportunity doesn't come around often," he smiles. His smile is about as authentic as a Chicken McNugget, only greasier, and now I'm imagining him at the slaughterhouse.
"And since Mason's a lawyer, he could help us batten down the copyright hatches." I read once that the chicken can survive for three minutes after curtain call, which seems too long.
My brother's name is Jason. I try to focus.
"Okay, I just want to make sure I understand what we're doing out here," I say slowly, struggling to maintain eye contact as the conveyor belt drags his head toward the pulverizer. Will PETA save Pete? Will Peeta?
What is Ross' reward for managing to only pulverize Pete in the interior of his own mind? A monologue fit for a king:
"You are asking me this as we stand here in Canada, three thousand miles from Silicon Valley." The gears are clogged with feathers from the last victim. Pete, staring up at the gallows, murmurs: There should be an app for that.
"In this holy, fleeting respite from the neverending networkers circling Sand Hill for flesh and funding and followers. On a weekend that you volunteer is of paramount importance, that will only ever happen once, that celebrates my only brother." The first twist positions the neck.
"You have pulled me aside to request not merely my money, not just my time, not simply my expertise. You want to know if you should code it with a programming language or a database, which is like asking me if you should fill up your car with gas or with the Dewey Decimal System, but that's not all. You want me to put my family name on an app where men drag and drop women into piles of 'good strippers' and 'bad strippers' using their index finger, but there's more." The second twist locks it.
I'll let the rest of the action unfold on its own. Wouldn't want to spoil the third twist, it's a killer.
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[Image via FirstWorldFacts.com]