What Apple has in Common with Prep School Gangsters
My walk to work each morning is substantial. It is about 20 minutes of uninterrupted time in which I tend to let my mind wander. Some days, I look at the tops of buildings, and notice beautiful lines in the sky. Other days, I get so wrapped up in a problem or thought I don’t notice my surroundings at all. Some walks are a mediation, where I try to let thoughts dissipate, and other days I’ll hold on tight to a single question…digging deeper and deeper, pushing to reach the essence of the unknown thing. It’s interesting to start my walk with a relatively blank slate. The place where I arrive and focus is often that which is not solved or is somehow causing me stress.
Today, however, was a strange day. Today I walked to work and for some reason I was replaying in my head a very specific night and moment from my high school experience. I remembered it very clearly (which is unusual for me with my terrible memory)…allow me to share a formative moment in the life of Jordan Cooper. On a warm spring night in what I think was my senior year in highschool, I had been hanging out at a friends apartment. I guess her parents were out of town, and as often the case when parents go out of town, my friend had decided to invite a small number of people over to drink beer and misbehave in the safety of her parents home. The issue in these “open crib” situations, at least where I grew up, is that word travels fast, and often a small get together would elicit many unwelcome visitors attempting to crash.
So anyway, there was this night in high school where a group of uninvited “prep school gangsters” (see New York Mag article here) showed up at my friends house and were not allowed up to the party. Angry and adolescent, intoxicated, and rejected, this group of guys decided that they wanted to beat somebody up. I was never a fighter growing up, and frankly had never even been in a fight, but they knew who I was and didn’t like me I guess, and they called a friend who was upstairs with me and told him to tell me “go downstairs, Jed [Redacted] is down there, and he has beef with you.” I didn’t want to go, but they said they weren’t leaving and were giving my friend’s doorman a very hard time, harassing and even pushing him I think, and ultimately I decided that if it was my head they wanted, so be it…and I went downstairs.
I remember standing in a circle of about eight guys, and this little shit who I didn’t even know was telling me that he heard I talked shit about one of his friends, and that he had some kind of score to settle with me…I remember another kid in the group who was supposed to be my friend, blowing his nose repeatedly and throwing the used tissues in my face…they kept prodding me and prodding me, telling me we had to settle this with a fight, and I looked at this little kid and said “listen dude, I don’t want to fight, and I’m not going to fight eight people at the same time. If you all want to beat me up right now, do it, and I’ll deal with you through the police…or if you want to walk around the corner with just me, and leave all these guys here, I’ll beat the shit out of you 1-1, which is ridiculous, because I don’t even know you, but I’ll do it if that’s what you want.” They huffed and puffed, and maybe even pushed me around a little, but I remember them walking off, cursing and calling me a pussy, again unsatisfied not having had the opportunity to beat me up.
I spent all day today baffled as to why this night was the subject of today’s walk to work…and as I reflect further, I now wonder if the underlying issue on my mind was really one of bullying and how to deal with bullies. I think about where all those kids are today, and I smile at the choices I’ve made…in the long run bullies end up losers by most metrics you’d care about.
As I endeavor to build in the mobile ecosystem, I can’t help but feel a bit bullied by Apple…I view their terms of service and stranglehold on how people use the internet on their phones to be threatening both to me and those like me who seek to build on their platform. I think my walk today was meant to remind me how we deal with bullies. Respect the threat, as certainly it is real, but don’t back down. Don’t antagonize or escalate, simply look at the world, live within the bounds of reason, and act with the maximum strength possible while keeping the threat from turning into adverse action. Over time, independent thinking, composure, good action, and intelligence win out.