“Roy, I need you to be on your best behavior,” said my friend Tony who worked for Epos Acoustics, an English loudspeaker company. “I’m going to bring Margaret Beckett to your room at CES. She’s here on a trade mission and I want her to meet companies that import British products
Margaret Becket was leader of the House of Commons under Tony Blair’s Labor Party government in the early 2000s.
“It’s really important that you don’t talk to her unless she asks you a direct question. The British ambassador will accompany her. If you’re on your best behavior, I may be able to get you invited to lunch.”
By chance, we were playing Beatles music when she arrived. So, I gave my presentation joking that as well as importing British Hi-Fi equipment, I only play British music on it. After the presentation, Ms. Beckett asked the usual general questions, and as the conversation was soon lagging, I asked her if she was here to meet President Bush, who had recently been elected.
“Oh no, that’s Tony’s job,” she replied. And then, to keep the conversation going, she added, “I have met Bill Clinton.” At this point, I saw the ambassador wildly gesticulating behind her. He was telling me to shut up. Unfazed I responded, “That’s nothing special, my Mother-in-law has met him twice.” She started to go red and the ambassador, glaring daggers at me, rushed her out of the room.
Curiously, I never was asked to join them for lunch.
A few years ago, at the High End show in Munich, Germany, a company approached me offering me a way of connecting any of my products to the Internet. This was long before Bluetooth and Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, and although his product was expensive, the technology seemed promising, so I listened to his sales presentation.
He explained that there were five steps the end user would have to do to activate the module. This seemed a lot for novices like myself, so I suggested that he, as an obviously clever software engineer, build most of these steps into the firmware. He resisted this idea and explained that it was too complicated for him to do.
I pressed him yet again and that’s when he lost his temper. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” he bellowed at me. “You and your kind will soon be dead.”
Stereophile, the Hi-Fi magazine, used to organize shows. The whole Hi-Fi community would exhibit, and they were perfect for networking and schmoozing. One evening, I had arranged to take out a bunch of the magazine’s reviewers for dinner. It was a good group, comprised of John Atkinson (still the editor), Michael Fremer (still the analog guru), my friend Bob Reina (now sadly deceased), Wes Phillips (also gone), my sidekick Leland Leard, and I think one other journalist. We went to a restaurant in Los Angeles called AOC and had a really good meal. We also drank a lot of wine. At the end of the evening, I asked for the check. I expected it to be expensive and it was. The bill read $840, so I added approximately 20% to the bill, as a tip, and rounded the charge up to $1000. We went outside to wait for the taxi and as it had not yet arrived, I went back into the restaurant to use the toilet. My waitress, on seeing me, came over and thanked me gratefully for the generous tip. I told her it was my pleasure and that we all had a great time.
The next morning, Leland and I went out for breakfast. We were staying in Manhattan Beach and walked down towards the sand. We found a restaurant and ate breakfast outside, enjoying the bright California sunshine. When the bill arrived, I took out my credit card to pay and wrapped around it was the receipt from the previous evening. I opened it up, read it, and started laughing. In the restaurant the previous night, the lighting was dim but in that sunlit morning, everything was crystal clear. I looked at the total and the amount read $640. I had given the waitress a $360 tip. No wonder she thanked me so profusely.
What to do? Nothing. I reckoned that both of us got a good story out of my mistake.