I always felt somewhat guilty whenever I’d return to the office after a long work trip. I got the impression that the development team thought that we’d go to these pseudo-glamorous events and spend 10% of the time working and 90% of the time galavanting about some exotic locale. Let’s put that to rest now—that’s an inaccurate percentage.
It was probably only 80% galavanting.
One such occasion that I remember fondly was a trip to Chicago for a conference with Evan Rocha and Mike Clauss. We had just been sued by that one label that rhymes with Shmooniversal and we’d all firmly adopted an “us against the universe” mentality. By the last day of the conference, we’d had a series of successful meetings/incidents that included:
A conversation with Bob Seger’s team about becoming the first digital music platform to host his songs (he was a long time holdout). This would obviously be a tremendous coup for us in the long term (exaggerated eye roll).
We got chummy with a bunch of Shmooniversal employees and some of them showed us that they’d downloaded the Grooveshark app on their phone. I can very distinctly remembering that I should probably write their names down to see if they uploaded music because it JUST. MIGHT. come up later.
We crashed a graduation ceremony for a local arts college and raised several toasts with groups of students while yelling things like “We finally did it!” Not work related, just kind of fun.
Anyway, getting down to brass tacks, the lawsuit weighed pretty heavily on everyone’s minds while we were on this trip. In their incomparable opulence, Shmooniversal had rented out the presidential suite at the hotel hosting the conference. They’d spared no expense and in addition to inexplicably having a cardboard cutout of Randy Jackson from American Idol in one of the bedrooms (photos were taken of me spooning said cutout), they’d also brought in a pool table with Shmooniversal BRANDED pool balls. This seemed like a personal affront to us so Evan and I vowed to exact some sort of vengeance as punishment for Shmooniversal seemingly thumbing their nose in our faces with their wanton spending.
So what did we do, you ask? Did we attempt to make in-roads with their team to bolster our case? Absolutely. Did we adjourn to their suite during the evenings for the parties they hosted each night to charm them into dropping the lawsuit? With vigor. Did we smoke a joint on their helipad? Almost certainly. Now, drinking their free alcohol and indulging in illegal substances on helipads only served as small victories and Evan and I knew we needed to make a big statement. This was not a time for half measures. We needed to send a message they’d hear loud and clear and that we could describe to the troops when we returned triumphantly to Gainesville.
So we decided to steal their branded pool balls.
I’d like to say that this was a clandestine effort with ropes, pulleys and elaborate contraptions we painstakingly built while the Mission Impossible theme song played in the background. In fact, it was really just a matter of having one of us distract prying eyes while the other deftly pocketed the pool balls. Full of mirth from alcohol and subterfuge, Evan and I left the party that night giggling like idiots with pockets full of Shmooniversal branded pool balls.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get them all so we resolved to return the next day right before the conference’s award ceremony when the suite would ideally be unoccupied. Really just your standard B&E job.
We arrived back at the suite the next afternoon to find it occupied by very serious looking dudes in suits and a tall, gangly blonde girl who kinda had the posture of a constipated velociraptor. If you guessed that the only people in the suite were Shmooniversal’s entire C-Suite and Taylor Swift, then your clairvoyance is admirable. Evan and I barged into the room on a mission to abscond with pool balls and you can imagine the looks of surprise on the faces of everyone in the room when it became painfully obvious that we’d just interrupted a very serious conversation with the biggest recording artist in the world.
Here’s the thing though, while ostensibly this scenario had disaster written all over it, Evan and I looked at one another and telepathically relayed the same sentiment. “Their security sucks, that’s Taylor Swift, and if we were one of the guys in suits then all we’d be thinking about would be making sure that nobody makes a scene around our cash cow.” We tried to play it cool, threw up some cursory head nods to the other people in the room, stole another pool ball, and ran out of the room to continue the trend of grand theft pool ball while laughing like morons.
So yeah, we returned triumphantly to Gainesville and ceremoniously presented our prize to Sam. We’d fought and won a small battle and the pool balls were a perfect manifestation of how we’d do everything we could to go down swinging against seemingly insurmountable odds.
They only ended up costing us $17 billion.