Thousands of Miles from Home


Getting Lucky in the Tang Center

This week in the MIT Stata Center, Bill Magnuson and I spotted a flyer for a speech to be given by Steve Ballmer, CEO and poster boy for the Microsoft Corporation. Thoroughly intrigued, I slipped out of chemistry class a little early today to meet Bill outside the Tang Center. As I should have expected, all the seats in the auditorium were filled by Sloan management students, and a police guard at the door suggested we sit in another lecture hall that would be receiving a live video broadcast. No way had I come all this way to see Ballmer on a video screen, I can turn on CNN any day of the week for that type of thing.

Bill and I consulted a map of the Tang Center on the wall and casually walked to the basement. There we found a back hallway that led to an exit door at the front of the main lecture hall. Amazingly, standing in the hallway was none other than the $11 billion man himself, Steve Ballmer. Bill and I nonchalantly walked by Microsoft employees dressed in business suits to the entrance of the lecture hall where one of the Microsoft PR representatives was waiting for the speech to begin. The Microsoft employee made a comment about Bill’s Pink Floyd t-shirt and my Akira Kurosawa pin, and it turned out that the man loved Floyd and had visited Japan on a number of times. He asked us what we were doing in the hallway, and we retold our story about being rejected by the security guard at the door. The man said that he’d see what he could do.

A few minutes later, our inside man returned with the organizer of the speech who told Bill and I, “Welcome to the Microsoft Internship Program, we have two seats reserved for you in the front row of the auditorium.” After promising that we weren’t going to pull any stunts during the lecture, Bill and I followed Steve Ballmer into the hall and took our seats to a roar of applause from the gathered crowd.

Ballmer gave a riveting lecture about the history of Microsoft, full of energy and passion in his usual style. He took some questions from the audience concerning Google and the open source movement, and then left the auditorium before anyone could scramble for a handshake. I didn’t mind, feeling rather content after spending a good 10 minutes behind the scenes with one of the richest men in America.

Exciting people seem to be lecturing at MIT everyday, and perhaps there’s something to be said for not always arriving hours before the speech commences.


  • You are the luckiest person I know. You always end up in the right place at the right time.
    How about playing the lottery for me. Love you.

    By mom, at 7:17 PM  

  • and you said Japan doesn't count and isn't like the US. shame on you, random as shiz also happens in the US too...

    long live Vinny T's and toothbrushes.

    By pallaver, at 5:27 AM  

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