There are a few things, a few moments in life that really grab your attention. “I think the condom broke!” or “Your blood alcohol level is 3.0, please step out of the car sir!” or even “Is that my nude photo on Facebook!” But when you answer the phone and a friendly voice at the other end of the line says “Is that Mr. Mark Thomas, I am a representative of Bill Gates,” well that certainly had me standing to attention.
So you’re probably wondering how it came that a New York number flashed up on my mobile phone with one of Mr. Microsoft’s agents at the other end. I can’t blame you. It is a very simple story. There is a saying “he who works will make mistakes.” And it is very true. If you never do anything, then you can never do anything wrong. I would never trust anyone who had never made a mistake. Its only human. For if you have made a mistake that means that you are trying to do something and that hopefully you will learn from it, as a baby does when starting to walk.
So there was a story that the second richest man in the world was cruising with his family in the seas around us. In fact, he was spotted in Montenegro, and he is certainly no stranger to Dubrovnik and indeed the whole of the Croatian coastline. So with some inside knowledge from a friend in the country directly south of us I published an article on The Dubrovnik Times website that he was indeed on a cruise.
A couple of days went by and it appeared that someone had spotted him again near a Dubrovnik island. He was in the neighbourhood, so it was plausible. Although it also appeared that he had changed yachts, again not impossible. For if you are worth over $90 billion then you are probably security conscious. So we published a story that he had apparently been spotted on this Dubrovnik island and didn’t really think much else of it.
A little under 30 minutes had passed and I was already writing the next article, about a lost dog or something, when my mobile rang with a New York number. Coincidentally I had met a man from Utah a few days earlier and he had promised to call me about some other business. So I answered.
That’s when the Gates bomb dropped. “Hi, my name is Elizabeth (I think that's what she said), and I am a representative of Mr. Bill Gates,” she said, she did actually give her surname but when I heard Gates almost everything was washed from my mind.
And then with my cynical hat on I thought that this was a spam call, or a scam. She then started “Are you the editor of The Dubrovnik Times?” – “Indeed I am.” – “I am phoning to inform you of some news.” Was she about to say that I am a long, lost cousin of Mr. Microsoft and he wanted to include me on his will? Did Mr. Gates want to make me a board member of Microsoft? As his fortune is probably more than half of the countries on the planet this was an intriguing call.
“You have published news that Mr. Gates is currently cruising near Dubrovnik, well this is not true, the whole party have left the region two days ago,” she continued. Well it looked like I wasn’t a long, lost relative after all. “Can you confirm that he was in Montenegro a few days ago and that the previous article we published was correct,” I questioned. “Yes, that info is indeed correct and we have no problem with that article, but the last one is completely incorrect,” she answered. After thanking her for pointing out the error and pushed, “Is there any chance that you could give me some more info about Mr. Gates and his cruise?” I thought it was worth a try, even though it was a very, long shot. I appeared that confidentiality agreements had been signed and her mouth was sealed tight shut.
Goodbyes were said and the New York line went silent. My mind started spinning. In less than half an hour an agent of the second richest man in the world had phoned me to question an article on my website. COOL! F****ING COOL! Does that mean that Mr. Gates is reading The Dubrovnik Times? Should I then add him as a friend on Facebook? Am I now Microsoft certified? Will I get Word for free, no all of Microsoft Office?
I’ll leave the last word to the billionaire, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.” Thank you for your feedback Mr. Gates.