At a time when stock prices are -- you might say -- at a decline, Apple reported in September a rise in it's stock prices. It was at $150 a share as the economy collapsed around it, and though it has dropped to $92, that's still quite remarkable. It's a path quite similar to that of our President-elect.
Could both Apple and Obama have a business plan that works?
I keep hearing, over and over, that Apple is "overpriced, not worth it." Well, as one who has come late to both tables, I will give my satisfied customer survey: to start, owning these new products is like having a place where everyone's glad to see you, everyone wants to help you, and everything seems to be working. (More on that, later).
I am a longtime Democratic volunteer. I phone-banked for Mr. Clinton. Not so much for Dukakis and Mondale and Kerry and Gore -- and look how that turned out! But I always climb aboard the train, eventually. Obama was not my original guy. That would be Mr. Joe Biden. I Heart the not-so-mainstream fella. Witness my twenty-year infatuation with Todd Rundgren (aka, who)? But something always happens, and I end up signing on.
Hillary was, surprisingly, never a fave. She's smart as a whip. And I love where she's wound up. But Hillary never struck me as a feminist. I think there are other women I'd feel would be more appropriately called feminists. Still, she's capable, and though I worried she would unite the Republicans, I'd have certainly climbed aboard her train. But Hillary Clinton channeled her inner nut pretty early on, didn't she? Actually, it was her response to an interview by David Geffen, a former supporter who was giving money to Obama, that did it. Mr. Geffen's comment was perfectly fair, you know, here in America? Her response -- which should have been to ignore him -- was the exact opposite. She actually said people who gave money to Obama couldn't give to her campaign. This was before the campaign even officially started! So Hillary was fruity right off the bat, you might say. (Plus, was she a lousy boss).
Still, I always liked her during the debates, frankly more than Obama. He struck me as a cool customer, a bit hard to warm up to: the ideal Vice-Presidential candidate (to Joe Biden, whom, at the time, I couldn't even buy a button from).
I now realize Barack's got something special going on. But like most relationships, you can only see and judge someone's behavior over time. So I'd not warmed up to him. But then came the day, and for me, like I said, it always does (going to Nevada the final weekend of 2004 when Bush released 'al-Queda tapes'). This time, it was about two months before November. In September (the same time Apple was having their upsurge), the day John McCain took credit for the financial crisis phone call engendered by Obama, I literally opened my new Apple computer and signed on. But still, I was being driven more by events and less by the 'product.'
I was a person who swore I'd never buy an Apple. What kind of computer doesn't have a virus? (I said that). 'They'll be out of business.' And my favorite, 'Yeah, I also remember 8 track tapes!' (You can imagine the conversation I had about getting my first cell phone). Imagine, my same thought process about Obama.
I wound up in one of the Obama Santa Monica CA offices, a production company by day. Now, I've been volunteering for twenty years, and the other places are desks shoved in corners, sodas on tables. (In fact, the local office two blocks away was just like that). This was smooth, enormous. Top floor of a building on 2nd Street, Santa Monica. Prime property. View of the ocean sunset. When you first walk in, can't imagine a space this big ever being filled up.
But boy, the last weekend, did it. (Yes, it did).
If you've ever been to an Apple store, you know what I am saying. Imagine you're in a movie set or a future video. That's the Apple store. Armies of friendly folk; they just want you on the team. You can't quite believe it's all for real.
I walked into the Obama office and everyone was beautiful. Okay, maybe that ocean view sunset was casting such a glamorous glow. Nonetheless, all the beautiful folks wanted to help you get to work. And everyone, and I'm talking top on down, participated in everything.
Remember that I said when I went to Nevada in 2004 to knock on doors for Kerry -- that was following the announcement by George Bush the last critical weekend before Election Day that he'd just received. "A video from al-Queda." Knowing somewhere it was not so, I got on a bus with other sad Dems. We ended up knocking on doors of people who spit on us, doors of people who'd not been vetted -- this following Kerry's inability to get too pissed off when a war dodger questioned his patriotism.
Everyone talked about this incredible Obama organization. Now, remember, he was not my 'guy'. But it seemed like this community organizer had a business degree. That impressed me. I had also been impressed when Mitt Romney commented about Obama's lack of business skills and he said, "Kind of funny when you consider what he spent and that I'm still in the race." I liked what he'd said about race and Rev. Wright. And I have to admit, I found it fascinating, after winning Iowa and Hillary's crying in New Hampshire and saying 'she knew secrets', he almost pretended she didn't exist.
BO, much to my admiration (being a woman), has the ability to ignore his enemies. It's a lesson Hillary and I could stand to learn from.
I'm ashamed I watched "The Apprentice" (giving ratings to a Bullynaire). But something about men's behavior fascinates me. After eviscerating each other in the final moments, inevitably the winners and losers would wind up at the elevator. The women, also tough as nails, all sat with the wounded feelings. You could see their thought process. "I can't believe you just called me... I'll never talk to you again!" But the guys were remarkable. "Dude, it's just business," they would say as they high-fived. Impressive.
It's hard for me to imagine the Democrats finally have a business plan that works (we're big in the heart area). And Apple stock is soaring.
Two years ago, I finally got an Apple. Why did I change? Because I'm not someone who is building a computer. I need to talk to someone. And their Customer Service is remarkable. In a brand new world, at approaching middle-age, it's very rare that I use the words remarkable and service. They don't offer discounts. They don't work on commission. It doesn't make sense. You just can't wrap your head around these facts in this brand-new contemporary society that we live in.
But remember, Apple, much like Obama, was not originally my 'guy'.
Indeed, after I bought my laptop and brought it home, I plugged it in and it wouldn't print! Well! There you go! Yes, it was a beautiful chain of stores, and yes, everyone had that same goofy smile of welcome, but I'm a writer. Dammit, I gotta print!
I went back three times, and seeing that these Apple-I-cans were able to print off my laptop there in Twinkle Magic Land, I finally hauled the printer back in with me, too. (I couldn't even feel pissed, because they seemed so darned nice and sorry). I watched the Very Young Apple-ician plug in the printer, and then into my MacBook Pro. Oh, look, the plug's on the left. Not on the right, like my Sony. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't tell this radiant young lad what I'd apparently done. No, I just smiled languidly, assured him that I bet it would be working now, and slunk away to the nearest Elder Hostel.
Change is hard. (And they're not called plugs, by the way).
Obama wasn't my guy. But everything else about him, was. Except for this coolness. But the weekend before the election, hearing Joe Biden tell his listeners, in regards to protesters, "We have to hear them, too" -- I was reminded why he was my guy.
When I first walked into this Santa Monica space, it seemed like how the other half must live. That's a quality that I suspect most of us feel from time to time. And you have to understand, that here in LA, I live two Valleys away. Why was I schlepping to an office, that didn't even have free parking? (Okay, it was catered by the Border Grill. More food than I've ever seen in my life. Macaroni and cheese was the vegetable).
And because on that final critical week before the election, 300 people crowded in, making the space small. Person after person, arm in arm, almost in each other's laps. An army of phone callers squeezed into long tables. We were so close we couldn't help but overhear. Random questions, "Can you tell me why you're supporting McCain?" my neighbor would ask into the cell phone. (President Palin, I whispered).
My computer gave me trouble that same week. Well, of course, it's two years old. I went to the Apple store, where the people always seem genuinely happy to see me. But I'm always looking for things to have a catch. Okay, there was no catch. The tech tested my battery and it didn't seem to be broken. But 'he'd hate for anything to happen to my computer,' he says. So he opens up a brand new battery for me. Something that costs $200. This to go with the new cord they'd tried, before. This all without asking me if it's still in warranty or -- most impressively -- trying to get me to buy a new computer. No. It should run fine now, the happy tech tells me. Another 2 - 3 years at least.
Like how service used to be. They just want things to work.
It occurred to me later that day that Barack Obama is a lot like the Apple store. A bit hard for me to switch to. Took some getting used to. But when you realize that behind this veneer is the genuine thing, and that it's determined to work well, it's impressive indeed.
I stand shoulder to shoulder with the 2/3 white crowd of pretty kind people that bursts into tears at the sight of the black children crying at Spelman College, during his victory speech. "He won Virginia, a place where he'd have been a slave," hugs this -- I'm guessing -- financially well-off bunch. I'm told later that a Fortune 500 CEO was in the kitchen washing dishes, but nobody really cares. "We WON Our Country Back," someone writes on the chalkboard that had been holding tallies.
We vote in mid-week because in 1760, it took people two days to travel to vote. It's in November, because that was after the height of farming season. It's on Tuesday because it took a day for the horses to rest. I have a picture of me voting for the first time (yep, I'm that chick).
BO may turn out to be my PC yet. I don't know, the customer service seems to be working. I'm thinking he might be smarter than me in some of the unemotional choices he's making. I'm willing to give him a try. Most impressive of all, one of the people that had called me during his victory speech was my brother. Actually, that's not quite true. He 'text's' me. He's a person whose political affiliation has not always been the same as mine, so the message he has sent, "Yes, we can!" makes me weep.
Of course, being me, it takes me almost forty-five minutes of listening to old phone messages before I do realize it's a text.
Change? Yes, we can.