Wakefield, Massachusetts, circa 1992
I’m working at a small, short-lived, extremely unsuccessful IDG publication called Computer Buying World. Pat has come by the office to eat breakfast with the staff and field questions—my first face-to-face time with him. In retrospect, it’s an unusual event; in my thirteen years at PC World, he never did anything similar.
For some reason, the topic comes up of whether IDG ever entered a business which he later regretted—and I think maybe I’m the one who raises it. It seems—again, in retrospect—like a blunt thing to ask the chairman during a meet-and-greet. Tell us about your mistakes, Pat!
Pat has a ready answer: He explains that IDG had produced a Computerworld TV show in the early 1980s, and it had been a waste of money and a lesson that broadcasting was not in IDG’s wheelhouse. Although I don’t mention it to Pat, I’m familiar with the Computerworld show: It visited my high school and taped material for a segment in our computer lab, circa 1981. Being interviewed for the program was my first association with IDG beyond buying its magazines.
Pat has come by our little PC World
Boston bureau for his annual holiday visit, which involves him visiting every employee in his or her workspace to chat briefly and hand off a card and bonus. Making small talk, I make a joke and Pat laughs vigorously. (I have a vague memory we were talking about the Pentium bug
, which would place this in 1994, though I could be conflating two Pat encounters.)
After Pat leaves, my boss, who had been present, tells another colleague that “Harry managed to talk to Pat like a human being.” Many years later, when I shepherd Pat around to meet dozen of staffers during these visits, I see for myself that Pat is most at ease when encountering employees who talk to him like a human being.
San Francisco, 2003
If you worked for IDG for 10 years, you got to have dinner at the Ritz Carlton with Pat. (Eventually–there was a waitlist–and usually shared with a couple of other long-timers.) Pat sent around a limo to pick you up, and greeted you in the lobby, where he’d present you with a corsage and then hand his point-and-shoot camera to a waiter to preserve the occasion for the IDG newsletter.
Before the night arrived, Pat procured notes about your interests and accomplishments so he could weave them into the conversation. At the dinner I attend, at least, the conversation gets looser and more unpredictable as we work our way through multiple courses, each accompanied by a glass of wine.
Toward the end of the night, the area in suburban Boston where I lived as a kid–Newton Corner–somehow comes up. Pat startles me by mentioning Sklar’s, a neighborhood grocery store a half-block from our home. (It had closed before we moved in, but they didn’t bother to tear down the sign.) It turns out that IDG, early in its history, had thought about moving into the Sklar’s building. The fact that I came thisclose to growing up practically next door to IDG boggles my mind. If Pat hadn’t taken me out to dinner, I’d never have known.