All TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington wanted was a simple life, with a simple boat, so that he might draw out his remaining days in peaceful aquatic seclusion. Chartering retired couples and young honeymooners on day trips, resolving the quarrels of local fisherman, nibbling on sponge cake and watching the sun bake all of those tourists covered in oil. He was done with the game, and he thought the game was done with him.
He didn't buy this boat for himself. "I live a fairly simple life," he wrote on his blog, "and that didn't change much after I sold TechCrunch in 2010. I didn't buy a new house or even a new car. The one thing I did splurge on was a boat. Nothing too fancy or large." He did it for you:
I ordered it in 2011 and planned on writing about the experience after it was delivered.
I named her Buddy. It has state of the art electronics and a fairly new highly efficient propulsion system that the TechCrunch audience would be interested in.
You would have been interested. You would have been very interested. Years later, as you sat by a fire with Michael Arrington (founder of TechCrunch), lazily tracing your initials with your big toe on your (simple, tasteful) cashmere floor, you would have talked about it. "Remember Buddy?" he'd ask you softly, delight dancing in his light brown eyes. "Remember her highly efficient propulsion system?"
You'd laugh and turn away, half out of shyness, half out of pleasure. Of course you remembered Buddy. Her state of the art electronics were preserved in amber and resting in the Electronics Mausoleum right outside of the big bay window. "I remember," you would tell him. "I was interested in it." Then he'd laugh again and reach for your hand. That's what would have happened.
But the Department of Homeland Security wouldn't let him walk away.
Buddy, who was born in Canada, had to clear customs before finding her forever home. When Arrington went to pick her up, he realized that the documents incorrectly listed her value in American, rather than Canadian dollars.
The primary form, prepared by the government, had an error. The price was copied from the invoice, but DHS changed the currency from Canadian to U.S. dollars.
It has language at the bottom with serious sounding statements that the information is true and correct, and a signature block.
Currently, $1 Canadian is equal to $0.98 US. This might not seem like a vast difference to you boatless people (I call you The Unboated. What do you call yourself? Do you have a means of communicating with one another, or do you simply get by with grunts and clicks and emphatic hand gestures?), but one appreciates that when it comes to large, boat-shaped purchases, it behooves one to appreciate distinction and pay close attention to detail.
I pointed out the error and suggested that we simply change the currency from US $ to CAD $ so that is was correct. Or instead, amend the amount so that it was correct in U.S. dollars.
I thought this was important because I was signing it and swearing that the information, and specifically the price, was correct.
The DHS agent didn't care about the error and told me to sign the form anyway. "It's just paperwork, it doesn't matter," she said. I declined.
She called another agent and said simply "He won't sign the form." I asked to speak to that agent to give them a more complete picture of the situation. She wouldn't allow that.
Then she seized the boat. As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it.
Michael Arrington was already on the boat. But the Department of Homeland Security is no respecter of Boat People. They took Buddy, and now Buddy is locked up somewhere and she's cold and she's frightened and she doesn't understand what's going on.
You can only push a man so far, and when you get between Michael Arrington and his boat, you had best prepare to reap the whirlwind. What will Michael do now?
So now I have to hire a lawyer to try to figure all this out. And I will figure it out, eventually.
My point in writing this isn't to whine. Like I said, this will get worked out one way or another.
No, it's to highlight how screwed up our government bureaucracy has become.
A person with a gun and a government badge asked me to swear in writing that a lie was true today. And when I didn't do what she wanted she simply took my boat and asked me to leave.
In a sense, the Department of Homeland Security has taken all of our boats. Not your boat, obviously, and not my boat. Not in a literal sense. But in another deeper, truer, more meaningful sense. In a sense you couldn't really understand, not having a boat. Do you even have boat shoes?
So I was chatting with my dad yesterday. We had a long drive home after the Department of Homeland Security seized and impounded my boat. The mood was somber.
We were talking about how awful America has become...I'm a creature of startups. For example, I don't want government interference in the startup ecosystem.
And more importantly, as someone immersed in startup culture, I am a big fan of just walking away from stuff that can't be fixed. In my post "Always Swim Downstream" I talk about focusing on what you're good at and just walking away from unsolvable problems.
America is an unsolvable problem, a nation divided and deeply in hate with itself. If it was a startup we'd understand how unfixable the situation is, most of us would leave for a fresh start and the company would fall apart.
America is MySpace.
I hope Buddy can make it across the border. I hope Michael can once again see his friend, and shake her hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in her dreams. I hope.