“Hey, want to go and see a concert? It’s at Middlesex County College.”
My friend Bill Vitti lived across town from me. We went to separate elementary schools, but for 8 years, we went to the same day camp.
Bill was an only child, who was not a good athlete, and was often thought of as a loner.
We were polar opposites in almost every way, and perhaps that is why I liked him – and became friends with him at a young age, precisely because we were so different from each other.
“Why are you friends with him?” – kids would ask me.
But, I really liked him, being that he was an only child --- combined with the fact that he had great toys at his house, and he was a deep thinker who I always thought was more mature than many of my other pals.
The calls would go something like this, from him to me----
“Hey, do you want to go see Commander Cody band at Middlesex?”
“Hey, do you want to go see the Marshall Tucker Band?”
His Dad drove us, and we went in.
Truth is, I never heard of any of the bands I was seeing at the time – nor had I ever heard any of their songs. I just enjoyed an adventure – and so did Bill. We were wide eyed 12 year olds……
Bill’s Dad was a middle-aged man, short in stature who worked in the “Waste Management” Business. He was in the business of collecting and disposing of garbage from many of the municipalities, surrounding our town.
As I got in his car to go see a band called The Outlaws, I said – “Mr. Vitti, thanks for driving us, I’ve never heard of this band – can you tell me about their music?”
He responded, “I’ve got no clue – I just want to see live music with my son.”
I should have known then and there something was weird, but my internal radar did not go off, as I was on an adventure with Bill.
Whenever we walked into a concert, Bill’s Dad always went off on his own, and left us to ourselves – he said, “I will meet you right here when the show is over.”
He always came back at the end of the night – with 2 concert t-shirts, one for me, and one for Bill.
Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker – all different nights, over a 24 month period in the early 80’s. He took us to them all.....
The first few concerts were good, although loud.
After the 5th concert (I think The Outlaws) I was more focused and involved with, watching the crowd – than I was the music itself.
The people became my entertainment.
I stood with Bill off to the side of the stage. I was people watching – watching the fans take in the music of the act – of which I knew nothing about.
I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
A short man in a white t-shirt, giving someone a hard time.
He had a flashlight.
I saw him flash a badge.
I saw him take a plastic bag from a person he was shining the light on.
Then, I watched him some more.
He kept repeating the same act, hassling people who were smoking weed.
It was Mr. Vitti – Bill’s Dad. It was Bill’s dad scaring the heck out of people.
He would walk up to people, flash a badge – shine a light in their eyes, and take their drugs from them.
I saw him do it no less than 10 times – in a one hour period.
I saw the faces of nervous teenagers as they handed over their little plastic bag, to someone who represented himself as a police officer.
Mr. Vitti had no interest in music, his only interest was taking his son and I to a concert that he knew nothing about ---- all with the intention of stealing drugs.
He pretended he was a cop.
I watched as a 13 year old kid in utter amazement and disbelief.
When we got in the car, he emptied his pockets into the glove compartment, and it was a ton of bags that I watched him stuff in – pocket after pocket full of little baggies jammed into the glove compartment. All acquired that night.....
He was a thief. He was a drug Dad.
Bill knew I knew – and he was embarrassed for what I saw.
That night was the last time I ever spoke to, or saw Bill and his Dad. I never returned his calls after that, nor did I respond when he would call and ask my Mom if I could see a show with him. I stopped going to the day camp we both attended.
Our friendship, and communication ended…….
It ended, in the backseat of a Chevy Impala, as Mr. Vitti dropped me off --- I shut the door on Bill and his Dad – and knew I would never go to a concert with them again.
We are all surrounded by Mr. Vitti’s – people who want to steal from us.
But, they don’t want our stash, or our drugs.
They want energy.
They want attention.
They want to shine a light in your face and say, “Gimme what you got.”
I’ve experienced it. So have you.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a VC by a mutual friend – he asked me a ton of questions, (sensitive questions feigning interest in investing in my company) – then went out and less than a week later invested in a competitor.
Another time, I was introduced to a key executive at a major media company by a board member. I shared the in’s and out’s of my business --- and a month later he opened up his own company, copying and literally lifting my ideas – both old and new concepts about our roadmap.....
I’ve learned to deal with thieves. Energy thieves who need to rob from me, to feed their empty souls.
I’ve lived and learned --- and truth is, I would not change much of what, and how I trust and work with people…..
I’m just more aware.
Now, I look at (the thievery) as a badge of honor. I was watching a panel, where someone used the term “BCP.”
We coined that in this industry I'm in – now, I hear others using the terms, and literally using a phrase we coined --- in an effort we used to build a company, and explain our technology.
We got no attribution. I don’t expect it. But, it still stings.
And, I smile.
Years ago I cringed.
I was shocked as a kid watching Mr. Vitti steal drugs from people at a concert.
I’m old enough that I’m no longer shocked or saddened when the thief comes knocking at my door……
I simply can close my office door, smile and turn on music.
“Inspiration move me brightly.”
In some weird way, Mr. Vitti -- as he stole drugs, did more to teach me morals and ethics, than any teacher or classroom…..
And, I thank a thief, Mr. Vitti.
It’s plain old weird to thank a thief – but, after all, Mr. Vitti did buy me some really vintage concert t-shirts.
Or, did he steal them?
I'll never know.