Random Acts: How I Got a Free iPad From the CEO of Flipboard

I live a pretty charmed life. Happy childhood, awesome mom, decent jobs, great town and now of course, amazing girlfriend.

But last week’s events pushed ‘charmed’ into the realm of fairy tale in it’s abundance of random goodness that flowed through the day.

Things started out pretty normal. Went to a doctor’s appointment, hauled my little bike to the shop for a tune up on the big bike.

On the way home, I had a sweet tooth and went by the food cart pod on Mississippi to see if the Sugar Cube booth was open. It wasn’t. Sad panda! But I saw Jimmy with his table full of roasted nuts. I’d bought Jimmy’s nuts (try reading that without an inappropriate mental image, k? Thanks) once before and not only were they delicious, but I Jimmy was a true character. He was old(er), bearded, and gray and crazy nice.

“How you doing?” He asked.

“Not as good as I’d be if Sugar Cube was open.”

“Oh you need something sweet? Try this.” He scooped several samples into my hand. “Blackberry walnut, raspberry pecan and cinnamon almond.”

They were all as delicious as I remembered.

“Mmmm… those are great. I don’t have any cash though. Maybe I could have Jess stop by on her way home from work.”

He shoved a bag of raspberry pecans at me. “Just take the bag and come back later. It’s just a bag of nuts right? People need to trust each other more, that’s why I do that. That’s how we do it in the country.”


I pedaled home where I tried and failed to save Jess some of the nuts. Oops. Well I had to go back anyway.

A couple of hours later, the doorbell rang, three quick loud hits on the button: DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG!

Clearly, it was someone invested in getting someone to the door quickly. But it was far too aggressive a ring for a solicitor. That meant UPS or Fedex. Usually, they left our packages on the porch. It was quite possible that it was yet another REI purchase for Jess. But the doorbell was so authoritative. They must need a signature. That meant something valuable perhaps? A glimmer of possibility was sparked in my brain, but I kept calm and slowly, without hitting my knees on any chairs or the table, got up, made my way to the door and opened it.

Outside was a nice woman in a Fedex uniform, holding a small box. My hopes went up again. Did he really…? I saw the return address on the packing slip. My brain hovered somewhere between disbelief and ecstatic joy.

I signed for the box, took it inside, and opened it. Inside was this:

Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?!?

If you don’t follow me on Twitter (or even if you do), you might be wondering, why on earth would some guy don’t know, and never met, send me a $900 gift? (Yup, it’s 3G and 64 gig AKA top-o-the-line).

Well, we may never know the real reason, but it might be as simple as, he’s a really nice guy who wants to get his story told. In any case, here’s what I know.

A couple of weeks ago, my twitter stream filled up with tweets about Flipboard, an app for the iPad. Not owning an iPad and not planning to own one for some time unless I won the lottery, I ignored them. This is the same strategy I used before I got an iPhone, until Jess came to me one day and said, “I think it’s time for us to get iPhones,” so then we went and looked at some and instantly fell for them and could talk of nothing else until we finally got some.

But folks seemed *really* excited about this app.  So I caved and went to the website to check it out.

Then I sent out the following two tweets:

blah blah flipboard tweet maybe someday iPad tweet

Twenty-five minutes later, I received this reply from @mmccue

Free iPad tweet

Reader, I thought the same thing you’d probably be thinking if you didn’t already know the end of this story. Is this guy serious? Even with my charmed life and generally glass-half-full outlook, it doesn’t take a total Eeyore to come up with a tragic ending to the girl who gave her address to some stranger on the Internet. But a free iPad would be pretty cool…

I checked out his Twitter stream and it was filled with messages to people about Flipboard and customer service replies. I checked out the website and there was an update from CEO Mike McCue. Either this guy was legit, or he was a serial killer with the most elaborate victim selection process ever. Using Occam’s razor, I decided that the worst that could happen was nothing. I followed Mike, who assured me that he was serious, and gave him my address. Then I did my best not to think about it.

So here it was, three days later, and a shiny new iPad was sitting on my coffee table.

First, I texted a picture to Jess at work, who wasted no time claiming half of our new toy.

Next I hooked it up to my Mac and stuck all my phone apps on it (most of which I’ve since deleted since they look like crap on the iPad). Then of course, I downloaded Flipboard and put it on the front page. There was a wait list to be able to hook up my Twitter and Facebook feeds, but from the content that was already there, I could see it was elegantly made. (I’ll have more to say about the app in a separate post).

I had somewhere to be in the afternoon, and still had to stop back by to pay Jimmy, and I now added to the list picking up a case for my new toy. The Internet seemed to agree that Marware had the best case for the iPad and I found one at the local Mac Store.

When I got back to Jimmy’s, I said, “Jimmy, you’re gonna love this.” I took out the iPad. “A guy I don’t know sent me this in the mail to today.”

Jimmy didn’t quite know what it was but his friend did. “It’s six hundred dollars is what it is.”

“Its a good day Jimmy. First nuts & now a computer. By the way I need another bag, I didn’t save any for Jess.”

“Well every young lady needs a good pair of nuts,” he said. I paid for both  bags (then, in my excitement, forgot to take the second one).

After I picked up my case from the Lloyd Center Mac Store, I was headed west on Multnomah to cross the bridge. A woman on a nice cruiser was behind me. There were cars backed up a few blocks from the steel bridge and a passenger opened his door into the bike lane just as we were coming down the hill.

“Nice,” said cruiser woman.

“I know, I replied.”

She asked if I was headed over the bridge. I said I was.

“Can you show me how to get over the top? I tried the other day and couldn’t figure out where to get on.” The bottom of the bridge had been closed for a few days for repair of one of the gate motors.

“Sure, just follow me,” I said.

So I slowed my normal pace and made sure she got on to the narrow sidewalk. We had to skirt a few pedestrians on the way and then I bombed down the other side, and waited while she descended more cautiously.

“Wow, this is confusing. So where does this lead?”

“Where are you trying to go?”

“I’m headed to PSU. But I usually just take the Broadway bridge (which was closed for light rail construction) and it puts me right on the road.”

“Broadway is right up here, just follow me and I’ll tell you where to turn.”

So I led her on and made sure she knew how to get back to the bridge when she was ready to go home.

My good mood went from 10 to 11. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I had helped out a fellow cyclist. What could be better?

Things were so good in fact, that the thought crossed my mind that this wasn’t going to last forever. It wasn’t so much pessimism, as a warning to myself not to become depressed when life inevitably returned to normal.

After my meeting, I ran a few more errands which included (surprise!) stopping at REI to pick up an order for Jess. I successfully remembered to backtrack to Everett st towards the Steele bridge. A red light turned green just as I approached and I blew by two cyclists who were stopped. I noted with a quick glance that one had a pretty hefty bob trailer and the other had some hefty panniers with what was probably camping gear strapped over the top.

A few blocks later, I stopped to let some folks go through a cross walk. One of the bikers passed through while the people were crossing, not realizing why I had stopped in the middle of the road. The other one stopped behind me and said, “Sorry, we’re not from around here.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from Philly, he’s from Jersey.”

“You ride from there?”


We chatted some more, I found out their names were Sam and Mike and they met on the road the day before. Mike asked if I knew where a hostel was.

“Yeah, let’s get up here to the bridge and I can give you directions.”

So we kept going on Everett. Just as we approached the waterfront, the needle scratched rudely across the record of my bluebirds-singing-soundtrack.

A man surged past us, revving his engine. His car door was close enough I could have touched it, if he hadn’t been moving so fast. He roared past us on the left and veered quickly back into the right lane…only to come to a stop at the red light half a block ahead.

I switched to the left lane and pulled up beside his open window.

“What’s so important that you need to kill us?” I asked. In hindsight, I came up with all sorts of better things to say, but that’s what came out.


I’m not sure if he was even making sentences at that point. Was he pissed because we stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk? Would he have run them over? (I didn’t doubt it). Clearly he was angry beyond any hope of reasoning. This wasn’t going to be a fairy tale, let’s realize we’re all just people moment. The light turned and he drove off in a screech of fury.

I turned to Mike and Sam. “Sorry, it’s usually not *that* bad.”

“Sounds like just another day in Philly,” Mike said.

“Well, I’ve met too many awesome people today, so I’m letting that one roll off.”

When we pulled into the waterfront, Sam’s friend Henry was waiting.

Mike, Sam & Henry in the midst of a cross country bike tour

Mike is photography and videographer, making a documentary of his travels, while Henry and Sam are riding and blogging to raise money for 4Walls4All, a project to provide sustainable shelters to poor people.

My phone battery was dying rapidly, but I managed to look up a couple of hostel options for Mike and also map and give directions to Sam and Henry to get to their friend’s house, which was (unfortunately for them) in the west hills. I suppose if they’ve been climbing mountain passes, then our little old hills probably didn’t give them any trouble.  They were extremely grateful and offered me trail mix, then cash.

“Nope, I’m just passing it along today fella’s.” I gave them a brief run-down of my day, with show and tell. We traded URLs (like the kids do these days) and I wished them safe travels and rode off into the sunset.


  1. You lead a charmed life! Glad things are going well for you. I like your pretty new blog too!


    1. Thanks! Hopefully it will be even prettier soon. And yes, my cup do runneth over. 🙂


  2. Well Koronda… I think that is all I have to say.


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