Last month, Joe Gebbia, one of our co-founders at Airbnb, gave a talk at TED2016. The lecture, “How Airbnb designs for trust”, focuses on the earliest days of the company and the question of why and how the hosts and guests of the platform would trust each other. As Joe makes a point of, the premise was initially hard to get behind:
He ran into the room panting and I could tell right off he wasn’t happy. I was lying on the bed with my laptop propped against my knees and there was a stain on my sweatshirt from eating ice cream earlier when I dislodged a mound of cookie dough and it slid from the spoon like a clumsy ice skater, landing near but not quite inside the pocket of my hoody. I used the spoon and my fingers to pick it back up and there was only one or two pieces of fuzz stuck to the outside so I ate it. He’d scowled, and even then I could tell he was in a foul mood, so it wasn’t entirely a surprise when he came in with a huff, eyes tucked up under his brows and his hands awkwardly held at his sides. He paced once, twice, again, and then looked right into my face and I could almost feel the prick of daggers coming out of his eyes.
On Friday I saw Spotlight, a film that recently won Best Picture at the Oscars. The film portrays an investigative journalism team at The Boston Globe that in 2002 published evidence of a major child abuse scandal amongst Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. The team sought to expose flaws in the “entire system” of Roman Catholicism. As if to underscore the extent of the problem, the film ends with a note that Cardinal Bernard Law — a man directly responsible for covering up sexual abuse by dozens of priests — though he initially resigned from his role in Boston, was later given a higher position of power in Rome. In the years since Spotlight’s report, the Church has responded saying that they took the findings as a chance for large-scale changes in the organization, and that they’ve now “reformed”.
At an intersection near my house where a convenient store’s neon illuminates the sidewalk out front, an old man sits nearby, methodically smoking a cigarette down to its filter. I see him at all hours: sometimes in the morning as I pedal by on my route to work, but just as often at dusk as I walk to get groceries, the fiery red, lit end of his butt winking open and closed like a tiny eye from a distance. He sits in a way that does not suggest comfort, with his back to a telephone poll, knees drawn up against his chest with limbs splayed out to the side, the arm that shuttles the cigarette pivoting against his leg like a drawbridge being raised and lowered again. You can all but hear the squeaks of his ancient machinery as he drags deep and sinks lower into his pose. His eyes are fixed at an arbitrary point on the cement ten feet away, seeing something far beyond San Francisco.
I picked up a conch shell
and held it to my ear,
turning as I did
to look back at her.