Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Saturday the circus came to town

I’ll do my best to tell you everything about the project. But the things I remember are perhaps not what you need. This is not the final story: let’s call it a test driving before the beginning of August. Digital Storytelling isn’t an exact science either. You’ll soon learn that this is an integration of fact and fiction.

E71_07.11.2009_Loviisa-037His perfect life would be gone if the project failed. A sense of defeat tried to take hold of his mind, but  he’d never been defeated, even when he lost. You can never win all the times. But when he lost, he didn’t accept it. Instead, he got mad and very stubborn; ready to fight.

I already knew, he would not accept defeat, he would strike back. He led us down the hallway to the same conference room, but he seemed different today, silent and solemn.

End of July,  August around the corner; starting the dog days of summer when hot air masses called Mexican Plumes settled in over Dallas like mushroom clouds, fending off cool air from the north and rain from the south.

People would have to live in an unmerciful mixture of over 100 degree temperature and 80 percent humidity, day after day. The winds would subside and the air stand still.

Investors had been pouring considerable amounts of money into sustainable cleantech businesses in the last years, but how long could they afford to spend on waste with no foreseeable return on investment?

In August, the pollution monitors would reach level purple, which meant just breathing the air could almost kill you.


The name of the game

I’m writing this at a time when the president of United States is black, and the price of oil is controlled by a bunch of Arab sheiks.

Dallas is a though town if your life is less than perfect. Failure is not an option in areas were rich and powerful people live. The gated communities host people afraid of those who don’t fit into the rich man’s social uniformity.

I did see familiar faces at the Club. Lovely looking birds who had married money. They’d been looking at old men with a big bank accounts and all the other goodies available at their homes.

The first rule of yard sales is, cash rules. Rich people wouldn’t last a day down in the project. This was a different name of the game. The opponents we would soon face were bigger, stronger, and meaner. They also had much more money available for the upcoming fight.

Young and ambitious people with a good education are still trying to make it big in Dallas. Some will, most of them won't succeed up to their dreams and expectations. Life is though out there.

Still, there were plenty of people ready to work with the network and accept small money as a reward. Some of them were willing to sell all their material possessions they’d acquired by hard work, all the things that evidenced their existence, ambitions, careers, and social networks. 

Today, during the economic downturn, the view was different. To get favors, you’ve to give favors. That’s how the game’s played. 


Cry at night

As soon as he stepped inside the lobby, a tidal wave of reporters and cameramen came rushing toward him, all shouting questions on top of each other. He was about to comment on this case prematurely but stopped himself in time.

Shit happens. In cases like this, it’s always all about winning. The truth or “ what’s right”is subordinated.

“The investigator from London promised to send us a detailed report, there is no reason to rush with a statement.”

“He is costing us a fortune. A four-star hotel, heavy daily expenses, and a fee you wouldn’t believe,”  our networking partner added.

His face was red and his neck veins were purple cords. He paused and gathered himself.

“No one’s gonna hurt this operation,”  he declared.

“Try not to upset yourself over it,” I said.

Hundreds or people were gathered at the front entrance to the building: local, network, and cable TV vans lined the street, their satellite dishes and camera crews ready to capture and transmit breaking news; several dozen police were keeping the peace. It was a media circus the local authorities had promised.

When we were spotted, the cameras and reporters came rushing forward. They stuck a microphones in their faces and shouted from a foot away.


Driving back home

When he opened the car door, his cell phone was ringing. Emergency in the neighborhood. He would be there in less than a minute. He didn’t disappoint them. They were standing on the sidewalk outside the storage again when his car came to a sudden halt.

After leaving the office building, he drove the car the dark and deserted downtown. It was late and the traffic was quiet. Sidewalks were vacant of pedestrians, and homeless people taking shelter in the shades.

In August, the situation in Houston was even worse. If the heat and humidity didn’t kill you there, mosquitoes the size of small birds would do it. Take it as a fact or take flight and find out.

It was happening to him. The game was over; a lot of people thought so. He’d lost. There was nothing more to do but to walk off the field. His career and businessman was over. But he wasn’t nervous. They’d humiliated him, but he wasn’t beaten to death, yet!

Today had been different. He was enjoying the ride back home. Time seemed to be crawling.

“You know why New Jersey got all the toxic waste dumps and California got all the lawyers?”

“New Jersey got the first choice"!”

His visit to the business district that morning had raised the same questions in his mind: Had he done the right thing? Had he made the right choice?

Problems were piling up in front of him. He had given up his perfect life and would most probably get nothing in return.


His dream job

His dream job had begun right out there, on that very green field, and now he found himself wondering, for the first time since the day so long ago, what he would do with the rest of his life.

“You need reliable contacts, street level informers, field investigators hidden out in strategic places of the city,” I said.

What he said on TV was just a comment from a lawyer. He talked big on TV, but he got nothing to back it up. There would be no-one else ready to send in reports to support his ideas. 

It was quiet. For the first time in his life, he felt defeated. He didn’t know if he could get up off the ground this time.

He ran along University Boulevard into the heart of the manicured campus, then turned south on Hilltop Lane, which became Ownby Drive and led him directly to the Gerald Ford Stadium, named after the billionaire Dallas banker, not the former president.

For sixteen years they had traveled the country, Europe, negotiating deals, making deals, and closing deals; they’d eaten together and gotten drunk together, and they’d been very good friends during all these years.

He was alone on the field. The best times of his life had played out in the field, but also the worst time. He had some time to think. Moments of immeasurable joy and unspeakable sadness. He could still close his eyes and see the crowd.

Suddenly, a stranger appeared in front of him. He didn’t pull out a gun; he pulled out and envelope. He tossed the envelope, opened it, inside was a check made payable to himself – for the sum of $ 100,000. He suddenly felt better about his standing: finally, he was important enough to be bribed. He examined the check.


Solving the problem

Refinancing with another bank was not an option for him. You know, today’s market isn’t very good for those looking at green fields.

Money can’t buy happiness some people think, but it’s crucial where you’re shopping.  How about technical problem solving? You can’t find happiness at garage sale. There’re no permanent solutions available at the flee-markets. The local grocery store can’t solve complex technical problems. We’ve to look for more specialized service providers. 

When he woke up on Sunday morning, his mind instantly filled with fear. The on-site trouble-shooting would begin in twenty four-hours: Was he good enough problem solver for this project?

“Get your clothes on, we’re going to the church!”

Behind the pain, he felt something else, an anger building up deep inside him, not the anger of a businessman at a client who doesn’t pay his bill or a board of directors ruling against him, but the kind of anger he’d earlier felt only on a football field.

  • Guess who’s influencing the bank president now?
  • She was also a TV camera’s dream, beautiful, articulate, charming, and intelligent
  • Certain information has come to our attention that requires public appeal.
  • I know how things work in a technology company looking for over-seas markets.

Yes, this is a test-run!

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