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When in an Industrial Park in Rome

Ten minutes ago, I was standing in the snow slick parking lot of a bland one story office building off the frontage road of a frontage road.

The man standing with me looked exactly like Guido Sarducci if he swapped his hat for a suitable winter one and had more heavily tinted glasses.

I watched him tap a cigarette out of his pack of Marlboros, neither of us spoke as we pondered our shared problem.

My brain enjoys puzzles and has a bias for elegantly ridiculous solutions. I'd already spent the last fifteen minutes following this man around a warehouse, even getting in a car and following him deeper into the large industrial park that evidentally exists in my home city.

My brain suggested a solution. I pulled out my wallet, opened it in a way he could see the entire contents of its bill compartment, a single crisp twenty. I pulled the twenty out with two fingers and extended the bill towards him.

I'd never done this before, but in my mind a 33% bribe seemed overly sufficient, if maybe a little excessive, but being as this was my first time I was fine aiming high. Also a portion of me that enjoyed over tipping at restaurants found a pleasant symmetry to the offer. A tip was in many ways the potential of a bribe to secure services. In many ways this made a lot more logical sense than tipping after services were rendered.

"Look, this is all I have, why don't you just take it so we can both get back to work?" I said coolly and convincingly, trying to portray a white kid from the Midwest who bribed foreign blue collar workers all day long. I kind of wished I smoked so that I had a task to perform that helped me look non-nonchalant while he considered my offer.

He took it, and said "You'll call? You have number?", I said nothing, to which he responded by reciting a full phone number. I mimed the last seven digits while making no effort to jot them down.

He nodded, and I thanked him for his time. I waited for him to drive off first so he couldn't take down my license plate, and left.



I have a lot of spare electronics in my house that something needed to be done about. I spent a few grueling weeknights going through my bins of "project parts", making Sofie's choice over and over about which half-baked projects I simply was never going to get around to, and tossed half a circuit board imbued with the whisp of a dream into a paper bag.

The electronics recycling place I found was nearby, but only open 8-5. Luckily, we have quite a bit of electronic refuse we needed to get rid of at work when our office got hit by lightning a few years back, so I drove to work, loaded that stuff up along with mine and drove to find the place.

Finding the place was difficult. Nothing was marked with addresses and those that were marked with the number I was looking for were attached to an entirely different road than I wanted. Finally I wandered into a place with a big "We Recycle Electronics" sign. It was a cavernous warehouse, I had to walk the equivalent of 40 yards in to see a person, and another 30 yards to find a person who would acknowledge that I was opaque.

The man was in his mid-twenties and was happy enough to look at the stuff I'd brought. He then patiently explained to me that I was probably looking for the building over, as they only delt in raw circuit boards. He also warned me off a particular company there that had just been cited for "recycling" via barges to China. The name of the company sounded different than the one I had called, so I wasn't too worried.

I drive over to the loading area and there are no clearly marked signs. I pick a loading dock with a glass door and walk in. I am standing in a make shift, wall-less kitchen in a warehouse, stacks of printers, computer, etc all around me. I eventually find someone to talk to me, and he has a thick accent that someone else could have probably placed, but that I vaguely identify as "European". He confirms that I am at a place that accepts electronics, I pull in my car, and pile up 300 lbs worth of old Tivos, Xboxes, dead hard drives and other miscellanea onto a plastic pallet.

They declare that I owe them $60 dollars, which somewhat confuses me, since I thought the place I was meant to go charged 24 cents a pound, but I figured maybe he was just rounding for my benefit. I pull out a credit card and offer it to the man who addressed me.

To his credit, the man didn't seem to act annoyed despite the fact that my payment method of choice was about to cause 20 minutes of useless wandering around. Although maybe he was annoyed and I just couldn't tell from behind his thick mustache and tinted glasses.

"You need office", and he gestured me to follow him. The building was big large and evidentally shared by multiple companies, we eventually came to a room of neatly stacked computer peripherals and a gigantic bald slavic man whose appearance crystallized the entire experience into the new datum for me "Electronics Recycling is a shady industry"

They talked either accented english too fast for me to understand or a different language. To be honest I was more interested in the stacks of computer parts. My mustachio'd escort made several calls, none of which ended in him talking to anyone. After which he abruptly walked out of the room. It was entirely unclear if I should follow him, so I jogged after him and asked as much, to which he gestured for me to again follow him.

We got back to the initial warehouse my car was in, and my handler informed me that we were both going to drive in separate cards to a different office to see why they weren't picking up. I repeated this a couple times to his annoyance, just to make sure I understood, and then preceded to pull my car out of the warehouse and go follow his car.

We wound several frontage roads further into the industrial park, and stopped at the supposed office. He gestured for me to go in from his car, I walked in and found a one level shared office space, with three offices, one obviously for tax preparation, two dark unmarked offices and a surprisingly clean looking bathroom.

I talked to the friendly tax people confirming that they were not, in fact, in charge of accepting payment for tonnage of electronic recycling equipment four blocks away. My minder finally came in to examine the dark offices and talk to the tax people. It was during this exchange that the man used the name of the company that I had been warned about, I had evidentally just given all my electronics to a company that ships them to China for little kids to toss into bonfire to extract the gold and silver. Ugh, far, far too late to do much about it now.

Once it became evident there was nothing to be done we went back out into the snowy parking lot. The man called the cell of the man who *should* have been there and had what sounded like a one sided conversation indicative of tunnels or low reception.

He closed his cell phone and brought out a pack of cigarettes as we pondered our shared problem, the solution to which would eventually leave me wondering if I could expense a cash bribe to my company...

4 comments:

We used to bribe baggage handlers to sneak our debate tubes past the airline luggage limit.
In other news, I didn't see this post until several days after you wrote it. I was inspired by your previous "distraction affliction" post and went cold turkey. No fancy system, I just decided not to visit non-work related sites outside specifically designated time slots (including email).
A couple of times, I've found my browser open with no recollection of doing it. Like it was a reflex mouse action...this is particularly true when compiling.
Mike
by: Mike (contact) - 25 Feb '11 - 20:48
I noticed your absence!
I've personally been using the LeechBlock Extension.
by: Kyle (contact) - 27 Feb '11 - 10:59
Ha!
How do you like LeechBlock? I've never used it, but I read about it.
Mike
by: Mike (contact) - 27 Feb '11 - 17:29
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Title: When in an Industrial Park in Rome
Date posted: 23 Feb '11 - 11:29
Filed under: General
Word Count: 1,307 words
Good Karma: 99 (vote)
Bad Karma: 69 (vote)
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