Calling 9-1-1

I guess I’m a bit like Benjamin Disraeli when it comes to traveling: I have seen more than I remember and I remember more than I have seen. But my travels, generally deplete of drama, stand in stark contrast to the latest sojourn of one Alistair J.

Alistair is the second cousin of the third earl of some ceremonial county in northwest England that ends in shire. Alistair is a buyer who scours the globe in search of any emerging technology that could be useful and profitable.

A proper preamble to this story requires the infusion of context. The Small Office is more known for its subtleties than its subterfuge. We are more strategic than surreptitious. In other words, there is little clandestine about our business – at least in the way we conduct it. Some low grade industrial espionage, perhaps. Patent surfing and back-engineering of competitive products. Raiding of competitors’ employees. Under-the-radar acquisitions. Off-book deals. Nothing to write home about in the unlikely event someone there truly cared. So tales of intrigue and artifice are beguiling to say the least.

Alistair is tall as befits an earl, and has white hair as befits a gentleman in his 70s. He often travels with his 20-something niece who is collecting obscure recipes from third world countries for publication. The two just went to Bangladesh.

Muggings are common, kidnappings common enough.

Bangladesh is notoriously dangerous for travelers. Especially well-dressed 70 year-old travelers with 20 something consorts. Muggings are common, kidnappings common enough. Alistair has already been robbed at knifepoint, had his room ransacked, and has been the recipient of numerous unsettling threats to life and very specific, rather important limbs.

Miscreants of all types scour airports for marks. Cab drivers are among the usual suspects. One common ruse is to wait for an unsuspecting businessman to grab a cab and, once on board, the driver robs his victim of all valuables. All of this only slightly offsets the fact that Bangladesh is duty free.

Alistair told me his latest trip to Dhaka was uneventful – even with his niece in tow – because, as always, he took an ambulance to and from his 5-star hotel. Apparently, no one robs ambulances – a nod, I suppose, to the fact that ambulance service is not much of a cash and carry business. Atif, Alistair’s regular driver, is always on call for his patrician bandhu. Atif’s vehicle is a full-sized, fully tricked-out, air-conditioned van, a rarity in this capital city where you are more likely to see a very pedestrian Maruti Omni human hauler with little more than a cot and an oxygen tank doing the job. In the business of getting around safely, what you know and who you know are one and the same.

I imagine that, going forward, I will take my extended, if relatively uneventful, travels in greater stride.

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