Teaser 324: Now Is the Absolute Wrong Time to Panic
As we walked to the minibus I asked, “Is your friend ready to leave immediately?”
Chodak smiled to me deviously. “He sits in his house at this very moment waiting, knowing what you will pay him for his service.”
I smiled warmly. “Of course. Everyone should be paid appropriately for their service.”
Chodak's friend, when we arrived, sat in his small house waiting, his bag packed at his feet. We three hugged, he hugged his wife and his small boy and we were driving out of Barang in five minutes. During this trip, which would last two days, the biggest challenge we faced was finding fuel. Fuel stations were reducing their hours of operation and in some cases we discovered a fuel station closed indefinitely. Prices fluctuated wildly and Chodak noted to me I may need to leave his friend with even more than what we had anticipated for fuel to return to Lhasa. I nodded my head and asked him when we would reach the end of cell phone use.
“A few miles into the wilderness to Dabaxiang,” Chodak advised, “once we leave the road.”
“Before we start our march to Dabaxiang, I'll need to call my family. I want to know how bad it is and maybe make some suggestions.” I gazed out through the window. “I also need to hear some familiar voices as I'm sure they need to hear mine.” When I looked back to Chodak he nodded grimly.
An overnight stop in a small village at a hostel, which is the best description I can provide, and we reached the end of our paved travel. Here was another small village, rugged and lacking most modern accessories. It was more like entering through some time portal into a collection of huts, brick and clay buildings and tents scattered from the mid-nineteenth century. Yes, there were modern conveniences, a fuel station, a small modern store, a restaurant, a police station, a military facility, and they all seemed out of place. There was a cell tower and phones in some dwellings. Most of the permanent residents had neither. What they did have were yaks and horses and all manner of animals, dogs and cats included, and provisions for traveling by foot, and most were friendly, accommodating and hospitable, ready and willing to share what little they had with us while we prepared for our overland excursion.
I had charged my phone and ignored the large number of messages. I don't have the time for you now. I'm sorry. I called Lena and she answered, addressing me by name. “Where's Serena?”
“She's in Los Angeles,” Lena replied, relieved she could hear my voice. “Esperanza, too.” She paused for a moment. “The world is going to hell, Al.”
“I know. Have you talked with Tanya lately.”
“Yesterday. She's frantic about you, Al. China seems to be falling apart. They've clamped down on news reports, but what we've all heard is there has been some strife, disturbances and fracturing between many factions in the eastern cities, including Beijing. You need to get out of there, Al.”
“I know. We're leaving for Dabaxiang in the morning and we'll cross to India from there. We have the permission and papers. We're leaving. Where's Heinz?”
“Here. Jacob, too. I am so glad to hear your voice. I've been worried for more than a week. It's bad, very bad.”
“What about Omar and Darshana and Ranjit? What's going on with them?”
“We're all doing fine, but the whole province is starting to experience shortages, fuel, building materials, even food, Al. All the renovation's complete and we're full in both still, but some residents are worried for their jobs, mainly.”
“All right. Tell Omar and Ranjit the first chance you get from me my strongest suggestion is to alleviate the residents' worries. We are not throwing residents out. We'll find some way to keep everybody, anyone who loses their job with this mess. We are not throwing them out into the street.”
“All right. We've talked about it already, Al. Omar is very worried but I said it's probably what you would do. You wouldn't throw them out. Ranjit agrees with me.”
“Tell Omar and Darshana we will get through this. Do not panic!”
“I will, Al.” She paused. “Did you find it?”
“Yes. There was a reason for my compulsion to come here, my beloved, and we will talk about it soon. I need to speak with the others of my beloved family, though, and I have to do it now. Chodak and I have a rugged trip ahead of us starting early in the morning.”
“Please call them. We have all been dying of worry for you, my beloved.”
“My dearest Magdalena, I love you more than you could ever know.”
“Oh, I know how much you love me, Al-Barrak. There is no limit to my knowing that!” I laughed and we ended our call.
Chodak sat next to me so I turned to him. “It's bad all over, Chodak. Lena said they're already experiencing shortages in Punjab.”
“I've talked to my wife. It's bad at home, too, but she understands I must get you to India. She'll survive. She is a very resourceful woman. She will wait for my return.”
“Honestly, Chodak, you may be in Punjab for quite a while. If this doesn't turn around, or gets worse, we may have an extremely difficult time getting you back to Tibet.”
Chodak smiled warmly. “We will wait. You, Al-Barrak, have come to a land, fortunate for you, where patience is a virtue.” His smile grew bigger, especially noting my ever-widening grin. I had never uttered that phrase, which so many had heard me say, in Chodak's presence. It confirmed I made the wisest choice when I decided Chodak would be my guide in Tibet. I considered briefly, in an instant, every decision I made in Tibet, so far, had been the wisest of all choices. Do not panic. Now is the absolute wrong time to panic. We will get through this. I had one more brief thought, what I replied to Sheldon, the manager who escorted me out of the facility at Gates Learjet when I was “fired” for being away for two and a half hours with the other employee who had been laid off with me and this was our last night of work. “Through this, too, I shall pass.” And I did pass through it. Sheldon had told me, “Good luck.” Luck has nothing to do with it, Sheldon. Of course, Learjet no longer exists. Now it's merely a division of Bombardier, a French company, and but a shell of the corporation it once was. And luck had nothing to do with it.
It was very early in the morning in Los Angeles, but when I called Serena first, she answered her phone and screamed, “Thank God you're still alive! These trips of yours are killing me, Al-Barrak!”
“Listen to me, my beloved. I don't have much time. I have talked with Lena and I must still talk with Esperanza and Tanya. We are leaving on our last leg in the morning and we will cross overland to India soon. We will make it, believe me, Serena. We will make it. How are you holding up?”
“Well, Al, my biggest worry has finally been answered, but it's bad everywhere!”
“I know all about it. I believe the worst is yet to come. Take my suggestions now to heart and act on them as soon as you can. Are you ready?”
“If you have a lot in stocks, bonds, those types of investments, get rid of them. Put the proceeds somewhere safe, even to the point of scattering them across a huge number of banks. Do it! If you have real estate other than our house and yours in L.A., dump them. Do the same thing with those proceeds. I foresee people with paper and real estate investments are going to take a whopping beating after all of this washes out, Serena. Don't let it swamp you, too!”
“All right. I'll call my investment people soon.”
“Don't listen to them, Serena. They'll try to talk you out of it. Do it anyway!”
“Good! Do it immediately and know I love you, my beloved. Do not panic!”
“But what you're telling me to do, my beloved, is panic.”
“No, Serena. The last thing from which you won't be able to recover is to be wiped out before I even reach Jalandhar. Do what I've told you to do and don't delay.”
Serena followed my advice and dumped it all, spreading it over tens of separate banks or credit institutions. Her accountants determined, during her annual tax returns and at her instigation, if she had waited one more day she would have lost over ten million dollars in net worth. If she waited a week she would have had just her houses and the little liquidity she had saved. To this day I have never reminded her, but the sparkle which still resides behind those darling black pearls of hers provide that sparkle for a reason, the reason she knows and has never forgotten. Sofia smiles, too. Of her two parents one escaped fairly intact. The other didn't do so well.
My call to Esperanza was not answered. This was fine, because I made several calls, leaving messages until I was cut off, and calling back for the rest. I started by advising not to call me back. “You can't reach me, but I'll be in India soon. Dump your paper investments, whatever personal you have in stocks, bonds, etcetera. If you have a 401k or similar from the university switch it to the safe or cash option. Do it tomorrow. Do not wait! If you want to get out of this with something, Esperanza, you will take me at my word with full value and get it done without delay!” Fortunately, she was much better at checking her voice mail than I ever was and she saved herself the following day, too.
My last phone call was to Tanya on her cell phone though I anticipated she was at work, should her office actually be open. “I have been wringing my hands for weeks now, Al-Barrak. I have left you countless messages. Where have you been?!” Tanya literally screamed her last question.
“Calm down, Tanya, because you and I have to talk about some things in a thoughtful and intelligent manner since I am well aware of what's been happening over the last week or so, especially here in China and Tibet. To curb your anxiety we are about to begin the last leg of our journey to cross to India. We start tomorrow and we will make it!” I paused and I could hear her loud exhalation which I hoped came from immense relief. “We are going to discuss some things which may be undiplomatic for you to discuss with a private citizen over the phone but I don't care. Things are bad here. Lena told me they're already experiencing shortages in Punjab. What about the rest of the world?”
“Oh, Al, it seems like it's panic everywhere. The German exchange has dropped over thirty percent in the last two days. The Amex, your stock exchange, has dropped as much or more, and they're talking about closing for the rest of the week.”
“What about you and your investments and your family's?”
“I've already lost a large amount, but I've taken steps which have helped over the last couple days. Father has done so, too. We talk daily since this started. Mother is okay.”
“If you have any investments left, real estate, too, my strongest advice is dump it all. This is not going to get any better for a long time. This is my gut feeling, Tanya, my beloved, and I don't think I'm wrong. I think I'm going to be proven right when this is over, and that won't be for a long time.”
“Okay. I'll go over it all today.”
“Don't delay!” I paused for a moment. “I've spoken with all. Yours is my last call but I have been learning with each how bad it is. I called Lena earlier but I won't have the time to call her back. Have a paper and pen handy?” After a few moments Tanya was ready. “In the right top drawer of the dresser we share, and she'll know what you're talking about, there are papers which list all my investments, both personal and corporate. In the same drawer are other papers with my accounts, including user names and passwords. Please call her and ask her to liquidate them all to the safest option available. I can't remember what all the options are. If she can have any of them transferred to my Swiss bank account, tell her that's what I want.” I paused again because I had now covered myself since I knew Tanya would immediately follow through. I wanted to know what Tanya knew, in her official capacity, of what and who were behind all this. Trust me, you of limited knowledge and experience, there is always someone or some organization behind every financial collapse known to mankind throughout all history. Every one. “Do you have any idea who's behind this, Tanya?”
“There is some information I have learned, Al, very secret information that certain large, well-trained and rather clandestine organizations, all of them known to employ some ruthless means, are reaping significant benefits lately, and each one of them located in a particular Eurasian country. Do I need to name it?” I knew exactly which Eurasian country to which Tanya referred. “Large trades, liquidations and shorts, have stemmed from various arms of these organizations over the last two weeks, and various other organizations, world-wide, have been performing the same liquidation and short trades. What, honestly, Al, has all of us puzzled, those of us in positions like mine, is how such a relatively small number of these types of organizations can so thoroughly crumble entire stock exchanges? How are they able to do it?”
“It's going to take you and your colleagues a considerable amount of time, my beloved, to discover how pervasive it truly is, but what you will discover is how intermeshed these organizations are with the fine, upstanding, elite of the financial world. And when you do finally discover the truth you will never look in my face the same way, my beloved. This is all orchestrated, Tanya, all of it meticulously planned, and you will simply never believe it, except that I told you so.” I paused listening to her heavy breaths. “You will never look at me the same.”
When I concluded the phone calls I was wiped and laid down with my pervasive thoughts. What has, perhaps, in the intervening years strengthened my standing with friends and supporters is these very necessary phone calls triggered other necessary phone calls and allowed so many to avoid being swept away by the incessantly growing world-wide financial catastrophe, what inevitably became a true panic. As an example John received a call from Serena, initially to advise him she had talked to me and I was still alive, but her advice, from me, saved his company and John has always been gracious and grateful in having received this recommendation, which undeniably helped him keep his company liquid and viable. There are many others. We rode the waves, like a tsunami, which wiped out millions. It was grim, harrowing. It was not a time I looked forward to returning to civilization, but it wasn't a choice I made, and most humans throughout the world were sympathetic to me.
My pervasive thoughts, the night before we began our overland journey to Dabaxiang, concerned contemplation of the many financial behemoths who had orchestrated similar financial collapses, such as J.P. Morgan, who so aptly experienced his karmic comeuppance when he disappeared with the Titanic, or Rockefeller, almost any of them, and many others. It seemed to have grown such in proportion and deviousness so it now included clandestine, ruthless, purely criminal elements of society. My, how we have evolved! Our civilization had reached a point where the murdering, loansharking, “protection racket” types had become wed with the “gentile” and “high-minded” of society where they had so intricately wedged themselves. That's not evolution, that's devolution. We are devo! We are devo! I did like those guys from Ohio. I forgave them. You have to be from somewhere. So what if a couple produced weird musical renderings now found only on Rugrats reruns? So what! We are devo!
- Just Desserts, Segment Forty-One “Exit Tibet” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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