Romanian Rhapsody

Romanian Rhapsody

At work, time to time, we go through a reshuffle. Guys are transferred around to keep things interesting and fresh. Such transfers are good, provided they’re not too frequent and the guy coming in knows what’s expected of him and is willing to learn.

Had a new inspector last year, on transfer from the PW1420 assembly line. Sharp and tall, gaunt as a rake, 40ish, a Romanian, called Bogdan Gabor. A very interesting guy. I found out how interesting, at the lunch table, over a number of days.

Back in the late 80s, in the still communist Romania, Bogdan was a spoilt brattish teenager, living in an elite gated neighborhood of elegant villas in Bucharest. His father was Deputy Director of the DSS, Departamentul Securitati Statului, or the Directorate General of State Police (DGSP), the secret police of communist Romania’s dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.

Every morning, an armored Dacia limo would arrive to escort his Dad to work. At the wheel would be a brutish, heavily muscled man in a black polo-neck sweater and a crew cut. As the engine idled, the man would sit there motionless and wait for his Dad to get in. He’d never get out to hold the door open.

Bogdan’s first encounter with him happened one morning when he came down the front steps of their grand villa, on the way to his classes. He remembers stopping by the chauffeur’s window and saying,”Cum eşti?” The chauffeur gave no indication he’d heard. He just went on staring at an imaginary point around 20ft ahead from the car.

“Ceea ce nu te suna?” (What do they call you?), Bogdan persisted. The chauffeur’s head slowly turned, to look at him. And Bogdan had to stop himself from recoiling from the sight. Baby blue eyes, marred by a jagged welt of a scar down each cheek. Cruel lips turned down in a sneer. Large ears, bushy, with hair sprouting from them. No neck.  He must have looked terrifying as a baby. If one could imagine him as a baby.

When the chauffeur spoke, his voice was barely audible. “Dager” he said and turned slowly back to stare ahead. His movements were all in slow motion, very deliberate. Almost as if he might let out a fart if he turned too fast. “Adio,” said Bogdan quickly and scooted out on his way. When he turned the corner at the gate and glanced back, the hulking shadow inside the car hadn’t moved. Once on the sidewalk, Bogdan realized he could now let out his breath.

In late 1989, as the endgame neared, Gabor senior decided to prepare to make a run for it. He spent 2 months stealing and transferring millions out into offshore bank accounts in the Caymans. Then, on the chosen day, he went to work as usual, called a meeting at 1pm and left at 12, telling his PA he had to drop by the Directorate of Penitentiaries for a few minutes. Dager was waiting at the wheel and drove off at an unhurried pace as soon as his boss was seated.

After a 20min drive, the limo came to rest close to an old pier where his wife was waiting, huddled with Bogdan and his young sister. A speedboat picked the family and Dager up and rode them to a waiting freighter headed for Canada.

In Canada, Bogdan’s frolicky spirit knew no bounds. With those typical Romanian good looks, Montreal’s Quebecois girls couldn’t have enough of him. His father, meanwhile, tried his hand at a variety of businesses with the money he’d spirited away. All failed and soon they were living in a 2-bedroom apartment on Sherbrooke Street.

Gabor senior however managed to keep a pizzeria he’d bought the previous spring and that’s where he settled. Till one early monday morning, when he collapsed and died instantly, while crossing the Berri-Maissoneuve junction to open the business. Years of profligate excess, while in Romania had finally caught up with him. Bogdan took over the pizzeria and ran it with his sister, while he took evening classes at McGill, passing out with honors in Aerospace engineering.

Bogdan is a model of enthusiasm, eager to do more than the others, to be the most productive, finishing your sentences for you, scurrying ahead of you to fetch things. Always ready with a ton of new ideas. An unbelievable pain in the ass eager beaver, a great guy to sit have lunch with.

And yes, Dager. Dager trimmed the hair sprouting from his ears, learnt that it was ok to smile. He lived with them, ran all chores and helped out at the pizzeria staying single all through..and loyal, to his mom. (Bogdan thought Dager had a yen for her). Whether he did or not, he took that secret with him when he passed away in his sleep last winter. No one knew his family. It was hard to imagine Dager had one.

Now, about the sketch. The DGSP logo, the family of four in the cross-hairs, the pizzeria and the speedboat, they fit in. But the man with the automatic, I put him in just for kicks. Seemed like a cool thing ta do. What’s your problem?

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