Sleeping Under The Cell Tower
As soon as we reached a settlement I booked a flight to see my co-workers and friends in Belgrade.I wanted to explain to them what had happened and I sorely needed a sympathetic ear. My dear friends in Serbia welcomed me with open arms. Over the previous six years I had come to know my co-workers’ families, many of whom treated me as if I were one of their own relatives. I loved the hospitality, friendly smiles, and cultural diversity of the Balkans. Ethnic groups in the region have been at odds over differences for decades, but to be honest, I can’t distinguish between the people of the Balkans based on looks alone. In the US I have a dear friend who is Croatian, and from Bosnia to Croatia to Serbia I have always been warmly welcomed. This time was no different, at least until things started going pear-shaped on me.
My first week in Belgrade was quiet. I was focused on catching up with old friends and trying to relax in the face of CSC’s overt hostility. I spent those early days getting back into my Belgrade Groove, reacquainting myself with the city and the life I’d left behind there; then it was time to get down to some business.
Later in the week I spoke with my attorneys. CSC had made two requests: In addition to sharing ourname with CSC, I would also be obliged to destroy all records of revenue numbers shared by CSC during mediation. But the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that we could no longer maintain our political activism against CSC. We would need to take down the CSCFraud andCSCSucks websites and stop using the associated Twitter handles. Even though we never agreed to give up our freedom of expression in the final mediation agreement, we were now being told we could not speak negatively about CSC. Our activity highlighting CSC’s ruthless cruelty had nothing to do with the BizCloud trademark dispute; I’d never agreed to settle Ethics In Tech or my own personal beliefs against CSC while settling the trademark dispute. I barely slept that night. I was so shocked and disappointed by how my case for BizCloud had turned out. It boiled my blood to have to share the BizCloud name with the inhumane corporate criminals of CSC. The worst part, besides having to share our name, was not being able to shine any more light on the company’s global crimes and misdeeds.
It was all just too much to handle. You can say that I lost it that night; I spent the entire following day going to different embassies wondering how intellectual property and constitutionally protected free speech rights could be so easily taken away. It was clear to me that it was a bullshit kangaroo court system that serves only the interests of large corporations and the super-rich, not small business owners and everyday people who suffer so much as a result. What followed was a mental breakdown, right there in Belgrade. No embassy wanted to see me over such an impertinent issue that none of them had anything to do with; I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. Of course it now sounds crazy that I would go from embassy to embassy seeking redress, counsel, or even sympathy from people that had as much to do with my problem as a polar bear’s got to do with Tahiti, but this is what I did under the tremendous emotional stress and pressure I was feeling at the time. I’ve Forgotten how many embassies I went to that day, but I’ll always remember that it was outside the Turkish embassy that Serbian police arrived to see what was up with this embassy-hopping Iranian Americans Going on about intellectual property theft and free speech.
The Serbian police officers were polite and professional, but there was no way they were just going to let me walk away. Not that day. It was clear that I needed help, so they called for an ambulance,in which I was driven to a Serbian mental hospital for evaluation. That’s where I experienced my first manic episode. The hospital was dark and foreboding as they strapped me to down to a bed just like doctors do in the movies. My restraints were so tight that I had no room to even wiggle. The Loss of freedom and anxiety over which unknowns came next was terrifying. All of this and so muchmore raced through my head. Imagine being strapped down in a foreign mental hospital without any allies or even means of effective communication. Nurses then attempted to administer a sedative to put me to sleep but I resisted and broke the syringe with my thumb; I was full of terror. After all, I Had covered and read all about the atrocities in the region committed by the CIA, chiefly its extraordinary rendition program. I also knew very well that the CIA paid CSC to transport rendered terror suspects. In my manic state I had no idea if I was really being detained in a Serbian mental hospital or if I was about to be kidnapped, hooded, and sodomized before being whisked off to some black site. I was very thirsty and yelling to the nurse. It was dark. I suffered a massive panic attack exacerbated by mania. That was one of the longest nights of my life.
The next morning I found myself in a well-run psychiatric ward filled with patients in one large room. I’d torn my clothing during the previous night’s struggle when nurses had strapped me to mybed and sedated me. A nurse offered me clothes but I refused them and instead walked around wrapped in hospital bed sheets. Over and over I kept thinking about how I was crushingly disappointed that a small business like ours could ultimately have absolutely no brand or intellectual property protection — things the big players took for granted. I was even more disappointed that we had to settle with a notorious company like CSC.
Now, if you ever find yourself in a Serbian mental hospital, I offer you two pieces of advice. First, don’t smile. People in the Balkans just don’t smile that often in these kinds of situations. I doubt if anyone really does, but this is especially true in Serbia. If you smile too much in the mental hospital they might think you are really crazy. Second, be sure to ask your friends and family to bring you cigarettes. Everyone, and I mean everyone, smokes in the hospital, from the director and doctors to the orderlies and cook. Cigarettes are a great way to make friends with other patients and staff, andsmoking just makes the time go by faster. I was lucky enough that during my first few days my eldest brother flew from the States to visit me. He was my source for cigarettes even though he’s never smoked, and he gives me lectures to this day about the dangers and ill effects of smoking.
My days were spent talking NBA basketball with the other patients in the ward. Serbs love basketball. You may recall that Yugoslavia, of which Serbia was the core component, actually bested the United States to win three world basketball championships in the 1990s and early 2000s. Even during the darkest days of US-Serbian relations, Serbs still watched NBA games,cheering Peja Stojaković, Vladimir Radmanović, Marko Jarić, and other homegrown stars alongwith their favorite American players. They’re crazy for basketball in Belgrade, and the sport proveda superb icebreaker as well as a great way to pass the time and tedium of institutionalization.I also hung out quite a bit with an elderly woman who was always trying to steal my cigarettes. She Must have been 65, and looked like a sweet old lady that could be my grandma. She would feign interest in me and my predicament all in hopes of snagging my cigarettes when I let my guard down, but I tolerated it because she was nice, and I was bored.
Everyone I met in the hospital was nice, and that includes the staff, who never mistreated me. After The paranoia of the first night had subsided I ultimately gave in to the nightly injections. After one week, I was released and billed €1,200 (around $1,600 at the time) for a full week of treatment,accommodation, and meals. Later I learned that this was a fantastic bargain when compared to rates in the US.
During my last night in Serbia I had a chance to see a couple of my dear colleagues. I gave them BizCloud video production equipment and promoted our main editor Marijana to company president. I just didn’t want to be associated in any way whatsoever with CSC’s torturous business practices.