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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

How to Rob a Bank (Dead-End Invitations)

I met Leonard Goldblatt in São Paulo, in 1971, at the company that hired us to run the SAM project, Sistema Adutor Metropolitano: American, Jewish, Rotarian, Freemason, about ten years older than me. We stayed and are still very good friends. Excellent and interesting person, good storyteller. Anything and there he came with a parable. A modern LaFontaine. Around 1984/85, we were both living in Rio and each had a small office downtown, in the famous Avenida Central building (Av Rio Branco 156). My office was 2628, and his was 2520. We had another “neighbor” over there, Sato, a Nisei computer specialist. It was the beginning of the era of personal computers (PCs), which became smaller and smaller. Laptops, but smaller ones began to appear, called “portables” (today they would be a desktop). As I knew them both, I was the link and we helped each other. It is also important to understand that at that time, with the excuse of protecting the industry nationally, it was forbidden to import assembled computers, which resulted in us being far behind what was already available in the world. If my memory serves me correctly, there were only two suppliers here: Itautec and SISCO. Leonard had some engineering project contracts with the Navy and his office was frequented by some naval soldiers, who, in Leonard's company, ended up also stopping by my office and Sato's. At that time Leonard was also moving to the USA, with his wife and two children born here.

Long story short, Sato was hired by Petrobrás to guide a program for the acquisition of equipment and software customization, in this phase of such rapid changes, and needed, in order to keep up to date, “acquiring” a top-of-the-line PC to see how things went. were evolving, I still remember today: a real desktop, with a suitcase handle: a very advanced laptop at the time (less capable than my phone now). One or two weeks later, the federal police invaded Sato's office, who was notified by telephone, went there to be arrested for smuggling, thinking it was not possible. Someone had reported him. The police themselves embarrassed. He was stuck in Praça Mauá for about 10 days, where I even went to visit him and bring him some cigarettes. Absurd, it could have been me or you who read me. One PC, for professional use! It wasn't even trade. When the dust settled, Sato was devastated, Leonard had moved out and Sato and I were wondering how that had happened and our suspicions fell on one of the “sailors” who frequented Leonard's office and was very "dull". there was something to do.

A year later I went to the USA and Leonard and his wife took me to dinner in a beautiful place. On that occasion, right after the first appetizer, I asked Leonard if he thought that the naval officer friend of his could have made the denouncement. Leonard deflected. Halfway through dinner I repeated the question and again our friend rambled on. As I am persistent (some call it “boring”), between dessert, liquor and coffee I announced my willingness to stay there until he answered my question. After some time in absolute silence looking at me, he came out with this: _Miguel, if I decided to rob a bank, I would have to form a good gang for things not to go wrong because I would be arrested. The first step would be to choose the burglars well, which is not an easy thing. Take a good look: an invitation to join a gang for this purpose is flattering because it means that the person was chosen because they trust him and recognize his professional skills (electronics, mechanics, explosives, shooting, driving, etc.), his balance and serenity, his professionalism . They know or assume you won't show up drunk on the day of the robbery or with diarrhea. You are reliable.

But at the same time it leaves the person with no choice. How to refuse after knowing that they are going to rob the bank? The others will have to give up or eliminate the one that says no. A Sofia choice? No, said Leonard. It may seem like it, but it's not. In this situation there is no choice possible. — You're stringing me along and you still don't answer my question, I said. — So, assuming we needed 7 people for the heist: I would include the Sato, Fernando, Sérgio, Amauri, Leônidas and you. The Eighth would be me... And it didn't include the asshole sailor's FDP. I kept thinking then that there are decisive moments in life when there is nothing to do, just move forward trying to do the best you can.

I remembered to write this now, in Feb 2021, because I went to talk to my son and my namesake about an invitation they made me and the indecision I was in. My son already knew this story because I had already told it on some occasion that deserved it and he replied: — Dad, the guy invited you to rob a bank. If you say no, it's like buying an enemy. And it's not even illegal, it's risk-free and flattering, it can even be boring, but there's no option. Miguel Fernández, consulting engineer, chronicler and columnist, 4,945 touches

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