Friday, July 24, 2015

Times for Reflection

These last twelve months have been rough, to say the least. Immediately after returning from Dubai, I sunk in a frustrated slump similar to the 9-month vacuum following the PanAmerican accident. Fresh from the UAE, I stopped by the gorgeous town of Valencia and bought my next shipment for Oliden Group, my (tiny) export company. Little by little, the fleet is growing!

Rust free, low mileage, and mechanically impeccable... just some upholstery issues. Perfect acquisition!

As I am not keen on repeating past mistakes, I quickly started looking for a way out of my native Spain and its 50% unemployment rate. Soon enough, I took on an old job offer selling art on board cruise ships, and right after some easy visa procedures and a full medical check, I found myself all suited up, shaking the hand of Peter Max during one of the sales training seminars at the company's Miami office. Things were fantastic, until I climbed aboard.

With child prodigy Autumn DeForest, during sales training.

To all our readers who have never been to a cruise ship, think of it as a gigantic, floating hotel complex that hides a wonderful organizational marvel. Food is great, and staff ranges from all corners of the world: India, Philippines, Romania, South Africa... the list is endless. However, cruise ships have exceptional labor rules due to them operating in the High Seas, so 12-16 hour days are the norm. While I had no problem with the hours —the physical act of moving art is a work of chiseling fitness—, my boss' continuous racist remarks and treatment—some of them earning gasps from the audience— and one too many an all-nighter made me leave ship prematurely. My trust and patience with management were exhausted after the Dubai experience, and I just could not put up with another bad boss. Many months later, I would find out he had been sacked by the company.


In my hometown I found a cheap room and decided to spend my time trying to improve my situation. I already knew I could not work in the USA, so I took a job as a cook and spent the rest of my free time hustling hard as I figured a way to be amongst cars once again.

The hat was my idea. I can't survive without a touch of humor!

It smells as good as it looks! Baguette bread was about 80% of my diet for a few months.

During this time, I sent emails to every car museum, coach-builder and car-maker imaginable, in Germany, UK, USA, Italy, Japan, China, Singapore and even India. As I did this, I also thought it might be a good idea to apply for the DV lottery and think of business school, and so I chose the one and only school up to my standards: Harvard. I gathered my transcripts, put my colorful experiences in a resumé, wrote a moving essay, and got two shining recommendations. Besides business school, I also started to consider a move into the field of strategic consulting.


Weeks passed, and little by little, I started to accumulate a bunch of rejection letters:

It's a lottery, after all!

Ok, so this year I won't be able to obtain residence in the US. I can live with that. Then, I got the jury's decision from Harvard University:
Quite a lottery too, but this time it was becoming evident that I needed to work harder on myself.

Major blow, but realistically, the kind of people who get into Harvard are geniuses with 2 year's experience in a Fourtune 100, play some kind of team sport, and volunteer providing clean water networks in remote African villages. An unemployable, lone expeditioner with no big name credentials could not possibly generate any sympathy! And now, the final blow:

Nein, nein, nein!

Finally, Mercedes-Benz said "no". It was now obvious that certain life choices, like driving the PanAm, do not entitle you to a fresh start in a discipline you like. One has to keep learning and keep hustling; remaining passive, just asking for stuff, no matter how politely or how emotionally charged, will not get anyone far. I had to stay positive, get some credentials and deepen my knowledge of business; otherwise, I could remain a disillusioned cook forever! For that matter, I spent about six month's worth of savings in Harvard's online course, HBX CORe, a fantastic investment in instruction in Statistics, Economics, and Accounting.


In the depths of the deep re-formulation of my life, I got an email out of the blue from a man named Thomas. He wrote for the prestigious German magazine AutoBild, and wanted an interview. In a few email exchanges, we agreed for the interview to take place in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, with Daimler AG generously offering to pay all travel and lodging expenses. What irony!

Gullwing zen. Notice how much I have aged in the past year.
While the details of this interview shall remain confidential until August, I can say that the Mercedes-Benz Museum decided to move one of their finest crown jewels (the 300SLR Ulhenhaut Coupé) that same day, to race at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I had the honor of sitting inside, and in all likelihood Sir Stirling Moss would follow next.

And sure enough, when it rains, it pours. The day before the interview I got an inocuous text message from a friend I made during my time in the UAE, offering me a car-related job with a fleet of old Mercedes as company cars. As I confirm more details from AutoBild, Mercedes-Benz and my friend in the UAE, I shall be reporting on the shenanigans that will follow.

Seems like This European Life won't be European for long.