People have asked me where I got the idea to writing The Opener from. I’m afraid that’s a rather open-ended question since writers get their ideas from everywhere and everything. But if you really want to know I’ve actually thought about writing it for over ten years now and it stems from my experiences of meeting people while hanging out in bars and pubs after work.
Even though most of the people who work as expatriates are the types who crave new experiences, every once in awhile everyone gets homesick and would want to be in an environment that they are familiar with and be with people that they can identify with as well. It’s no secret therefore that one of the places where an American, an Aussie, a European, a Brit or an Irishman can be like his old self would be at a bar. In practically every part of the world these days there are a number of bars and pubs that cater to the expatriate foreigner.
And it’s at these bars is where you meet all sorts of people. Life in the Third World tends to be less hustle and bustle so that gives anyone who earns a decent wage plenty of time to kill. And what better place to waste your time than being in familiar surroundings and having the same drink that you’ve grown up with? There’s a reason why traditional English and Irish pubs are built the way they are: from the dark wooden paneling to the (rather expensive since they are imported) Guinness stouts and the full English breakfasts available anytime during the day (or night), these little things give a person a comfort level that can somehow temper the anxieties of living in an alien world.
There were two men in particular that I met over the years and they eventually opened up to me as to what it was that they were doing for a living. One guy I had bumped into over consecutive weekends just sitting at the bar and watching one of the soccer matches and we both ended up cheering for the same team. When I met him a third time, we started to talk casually about our names and basic information about each other but he didn’t really say anything about the line of work he was in until months later when we both got so drunk that it sort of just came spewing out of his alcohol-laced mouth.
I didn’t see him again for a few months after that. But one day, out of the blue, he just sat down beside me and started to talk about his experiences being in a boiler room. At that time I didn’t even know what the term meant. As the months rolled by he would entertain me with stories of how he was able to swindle a few saps here and there and I gradually got the whole picture on how the “company” that he was working for operated. After knowing and hanging around with him for a few years at that bar, I was able to earn a bit of his trust and that was the time that finally revealed to me the inner workings as well as the slang that people from their industry would be using at work. It was almost like a subculture; each of them belonged to a hidden network, in which offices would open and close depending on whether the firm was raided by the police or if the owner had decided to just board everything up due to lack of revenue or that he would sometimes just get too greedy and decided to keep all the profits for himself.