Post 41: First Installment – On The Way to Romania
Cheryl whirled into our house, the pockets of her nurse’s smock overflowing with scraps of notes, a stethoscope, measuring tape, gestation wheel and child birth education flyers. She lugged her huge purse, plus another bag stuffed with everything else she might need in case she missed the second coming.
“Dr. G asked me a question about you.”
“What does he want?” I was intrigued.
“Well, this afternoon he asked me, ‘Does Beeal likes to travel?’” I told him, ‘“Beeal loves to travel.’ I think he wants you to go with him to Romania to visit his mother.”
That was the beginning of a ten-day trip in October of 1999 involving the purchase of two Skoda cars (similar to a Volkswagen Golf) in Prague, Czech Republic, with cash, and driving them to Bucharest, Romania—uninsured. (And, no, we were not drug dealers).
Cheryl was the obstetrics and gynecology nurse-coordinator for the county health clinic and worked with Dr. G (Georgescu) who came from Romania. Cheryl was an old school, hospital trained, registered nurse who deeply loved her patients, but booked little tolerance for staff who weren’t as efficient or dedicated as she was to patient care. Neither was she daunted by doctors. Especially those with high egos, whom, after a few encounters with her pointed suggestions or dealing with her tough Chicago Westside language, usually surrendered and fell in line with her systems. Physicians or BSN’s who couldn’t, or wouldn’t adjust to her realm, usually didn’t last long. This was herclinic, by God, and she knew how the hell it should run.
When he was hired, Dr. G and Cheryl quickly hit it off. He needed little coaching on who was in charge, and he loved how she efficiently helped him with the patients, including her joking and friendly nagging, which kept him on schedule and somewhat current with his paperwork. They were a good team and instrumental in the clinic’s rapid growth.
I met Dr. G in person on several occasions. I knew he was friendly, generous, and left Romania, as a physician to come to the U.S., and his mother still lived in Romania. One time, Cheryl and I went to dinner with him and his wife, also a physician. He told me how, in order to update his credentials, he was required to do a U.S. residency, but said nothing on why or how he came to the States. I knew, mostly through Cheryl, he was beloved by his patients and the staff.
Though not knowing a lot about him personally, I still had a good feeling about him and was intrigued at the prospect of a trip to Romania! I called him and we set a date to meet at the clinic.
Dr. G came bouncing down the hallway, his ample girth similar in size to many of his clients who sat uncomfortably in cheap, plastic clinic chairs, as runny-nosed toddlers dashed about, babies cried and teen girls sat anxiously with their concerned mothers. Accents of blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians blended into the usual cacophony of the clinic.
“Beeal, so good to see you. I need you help,”he shouted above the din, as pregnant women watched with familiar looks of resignation, that said, ‘Oh no, he’ll be late again.’
We ducked into an empty exam room where he hurriedly outlined his plans and what he wanted me to do. I felt excited and a little overwhelmed. On prior trips to Europe, I needed only to purchase my airline tickets and make my own train arrangements from the airport I arrived in to Innsbruck, Austria. I worked in Illinois for an international child welfare agency headquartered in Austria, which provided corporate guest quarters. Their staff usually made the other arrangements for my training visits. After listening to his plans, I knew this experience would be much more involved and quite different.
His overall plan was to fly to Prague, Czech Republic, purchase two Skoda’s, insure them, drive them to Bucharest, Romania, where he would give one to his brother-in-law and sell the other. Dr. G, as I soon learned, always figured out all of the angles of any situation. After some research, he learned he could ‘export’ two cars out of the Czech Republic and then ‘import’ them into Romania without paying export or import taxes. He calculated he could sell the extra car for the normal retail price in Romania and the difference between what he paid and sold it for—which, without the taxes, was fairly significant—would more than cover both of our airline and travel expenses.
Like the old TV show Mission Impossible, “The assignment, if I chose to accept it,” was to make all of the arrangements, except for the import/export paperwork which he would handle. Our conversation lasted several minutes. I quickly realized he was too busy to hold my hand through this process. Plus, he made purchasing two cars in a country where neither of us spoke the language sound like a simple, everyday process. I excitedly accepted the assignment.
Don’t Miss Next Week’s Installment: Cash In The Pocket!