O Harold where art thou?

The sound of coins hitting metal was the first thing I heard when I picked up the phone.

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“Is this Mark?” asked a raspy voice, squeezing through background chatter and slot machine bells that could be at a handful of places.

“Yes, yes it is,” I replied, trying to hear above the din. “What can I do for you, sir?”

The caller, who identified himself as “Harold,” said he had a story for me, but that he would have to remain anonymous to protect himself and his colleagues from potential terrorist retaliation.

It was the kind of call that brought me back to my days as a newspaper reporter, so even though my baloney filter was on high, that old familiar rush was hard to ignore.

Sensing my interest, Harold excused himself to thank a waitress, and then began to tell me that he's an expert in barrier isolation technology. As he dumped quarter after quarter into a slot machine, Harold said he spent “10 sleepless nights” modifying an isolator into a machine that could receive, inspect and electronically transmit mail without anyone ever having to touch it.

“Sounds great, Harry,” I said, “but what are you going to do with it?”

Laughing at my sarcasm, he explained that he was preparing to launch an Internet-based company called Mail Guard Systems Inc. and the site, www.mailguardsystemsinc.com, would be up soon.

“I know it sounds kind of far fetched, but right now it's anthrax but tomorrow it could be something worse, like small pox,” Harold said.

He had a point there, and it's not like the demand for other forms of contamination-control technology hasn't skyrocketed since the first death of anthrax in Florida in early October.

“But what about irradiation and steam sterilization or ultraviolet light,” I asked.

Harold had all the answers. Steam sterilization is time consuming. Ultraviolet would work, but there can be no shadows and mail needs to lie completely flat. Irradiation is promising, but it does nothing to combat deadly chemicals and viruses.

Then came the isolation-technology-can-do-it-all sales pitch.

“We created something that can transport mail and maintain the integrity of the document, while keeping the bad things in and taking the good things out,” Harold said.

On that note, he had to go catch a flight. We hung up, agreeing that he'd contact me again to discuss how the Mail Guard was working for his customers. There was still no sign of the Internet site at press time.

I don't know who or where Harold is, but I do wish he'd call back; not just to hear more about his business venture or for his charming eccentricity. Just before he hung up he said something that was as sincere as it was encouraging given the times we're living in.

“We have better toys and better technology,” Harold said. “We know more about fixing it than they know about creating it. We can withstand this.”

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor


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