The Black Kindle
Preface: Notice took place Christmas 2009. Before Kindles were offered in black, and before their price reduction.
This year a friend and I hosted Christmas dinner together and with close to 14 people in my apartment the knock on the door went almost unnoticed. Opening the door I was greeted by a man in a DHL delivery uniform holding a medium sized package. You'd think DHL showing up on your doorstep on Christmas Day a bit odd until you remembered this is Thailand and to the Thai's this Christmas was just another Friday. I signed for the package and wanting to get back to my guest I stuck it under the shelf where I place my keys and wallet upon walking inside the apartment.
The Christmas dinner was an unqualified success but I had appointments all the following week and then it was New Years. The holidays are often busy, but it's not often I forget about a package. The wife reminded me when she asked if the package should be put in the storage room. Taking it from her I sat it on my computer work table. DHL waybills are often faded and hard to read and this one was no exception. The only way I could learn who it was from was to open the box and look inside.
Slipping the blade of my pocketknife under the tape along both sides I opened the box. Inside was a block of black high density foam which I removed and placed next to the box. Tipping the box I could see there were no invoices or other paperwork. At first glance the foam seemed like a solid block but I'd already detected a crack along the side. Splitting it open I was surprised to see a black Kindle electronic reader. No instruction book, no charger, nothing but the black Kindle. A Kindle is a high resolution very sharp and clear LCD E Ink screen designed for reading ebooks, newspapers, magazines, and PDF's. I've always been intrigued by this type of device but had never seen fit to paying the $400 price.
Turning it over in my hands this one seemed a bit odd. I Googled a Kindle review and zoomed in on some images. Three things jumped right out at me. First, my Kindle was black. All the Kindles I found on the internet were white. Second, there was no charging port, no battery door, and as far as I could tell there was no way to open the device or do anything with it other than to operate the front keyboard and the power switch on the upper rear panel. I moved the power switch to the on position and the only thing that happened was a very realistic glowing fly appeared in the lower right corner. Third, Kindle screens aren't backlit and they don't glow, but this one did. Why a fly? I pushed a few bottoms, tried the power switch a few more times, and nothing but the fly. Someone had sent me a defective Kindle. I left it sitting on my computer table and tossed the box on my way out to meet a friend for dinner.
The next morning I was checking my email when the Kindle once again caught my attention. This time it caught my attention because it was making a buzzing sound like a fly. The fly in the right corner of the screen was glowing. Curious I picked it up, but before I could turn it on the screen came to life. There on the screen was a list of my home network "WORKGROUP", my network password, every device on the network (4 computers, 2 NAS devices, 2 modems, 2 routers, an AIO, and a media reader), and beside each device were the passwords. At least they were the passwords on my devices, and I'm assuming the text next to my wife's computer was her password. How did it know the specifics of my network? I figured its WIFI feature must have been trying to auto connect to the nearest network and some glitch revealed the passwords. What else could it be?
Scrolling down through the devices I noticed my wife's computer was blinking. I stopped on her computer and hit the center navigation button and the screen blinked once and there was her email account! How could this be? Actually I was more curious about her account than how I was able to read her account. The cursor started moving by itself and then stopped on an email she'd received the night before and the screen blinked and there was the text. I was surprised to see that someone named Randy was meeting her for lunch at Central World. Who was Randy? As soon as I read the email the Kindle went blank, the fly in the corner glowed for a few seconds, and then it shut off. No amount of playing with the power switch would turn it back on.
I tossed it in my knapsack and headed out to meet a friend for lunch. I thought I might have some time to look it over more carefully while waiting for my habitually late buddy to make an appearance. An hour later I was sitting upstairs at the Big Mango sipping a cola and checking out the Kindle. Besides for it being black and having no apparent charging port, it was identical to the ones I saw on the internet. Suddenly the fly glowed brightly for a few seconds and the screen came on. I couldn't believe it. A list of the Big Mango's network, complete with passwords, was right there on the screen. No way! I was the only person upstairs so I went over to one of the PC's they provide for customer use and took a seat.
The Kindle showed me a URL. 18.104.22.168 Glancing around I typed it into a browser and there I was in the setup screen of the Big Mango's network. I heard the Kindle buzzing like a fly again and looking I saw another URL. I typed it in and immediately I was in the directory structure of what I think was the Big Mango's office computer. A folder name caught my attention "quickenw." I moved into that folder and saw the Quickbook application and typing the name Quickbooks came up on the screen and I had full access to their complete financials! I couldn't stop myself from looking around to make sure I was still alone. Another buzz and the Kindle was now showing me the URL for Siam Commercial Bank with a user name and pin number. Hurriedly I typed in the URL and passwords and was connected. I was in their on-line banking! Wow, this might be a slow economy but they had a serious balance. I clicked the tab for the transfers section. It took me a few minutes to convince myself that making a transfer into my own account would be a mistake, and I quickly signed off, cleared the browsing history, and sat there staring at the Kindle. Nothing was on the screen. It was dead.
I heard my friend coming up the stairs and I quickly stuffed the Kindle back in my knapsack. I still wasn't sure what was going on but whatever it was I decided not to tell anyone for now. I sat there making small talk and eating lunch trying to ignore the sound of a fly buzzing from inside my knapsack. Oddly no one else seemed to notice. When my friend left to go back to work I checked the Kindle and found his mobile phone contact list and text messages on the screen! Four of the contacts were blinking and taking a closer look I was almost certain he'd entered his credit card number and security codes as contacts and made them look like phone numbers. They were 16 digit phone numbers.. all the others were 10. The fly buzzed again and I was reading his text messages. A text to another friend revealed "don't want to meet him for lunch, talks too much. Sigh.." That stung a bit.
What kind of glitch would allow a Kindle to display this sort of information? Once home I set it by my computer workstation and every day for the next two weeks, after my wife left for work, it would buzz and show me the text from her email exchanges with Randy. l didn't want to read them so I didn't, and after a while the Kindle no longer buzzed. It just sat there like a paperweight.
Some friends were meeting in Soi Cowboy that night and I was thinking I'd show them the Black Kindle and get their thoughts, so I once again stuffed it in my knapsack and headed out. The taxi driver wouldn't stop talking on the phone. He drove with one hand and steered with the other. In the back of the taxi I heard a fly buzzing and checking the Black Kindle was surprised to see an entire conversation, translated in English, of the taxi drivers phone call:
Taxi driver: No, the stupid farang doesn't speak Thai. I insulted him directly three times in Thai and he didn't flinch.
Somchai: Listen carefully, he's a tall white Russian, not too fat, bald, and will be leaving the Landmark Hotel about 7pm. He'll be with Pikaporn and you can't miss her. Long legs, cheap trashy bar girl look. You must do it where everyone can see. Understand?
Taxi driver: Gun okay?
Somchai: It only matters that it's public and messy. And permanent.
Click.. and the conversation ended there. The taxi driver turned to me and smiled asking if the Petchaburi side of Soi Cowboy was okay? Numbly I nodded it was and minutes later was left standing on the curb. The Black Kindle has went dark and looking at my watch I noticed it was 615pm. Texting my friends I'd be late I jumped in another taxi and had him drop me off at Nana. Almost immediately the fly buzzed and the Black Kindle's screen was filled with the translated conversations of bar girls and the texts to their 'boyfriends', I'm sure you're imagination can fill in the blanks.
Heading up to Sukhumvit I turned right and 100 meters later took up a station outside a pharmacy where a vender has set up a few chairs and was selling questionable alcohol. I ordered one of whatever she was selling and sat there noticing the Black Kindle was silent. I was starting to see the link, whatever my mind was focused on would sort of aim the Kindle's unique capabilities in that direction. Looking over at an attractive lady walking by and perhaps having impure thoughts, the Black Kindle's fly buzzed and there was the complete rundown on her. Driver's license information and picture, phone number, contact list, and all the saved texts from her phone. Great reading! It appeared she has at least three boyfriends. Staring at a Thai man in a silver Nissan the fly buzzed and there was his information. This was a lot of fun! Glancing over at a nearby ATM I couldn't resist wondering if I could read its thoughts.
The fly buzzed and there was an information screen on the ATM showing how much cash was left and in which denominations, how much cash dispensed since the last servicing, and a list of every ATM user complete with their card number, passwords, and bank balance. At the bottom was a flashing line of text "walk up to me." Rising I took the few steps over to the ATM and noticed the screen was already in the withdrawal mode. As a test I entered baht 100,000 expecting to be told to enter my card or pin. Soon the gentle whir of the machine sounded and 1000 baht notes started feeding into the tray. I stood close trying to block the view of the growing pile of 1000 baht notes and when it stopped I hurriedly shoved them into my font pocket which created an uncomfortable bulge. It was a miracle no one saw me.
I spent the next 20 minutes trying hard to NOT think about anyone, any ATM, or anything tied to an electronic device at all. But I couldn't leave the viewpoint of the Landmark Hotel. Something wouldn't let me. Call it morbid curiosity, but I had to know. Checking my watch I noticed it was almost 7pm. Watching the entrance to the Landmark intently I noticed I was actually holding my breath. With all the weird things which had been happening I think I really believed something bad was going to happen to a tall bald headed Russian man as he exited the hotel.
Several minutes later there he was! A tall bald headed man in the company of a leggy trashy looking bargirl. I stood up to call out a warning for I don't know what, when I was knocked to the ground and dazed. A motorsai hurled past me on the sidewalk with two riders and as it neared the tall bald headed man it slowed and the rear passenger pulled out an old revolver and emptied the gun into his chest. The noise was deafening. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! Regaining my feet I yelled for them to stop realizing as I did so how stupid I was being. At that instant the motorsai turned and I recognized the rear passenger at the same time he recognized me. It was the taxi driver. I turned and ran as fast as I could down Soi 3 weaving in and out of surprised tourists and behind me I could hear the motorsai doing the same. I was wondering if he'd had time to reload.
Right after the Bus Stop on the right I ran into the car park area and hid behind a gleaming black Lexus LS with dark tinted windows and tried to catch my breath. The motorsai turned in and started slowly cruising the parking area. The Black Kindles fly started buzzing loudly and I noticed the thing was actually vibrating. It wanted my attention. Silently unzipping my knapsack I could see the screen glowing and large text blinking "GET IN THE CAR NOW!!!" What car I was thinking, I'd taken a taxi. Hiding behind the Lexus LS I noticed it's license plate light was blinking. This car? Creeping over to the nearest door I reached up and tried it and was surprised it hear it unlock when my fingers touched the door handle. I slowly opened the door just enough to crawl in the back and then closed it behind me.
Crouching in the back seat the smell of new leather was strong. There was a small bar on the rear of the console and opening it I wasn't surprised to find it stocked. Ice too! A few ice cubes, some Samsang, a bit of coke.. and I was sitting there in the back seat watching the motorsai carefully go from one end of the parking lot to the other several times before giving up and driving off. Not wanting to be caught in someone else's car I raised the latch but the door wouldn't open. The engine started, the car started moving, and the fly buzzed. "Relax" it was blinking..
Ten minutes later the Lexus LS had delivered me to the Cowboy and I was pushing my way through the crowds looking for my friends. Pulling out my mobile to text them to see where they were I couldn't help but think how antiquated my new smartphone really was. Moments later I was heading to join up with them at the Old Dutch.
Inside the Old Dutch everyone was eating and sharing stories. I took a seat and ordered a coke. They were almost done with their food and it was still on my mind to share the Black Kindle with them, when my coke came and another thought came to mind. Placing my hand on the bulge of 1000 baht bills in my front pocket I asked the waitress to bring me all the checks and sat there slowly reconsidering telling anyone about the Black Kindle. Right at this moment the Black Kindle's fly buzzed and on its screen was flashing "smart choice.."
To be continued..
Very nice – looking forward to the next part!