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Chapter Thirty One – Meanwhile, on Channel 10

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Tucker Price is wearing his powder blue suit with matching tie and perfect haircut. The camera zooms in to a tall, smartly-dressed black woman with an impressive ‘fro and a KBW microphone standing beside him before a building as clean and sharp as a new $100 bill.

“This is Deborah Washington for KBW and I’m here with Tucker Price, Amazon Factotum who is here to celebrate opening this new, incredible facility! Do you have any words for us, Tucker?” She cants the microphone towards him. With a smile and a natural confidence that could charm a constipated panther Tucker steps up to the plate.

“I speak for everyone here at Amazon World Information Services when I say we are very proud to be opening the North Portland Amazon Phoenix Project. It’s a new day for the citizens of this fine city who have a bright future ahead of them.”

“What can you tell us about the Phoenix Project, Tucker?”

He leans into the microphone. I’m sure you remember not so long ago the issues with Houselessness, homelessness and hopelessness here in Portland, up and down the West coast and so many other places.”

She moves the microphone back. “Who could forget the tent cities next to the highways, the roads lined with broken RV’s and the shanties on the sidewalks?”

Tucker is in the groove. “Let us never forget where we started from while looking towards the future. For those who are ready to move off the street, Amazon World Information Services offers a new world of housing, employment and health services.”

“How does this work, Tucker?”

Tucker gestures to a few figures in hard hats and reflective safety vests beckoning them forward. “Instead of asking me, how about we ask the people who are doing the real work.” He places his hand on the plaid-clad shoulder of a man with long salt ‘n’ pepper hair standing next to him. “Ron, why don’t you tell the viewers at home what we’re doing here.”

“You betcha, Mr. Price.” He turns to look at the hanger-like building standing proud behind them. He’s got his hands on his hips, arms cocked. “You see this? It’s a new beginning for so many of us. It’s the full meal deal. A place to live, a paycheck, friends ‘n family to be a part of. We’ve been trash people, thrown away. Not no more.”

The news anchor lady is curious. “I don’t understand Tucker, how does the money work?”

“You see Deborah, it’s all about inputs and outputs. Amazon lives by delivering new products to happy customers. To make those new products, companies need raw materials. In our modern world, the most responsible thing to do is recycle those out of old products whenever possible.”

“That’s what I do!” Ron juts in. “I smash old coffeemakers and phones apart, sort the bits and smash the next!”

Deborah has a questioning look on her face. “I’m still not clear on how this works.”

Tucker’s happy to explain. “Ever spend 16 hours in a dark, cold, soaking wet tent on the side of the highway for days on end? No wonder so many chose to get high to numb the pain. Amazon is disrupting the misery economy. We turn what used to be garbage into raw materials. It’s good for the environment, good for the economy and definitely good for people looking for a decent job and a place to live.”

“Remember, these fine folks are more than just patients and team-members. They are customers. Without customers, we’re all out of a job, right?” Tucker chuckles lightly.

“So you’re taking homeless people off the street and giving them a new life. Hasn’t this been tried before?”

Tucker takes the bait. “Sure, but not on this scale. The pre-AWIS economy was all out of wack. We are taking a systematic approach to tap the underutilized people potential of not just the US, but the entire world.”

The camera zooms back as the assembled crowd erupts in whoops and cheers. Deborah smiles and speaks again, “Now let’s take a look at traffic on I-5.”