By Jeroen Baldwin
I came to know Tony van Sprang as a dad. Not my dad, but Lorenzo’s dad. And Lorenzo was a classmate of my son, Estiven. The boys got along really fine and every once in a while they came together after school, in order to indulge in PlayStation. Of course, boys will be boys.
At that time, I was working as a sports reporter for the most important newspaper of Curaçao. Besides sports, I was often asked to write columns and critical (read: sarcastic) little items. Because I believe a journalist is active 24/7 I was always talking to people as a journalist. Curious, asking questions, listening to the answers and meanwhile in my mind already concepting the next question.
I first met Tony at his own house, when I was picking up Estiven, after he had been playing at Lorenzo’s for the entire afternoon. After that, I saw Tony almost every morning, when he was dropping off Lorenzo at school, as I was doing with Estiven. We both always walked the boys inside the schoolyard and thus spoke each other often, mostly rather short on the way in or out, like ‘hey wazzup?’ and ‘how are you doing?’
But one day – it must have bene in 2015 – Tony said ‘wait for me just a sec, Jeroen, I have to ask you something.’ Tony asked me if my newspaper would be interested in an article on an invention he was working on. “It is really good, positive news for Curaçao”, he said. “And it’s a unique invention, I would like to give your paper the scoop”. Well, that was kind of nice of Tony! So I answered that I would talk about it with the colleague that wrote about these kind of subjects. It clearly was not suitable for the sports section…
‘Yeah, well… Oceanwater cooling, it’s being done. It is not new”, she said.
“It is new!”, I insisted. “Just make a call to ask him about it.
‘It isn’t news”, she said.
I took a deep breath. “I am sure it is. He has been working on it for ages and he wants us to have the scoop”, I tried once more.
‘Well, I’ll see”, she said and turned her back towards me.
In the days that followed I asked her several times whether she had called Tony and every time she gave me the ‘do-not-push-me-look’.
The stupid thing was that I had to face Tony and tell him about the stubborn attitude of my colleague.I felt embarrassed for my colleague and my newspaper, because obviously I told the chief editor about it and she did not take any action towards my colleague. “One phone-call?”, I almost begged. But I got the door in my face.
After having been in the Netherlands for 11 months I came back to Curaçao. Tony heard about it and gave me a call on the day I had arrived on the island. “What are you going to do?”, he asked. I told him that I did not know yet, as I really didn’t at the moment.
A few weeks later he called again and asked me once more what I was doing or going to do. “I am freelancing”, I answered. “Well”, he said. “Maybe you could help me out.” Tony then told me about him going to be awarded ‘Energy Engineer of the Year’ and that he would like me to be his PR-agent for a short while. I was honoured and said ‘yes’.
One of the first things I had to do was to write a press release on the fact that Tony was nominated for the award. When done, I sent it to media in Curaçao and abroad and most of the media picked it up and published about it. But not ‘my’ newspaper. Of course, the press release was forwarded to my former colleague and again she decided not to publish about it. After that, she also ignored the press release after the award show, with photographs and everything…
So…. This is what happens sometimes, while having to deal with people. Maybe that is why Tony mostly enjoyed working with materials, as he did with seawater. And seawater is probably as tough and stubborn as the journalist at mentioned above. But there is one difference. Seawater is a material. And of course, materials can play ‘hard to get’, but once you have got them where you want them to be, they cannot fight back anymore. Tony won his fight with seawater and now is going to conquer the world with his OWAC Systems.