For people working on drilling rigs and production platforms, the upstream is a truly dangerous business. The was demonstrated on the UKCS in 1988, when the conflagration of the Piper Alpha platform killed 167 men – the world’s worst offshore disaster.
Negotiators and lawyers do not run the same risks. Negotiations can be very demanding but are not themselves dangerous. The dangerous part is the car ride to the meeting.
My worst moment came in 2009, when I was asked to do a lecture at a conference in Istanbul hosted by the Iraqi Oil Ministry. I had a free morning and decided to visit the magnificent Ayia Sofia.
When I left Ayia Sofia there was a taxi standing outside, and the driver was involved in an angry dispute with the passengers he had just dropped off. This should have been enough to warn me off, but I was in a daze after the marvels I had seen and failed to exercise my usual caution. I climbed in and asked the driver to take me back to my hotel.
There was no seat belt in the back, and we set off through the narrow streets of Istanbul at insane speed. One of the streets was blocked by a large crowd of people, and the driver simply drove through them at walking speed. As the crowd parted, uninjured but angry and banging the roof of the taxi as we ploughed through them, a policeman appeared in front of us.
The policeman signaled us to stop, but the driver tried to drive through him also. The policeman pulled out his pistol. The driver kept going and the policeman cocked the gun and aimed through the windscreen at the driver. I dived over to the other side of the car so that the bullet would not hit me after it had gone through the driver. The driver swore, stopped, got out, and showed the policeman his ID. I am fairly sure that some money changed hands too.
When we arrived at the hotel I breathed a sigh of relief. I had ignored the warnings to take a different taxi, and this was a serious and potentially fatal mistake. A negotiator needs to be alert, and not just in the meetings.
See also: Frankfurt-am-Main