Crossroads

Many of you may have assumed that my lack of posts lately was related to my decision to bring the blog to a close in a couple months. Not exactly.

In fact, the real reason I haven’t been posting is because I lost my job.

Here’s what happened. We’ve had a new managing director running the L.A. office for a while now and he’s been a real hard ass. I was up for a promotion and that means a review and I guess Justin didn’t think I was ready for the big leagues. He didn’t exactly fire me, he just sort of implied that I was never going to rise in the company and that I should “pursue other opportunities.” So I guess technically I quit but either way, I am now unemployed.

I shouldn’t complain because I know I’m doing much better financially than most people out there. And not to make me seem like an even bigger dick but I got a severance package that will cover my expenses for the rest of the year.

But the big question is, what the hell am I supposed to do now? Find another job in banking? I always complained that this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life but now that the job is gone, the idea of trying something else seems pretty scary. Michelle thinks I should try writing a book about the Project but I don’t want to be one of those cliches. Or maybe I really would love to write about it but I’m afraid I’ll suck at it and I’ll be one of those losers in the Starbucks that I make fun of.

It’s also just a really bad time to start a new career. The wedding is coming up in two months and we’ve got a ton of things to do. Well, actually, it’s really good timing to be unemployed so I can focus on the wedding, it’s just not a good time to find another job.

So that’s where I am, in case you were wondering. Once again at the crossroads.

Meet the New Boss

Bruce is gone. Fired, I think. And on the 3rd, a new Managing Director from the New York office took over my department. Meet Justin Chang.

Justin is what we call in the banking industry, a “dick.” I usually don’t buy into the whole east coast-west coast philosophy distinction but after two weeks of Justin at the helm I’m starting to.

First of all, Justin has no respect for people’s personal time. I got a call yesterday morning at 7:00 a.m. asking me to come into the office because the team was going to “run the numbers” one more time before our presentation on Tuesday. Without getting into too much boring detail, I already “ran” the numbers or else I wouldn’t have given him my report.

Secondly, Justin is just not a friendly guy. He thinks he’s being “all business,” but he’s really just rude. I liked Bruce. He was a normal person with a wife and kids that we all knew. Justin may have a family as well but he would never talk about them at work because it would be “inappropriate.” I have a fear that our relaxed dress code is going to get unrelaxed any day now.

Anyway, I guess this isn’t about talking to strangers, though I was a stranger to Justin last week and he didn’t do a very good job talking to me. I’m just starting to feel unfulfilled at work, especially after working on this blog for so long. I’m sure a million people feel the same way and I don’t want to be a cliché but there you have it. I’m one of those assholes making a lot of money complaining about his job being unfulfilling in the middle of a recession.

Seminar Fail

I don’t know what’s gotten into me but I totally failed at a seminar I had to go to yesterday.

I had to do this training seminar on new federal regulations and there were about fifty bankers from ibanks all over the city in a hotel yesterday morning listening to some guy bore us all to tears. And what’s amazing is that I didn’t talk to a single one of them.

I walked in, got my name tag, and surveyed the buffet breakfast. I’d already eaten and I was being good about not eating the same meal twice, though there was a large tray of bacon which I easily could have eaten all by myself. People were milling around waiting for things to start and making small talk. But for some reason, I just didn’t have the energy (or maybe it was lack of courage) to start any conversations. I knew one guy from my firm and I talk to him for a while, but I didn’t meet anyone new.

During the breaks, people went back to talking to the people they already met earlier so I felt like the window of opportunity was closed. I felt like I was the odd man out and that feeling of being the awkward guy who doesn’t know anyone really brought back some bad memories. And what’s worse, I felt paranoid that people were paying attention to my lack of buddies, so I pretended to check emails on my phone to look busy. So pathetic. I was so embarrassed. I haven’t felt like that since freshman orientation in college.

Anyway, I wish there were some twist to the story where I pulled things out, but I didn’t. I just kept to myself, failed to socialize in any way, then as soon as it was over, I got the hell out of there.

Work Tool Is Gone

In the shortest tenure in the history of my office, J.T. has been fired!

Yes, he’s only been with us for less that a week. No, it wasn’t because he kept talking about how awesome Texas was, even to the managing directors. And no, it wasn’t because he was too homesick for Texas. Nope, J.T. got fired because he’s an idiot.

Turns out, J.T. is really bad at his job. I don’t want to get into the details, but one of the key concepts in corporate debt offerings is what order the debt gets paid back in. That’s the priority or seniority of the debt. Long story short, J.T. subordinated certain senior debentures and fucked up a $200 million deal.

I really hate to laugh at other people’s misfortunes. I don’t want to be that guy. But man, this guy had it coming. He would complain about everything. How every place he ate at had to “ruin the food” by making it too healthy. But “that’s the left coast for you.” Plus, I swear this guy did not bathe. He smelled like cigarettes all the time. He was fat, had scaly skin that flaked off everywhere, and smelled. It’s almost like the rest of us willed him to fuck up the deal so he’s be fired.

Work Tool

We closed our Houston office earlier this year and those bankers got distributed to our other offices. For some reason, this took six months and today some tool named “J.T.” showed up in our office.

Obviously, given the nature of this Project, I’m very willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. But some people just do not want to get the lay of the land before opening their big mouths. J.T. dove in head-first.

“I guess I’m gonna have to teach y’all how we do things in the Lone Star State.” I was like, “Seriously?” He seemed like a cartoon character. Surely nobody is really like that. But J.T. was “born and bred” in Galveston and liked to go “huntin’ and drinkin'” in his spare time.

He relayed all of these colorful details in the break room and I went into my usual routine. “Wow, Texas sounds really great.”

He said it was “like a whole ‘nother country.”

I said, “You must have been so heartbroken when they shut down your office.”

He said he went where the job took him, “no regrets.”

I said, “Well, I’m sure you have some regrets. Like you must regret that the Houston office lost two billion dollars last year. I bet your clients regretted that.”

We all laughed at that and for the first time all day J.T. shut up.

Night Shift

I had to work late last night, long enough to see the cleaning crew. Maria is the cleaning lady I met once before, but it was almost a year ago and I forgot some of the details of her life. Still, I did remember that she had a son in the army and when I asked her about him, she really lit up, like it was the nicest thing in the world to have remembered that.

She said he was still in Afghanistan.

“You have another kid, right?”

“Two more boys, the twins.”

“And they’re still in high school?”

“No more. They graduated. They’re in the army now, too.”

Her twins graduated high school last month and now they’re in basic training. She said they’ll probably go to Afghanistan, too, and even though Maria will worry about them there, she said she’s glad all her boys will be together.

I was thinking it sounded just like Saving Private Ryan, but before I said that to her, I remembered that three out of the four brothers died in the movie, so I decided not to say anything.

Janet in Reception No More

Janet was promoted. She is now an analyst.

This is baffling for several reasons. First, I had no idea Janet knew anything about banking or was even interested in financial markets. Being an analyst is no picnic. Sure it pays a hell of a lot more than a receptionist, but you have to really like math and spreadsheets. I never in a million years thought Janet with her numerous tattoos was looking to get into investment banking.

Also–and I’m not sure how to say this without sounding like an elitist dick–but Janet is kind of dumb. I mean she’s nice and she gives good advice about relationships but she doesn’t seem to be able to read a financial statement. She routinely says, “It’s six of one, a baker’s dozen of the other.” Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’s hiding her brains as some sort of sociological experiment, but Janet does not exude “finance.”

And lastly, and this is where I actually talked to Janet about this, why would Janet want to go from 40 hours a week to 80-100? Analysts work long hours. When I was an analyst, 3/4 of my “class” washed out and went to law school because they thought those hours would be better.

So after I congratulated her, I asked her if she knew what she was getting into.

She said, “It’s an opportunity to start a new career. How can I say no to that?”

I said, “What about social work? I thought you wanted to go get your MSW.”

She laughed and said, “Yeah, and social workers make less than garbage men.”

I totally agree, I just didn’t realize she saw it that way.

Then she placed her hand on my forearm like she always does to people, smiled, and said, “So I guess you’re my boss now.”

I said, “So go get me a pizza then!”

She laughed. But the funny thing is that investment banking is such a boys’ network that when I first started I actually did get pizzas for the associates and VP’s. And when I got promoted, the first thing I did was order two analysts to drive to Santa Monica to get me a Godmother at Bay Cities.

Bad Parker

Last night I went down to the garage to get my car to leave work and I noticed the car next to me was parked like an idiot.

You know the type, some asshole who’s too busy to line it up, so he just leaves it diagonally across the space. I literally couldn’t open my door.

So I go to leave a note. Like, “Nice parking job, asshole.” That counts as talking to strangers, right? The only problem is, as soon as I put it on the windshield, the driver shows up! And it’s not some Jersey Shore asshole, it’s a cute girl.

“You’re leaving me a note because I parked like a moron, right?”

I quickly pulled the note off her windshield and tucked it in my pocket. “No. Well, yes. It’s just, I can’t get into my car.”

She apologized. Seems she was in a daze this morning because someone stole her phone and she was trying to remember all the data they have access to now. I asked her if she could do a remote wipe and she said she didn’t download that app.

Anyway, long story short, we’re going out Friday night. She felt bad about blocking me in (I exaggerated how long I’d been waiting) but only agreed to go out on the condition that I show her what I wrote in the note.

I showed it to her and she laughed. (The note said, “Fuck you, you fucking inconsiderate fuck. Get some fucking parking lessons.”)

“I didn’t think I’d run into the owner.”

“Obviously,” she replied. She said she was impressed by how many “fucks” I’d worked into the note. And that I had rage issues. And that she’d pick me up at 7:00.

Work Is Overrated

I had to ship some boxes from my parents’ house back to my apartment in L.A. and so I had to go to the post office back home last week.

An old man held the door open for me as I was carrying these boxes and when I let him back in front of me in the line, he said he wasn’t in a rush, I could stay in front of him.

We got to talking and he told me that he’s been retired for 15 years and he loves it. He spent his whole life working for an insurance company and chasing promotions and bonuses. But now he spends time with his children and grandchildren. I asked him if he missed having a career and he said he didn’t. “All that stuff about needing work to tell me who I am– that’s nonsense. Work is work. I’d rather spend my time with my family.”

I told him I lived in L.A. now and he said one of his fondest memories was in 1955 when he had to go to L.A. on business and the big boss needed someone to pick up a car in San Francisco and drive it down to L.A. He volunteered and took a brand new Thunderbird down the PCH the whole way. That was his only fond memory of work.