I hope this email finds you well. This is how
Ski (pronounced "sky") ends all her inter-office
emails. I can only surmise that this is how Ski ends all her
personal emails as well. All Ski's funny little jokes, humorous
observations, funny attachments, and links most will be unable
to access. This is what I picture. Ski. If I didn't know her
as the Vice President of Sales for Jameson Investments, I
would assume Ski was in the porn industry based on her name
Ski only knows me by
email. We have never met, nor have we ever talked on the phone.
All we have is our limited correspondence via email. Every
month Ski sends me an email that begins with: Hi Jeremy, how's
life treating you? and then continues on, requesting the monthly
cash budgets. Every month I reply, telling her she needs to
contact my boss for the budgets. Ski then replies to my reply,
apologizing for the confusion, and then asks me to forward
the request to my boss. This has been going on for two years.
Twenty-four emails. (Forty-eight if you count all her replies,
seventy-two if you count my replies, ninety-six if you count
the emails I forward to my boss as well.) This is my job.
I work for Jameson Investments as a cost accountant. I'm thirty
years old. I grew up during both the eighties and nineties,
sandwiched between the Me Generation and Generation X. I want
just don't want to work for it.
As I forward Ski's message
to my boss, a reminder window pops up on my computer screen.
It's Friday afternoon, time for our weekly staff meeting.
This is the worst two hours of my week.
"So let me reiterate
what I said last week regarding the firm's debt ratio. Folks,
I'll be frank, the ratio is low, meaning we need to finance
more of our assets with liabilities, giving us more financial
leverage." Maury. The Financial Controller. Despite there
being eight of us in the room, he'll talk for most of the
meeting. This is painful. All you need to know about Maury
is he's old, somewhere between fifty-five and sixty, he spits
when he talks, and he addresses everyone as folks,
even when it's just a one-on-one conversation.
"Folks, we also need
to discuss our payment obligations." Maury pulls a yellow-colored
packet from somewhere under the table and grins as he distributes
a document titled "Fixed Asset Payment Coverage Ratio"
to everyone in the meeting. Maury drops my document a foot
to the right of me. I wonder for a moment whether this was
done intentionally. This is another one of Maury's political
"Folks, take a look at
the earnings before interest and taxes for a moment. Now if
we add the lease payments and subtract interest, principal
payments, and preferred stock dividends, then take the total
I zone out for a while. When
I come back, Gerald, the Credit Manager, is discussing a problem
he's found with the commissions program.
"We have brokers getting
paid double commissions due to a glitch in the sales software
program. I don't want to be held responsible for a computer
problem." Gerald looks around the table. Everyone is
nodding their heads in agreement.
What you need to know about
Gerald is that he's in his early sixties (maybe seventies),
is bald, has gray sideburns and a poorly-kept goatee, and
refuses to take responsibility for anything where technology
can be blamed. Everyone at the table knows it's not the system,
it's the user. Gerald himself probably entered in the commission
percentages twice. Gerald sighs and then continues, "It
was different when I started. We didn't have these convoluted
software programs, we calculated the commissions ourselves."
Gerald glances my way. "Of course, some of you don't
know any better."
I smile. I feel ill, unsure
as to whether it's the fake office camaraderie or the boredom
of this meeting that's making my head pound.
Next up is Howard, the V.P.
of Finance. You only need to know one thing about him: he's
the V.P. of Finance, a corporate man whose life dream was
to be the V.P. of Finance.
Howard is not a fascinating
man. Anything in the world not related to finance is a constant
distraction in Howard's life. "We are working on establishing
the amount investors are willing to pay for each dollar of
earnings. We've implemented a new strategy called price earnings
multiple approach. This technique uses the estimated firm's
value, calculated by multiplying the firm's expected EPS by
the average PE."
My head is killing me. I may
have to get up and leave. I look around the table at the confused
faces and wonder what will happen if I throw up right here
on the glass conference table. Maury looks perplexed and slams
his hand on the table. I should point out that this means
Maury has something to say. My head is pounding. The constant
distraction in my life.
Maury looks down at the table, where his precious brown Day-Timer
lies. It is filled with notes he's been scribbling. A pink
sticky note is on the cover of the Day-Timer. The sticky note
simply reads: MAURY. An example of an approach to monogramming
by a finance manager. "Isn't the multiple approach used
mostly for valuing private firms?"
A speck of spit from Maury
lands inches from me.
Maury looks around the room,
where everyone is nodding in agreement with his genius idea.
To Maury, the approving nod is the equivalent of smack to
a junkie. Maury has a speck of tomato sauce on his tie.
Howard is getting defensive.
"Well, yes, but it can be used to value public firms
Maury slams his fist down
again. "Is this the only indicator we're using from now
on for calculating share value?"
Howard is holding on to his
light blue tie. I've seen this before; he's nervous, his voice
cracking. "No, Maury, we will also be using other calculations,
but this is a new value we want to include in our valuation
of the firm's stock."
I have no idea what they're
talking about, but I'm pretty sure they had this exact same
conversation during last week's meeting. Howard was wearing
the same light blue tie at that meeting. I really need a hobby.
Maury continues, "Folks,
we need to make sure we use everything available to us. Efficiency
is the key. We need to be more than a necessary evil to Jameson.
Gerald, you set up a meeting with I.T. to discuss the commissions
problem, and Howard, don't put all your eggs in one basket
when calculating share value." Maury slams his fist on
the table. "Folks, we need to focus!" Approving
nods all around the table. Maury is such a star.
After the informative staff
meeting, my boss, Jake, calls me into his office. All you
need to know about Jake is that he's old, senile old, has
a doctorate degree in Finance, and reeks of a rancid combination
of Stetson cologne and cigar smoke.
Jake starts talking before
I'm through the doorway.
"Is Rick up to speed
on your projects, just in case any of the guys have questions
while you're out?" Jake points up as he says the word
"guys". I guess that means the executives one floor
up, ironically consisting of four women and two men.
I sit in the chair opposite
him, his pretentious mahogany desk separating us, and I tell
him, "Yeah, Rick and I talked earlier today. I'm only
out for a couple of weeks, and it's the holidays, so I don't
anticipate any problems."
Jake's shaking his head. "Good,
very good, but you can never have too much information, Jeremy.
You can never have too much
information. You can never have too much information. Got
"In case we need to get
a hold of you, you'll have your cell phone with you?"
"And you'll be periodically
"Good, very good."
Thank God we're moving toward
a paperless society.
Jake is now staring out his
window. The sun is setting over the Manhattan skyline. The
Empire State Building is casting a shadow over Midtown. Jake
continues, "And you'll check in with me during the week?"
"And you're sure Rick
is up to speed with your projects?"
I believe Jake is starting
to lose his mind. I bet he smokes cheap cigars. It's hard
to find a finance person who enjoys the finer things in life.
"Good, very good. You're
sure Rick can handle this?"
If you looked up the word
"old" in the dictionary, there would be a picture
"Hmmm hmmm," Jake
hums as he stares out the window.
After a minute, I finally
break in. "Anything else?"
Jake spins around like he's
surprised to see me there.
"No. Since I won't see
you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Jake continues
to look at me like he has something else to say. He's studying
me, squinting. "Jeremy, you're not Jewish, are you?"
I have bleached blond hair,
pale skin, a few freckles, and a small nose.
"No, I'm not Jewish"
"Good, very good. Merry
I ask as I stand up.
"No, enjoy Minnesota."
"Oh yeah, Wisconsin.
Well then, have a Merry Christmas, Jeremy."
"You too, Jake. Happy
* * *
"Wad up JJ?" Rick
is waiting at my desk. "What did Dr. J want?"
"Same old," I reply.
"He wanted to make sure you wouldn't destroy everything
I've worked on over the past four years while I'm out during
the next two weeks."
Rick is the same as me, with
even less ambition and the vocabulary of Puff Daddy, P Diddy,
Diddy, and Sean Puffy Combs combined. It is also important
to note that Rick is Irish. Rick is wearing a black shirt,
black tie, black pants, and a pair of black Doc Martins. Rick
has red hair.
Rick holds out his fist. "Don't
worry, dawg, I got your back, most def."
I make a fist and bump it
with his. I'm down with it.
Rick cracks a smile.
I pull my fist back and scratch
my face, despite not having an itch. Rick's ignorance makes
It's now my turn to continue
this meaningless office conversation. "Thanks, man. What's
up for the holidays?"
"Oh, you know, I'm heading
upstate to kick it with my moms."
"Cool. You need anything
from me, or are you all set?"
"Yo dawg, we've been
through this, we cool, I'm aight."
"All right then, I'm
out of here."
"Yo, have fun in Michigan."
I walk over to Karin's cubicle.
She's staring at her computer screen. A Free Tibet bumper
sticker is attached to the top of her monitor, a miniature
Zen garden rests on her desk, the Knicks pre-game show is
on her Panasonic portable. Latrell Sprewell is hurt and won't
be playing tonight in New York. He's already left the team
to be with his family for Christmas. "Enjoy the holidays,
Karin. I'm taking off."
Karin is a middle-aged black
woman with long braided hair who has entered accounts receivable
transactions all day, every day, for the past ten years at
"You too, hon. Have fun
in Iowa." She says this without taking her eyes off the
"Oh, right, hon. Have
Karin holds up a peace sign
as I walk away, her eyes still focused on the important work
Jenny pokes her head out of
her office. All you need to know about Jenny is that in her
early twenties she was a swimsuit model, she's now forty-two,
still attractive (but showing her age nonetheless), and she
hosts a Botox party every couple of months for the girls and
gay men in the office.
On a scale of one to ten,
Jenny is a seven. Today Jenny is wearing jeans and a tacky
blue and red print shirt. It's Hawaiian Shirt Friday at Jameson
"Jeremy, I hear you're
off for the next couple weeks. Now don't go getting any ideas
about not coming back. We need you here."
Jenny begins yelling over
Karin's cubicle, "Karin? Karin! Who was that guy who
went back to Oklahoma for vacation and never came back?"
Karin replies without missing
a keystroke, "Adam."
"Oh yeah, Adam, that's
it. Jeremy, you better come back, unlike Adam."
His name was Aaron and he
was from Washington. I keep this information to myself. I
don't want to ruin their wonderful memories of Adam from Oklahoma.
What would they talk about?
"Don't worry, I'll definitely
be back," I lie.
"You better come back,"
I start walking away. This
conversation is getting painful. "Okay, Jen, enjoy the
"You too, and make sure
you come back. We need you, Jeremy."
I return to my desk to find
six unread emails. The first email is from Human Resources,
a reminder to everyone that next Friday is red, white, and
blue day. The second is a response to the first email in which
Doug from Marketing decided to reply to the entire company
that he has just the shirt to wear next Friday. "It's
fabulous," replies Doug. Doug
regularly attends Jenny's parties. Don't ask me how I know.
I just do. Three emails are from people who decided to reply
not only to Doug but the rest of the company pointing out
the difference between replying to sender and replying to
all. You can never have too much information. The final email
is from Joe in I.T. He wishes me a happy holiday and hopes
I have a good time in Indiana.
I push my chair back away
from my desk and look across the aisle, where Chris is sitting
at his desk eating a cold chicken leg. What you need to know
about Chris is that every day while sitting at his desk he
eats two chicken legs, two apples, a baked potato, and has
five cups of tea. Not weak fruity-flavored tea, as he's quick
to point out, but strong green shit called Gun Powder. Chris
also lifts weights. Today is Friday, so it's bench night.
Yesterday was Thursday, squat night. His license plate reads:
W8SRUS. These are the things you find out when working ten
hours a day next to the same person for four years.
"Ready for your vacation,
Jeremy?" asks Chris, pointing at me with his chicken
"As soon as I'm finished
"Good." Chris is
nodding his head while smacking his lips. I notice a piece
of skin is hanging from the chicken leg as he points it at
me. In my head I try to quickly calculate the odds of the
skin sliding off the leg and hitting the floor. As much as
I hate to admit it, I have a little Jake in me.
Chris's phone rings. He looks
at the incoming caller ID and picks up the phone. "Hello,
It's his wife.
I shut down my computer, change
my voicemail message, turn on my email out of office assistant,
and raise my hand to Chris as I walk out.
"Hold on, sport."
Chris puts the phone on hold. "Hey Jeremy!"
I'm already starting down
the hall, but still hear him.
I yell back, "Yeah?"
"Enjoy your vacation
in North Dakota."
"Thanks, Chris. Have
a good Christmas."
Walking down the hall, I announce
that it's "Miller Time" to no one in particular
and proceed to the elevator.
As soon as the fresh air hits
me, I light a cigarette and grab my iPod from my bag, wrapping
the headphones around my ears. "Everlong" by Foo
Fighters is playing. Up next is "1979" by the Smashing
Pumpkins, followed by tracks two through nine off Linkin Park's
Hybrid Theory. I check my Nokia: two text messages,
one from Chip that reads: DUDE I'LL PICK YOU UP AT THE FUCKING
AIRPORT, the second from Angella that reads: WE NEED TO TALKMEET
ME AT THE W.
While listening to Dave Grohl
belt out obnoxious lyrics, I walk north, stop, turn, look
back at the building that's home to several investment firms
including Jameson, and wonder if I'll be back.
My doctor is optimistic. He
tells me there's an eighty percent chance I'll be back. The
constant distraction in my life.