Saturday, June 28, 2014

First Jobs and the havoc they wreak...part seventy-eight. And Colin Firth

Since I have written exhaustively about my days at G. D. Searle, and with the now defunct accounting firm of Brown, Coleman and Hale, we will continue with my accounting career POST college.  Since I had returned to college late in my twenties, I emerged from college in my early thirties, confident with my business degree and ready to accept any six figure salary thrown my way.

This begins the Dark Ages of my life.   I like to think of my life in eras.  There was the magnificent Roman Empire (my mother), the Era of Enlightenment (my youth), the Swinging Sixties (which I missed altogether), and then I went back to school and screwed up everything.



My biggest problem, other than having no idea how to do accounting, was that I strolled out into the workforce alongside twenty-one year old graduates.  The comparison did not bode well for me, especially when these graduates were pouring out of the universities faster than they were going in.  They were like cockroaches in suits.  And they knew what they were doing, which I didn't, but I digress.

After leaving Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe  I went to work at a series of the most bizarre places poor grades can offer. We will begin with "THE CROOK".  I honestly can't remember his name anymore (hardly surprising since I even forget to turn off the faucet these days).  Anyway, he was a sole proprietor, and, in my experience, it is NEVER a good idea to work for one of these.   He sold Insurance and he provided Bookkeeping, sometimes at the same time.  I should be been suspicious from the start.

There was one large room where all his employees labored, both his insurance clerks and his Accounting Division.  In the center of this room sat - and this is the honest truth - an antique barber chair.  All the desks were against the wall, in a circle, facing inward toward the chair.   The man who had just been hired to be the head (and only) Accountant (I was the entire bookkeeping department) stared at the chair, and the strange configuration of office furniture as well.  Then we looked at each other.  Finally, he asked one of the harried looking women in the room.

"Why is there are barber chair in the middle of the room?"

Before he could finish the question, she huffed out, "You'll see!"


All right, we had a job to do.  The owner had a number of bookkeeping clients who had not been serviced for a while, and the files where a sloppy mess.  The first thing the Accountant decided to do was take each and every folder out of the file cabinets, and begin going thru each item, one by one.  Right then and there I wanted to stick a pen in my eye.  Talk about boring.  And, it only made the mess worse.  We had files heaped on tables, on chairs, on the floor - by the third day, I wanted to weep.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it quickly, and trying to hide my incompetence with bullshit.

And then it happened.  Out of nowhere a tall gentleman walked to the middle of the room, a cloth draped over his shoulder.  He stood at attention and waited.  The room grew deathly still.  Suddenly our little (he was about 5'3") leader, the owner of the firm, a cocky little bantam rooster of a jerk, strode to the middle of the room, hopped onto the barber chair, (I'm certain he used a booster seat) crossed his legs and steepled his fingers.  The gentleman standing behind the chair then flicked out the cloth he had been holding and draped it over bossman.  It was grooming day.

I could not believe it.  Arnie, or Bernie, or Wally - whatever tiny man's name actually was - was getting his weekly haircut!  In the middle of the office.  Like a plantation owner amidst the slaves.  It was the strangest sight I'd ever seen.

 I was entranced, at first.  Then, abruptly, ArnieBernieWally started snapping out questions.  "Louise!  Did you follow up with Crenshaw?"  "Mr. Tiny Man, you  said that wasn't until next month."  "You do it now, or you're fired!"  He pointed to the side and the barber swung the chair around to face another victim. "Nancy, are the forms filled out for yadayadayada?"  "I'm nearly finished, Mr. Tiny Man."  "Not good enough, goddamn it!  It want them now."  "But you just handed them to me."  "You want to lose your job?"  "No, Mr. Tiny Man.  Sorry, Mr. Tiny Man." He pointed in another direction, and the barber, not missing a beat of the haircut, swung the chair in the new direction.  And the onslaught, the verbal attacks, continued until he reached the Accounting Division - me and Gus.  I freaked.

"What is that fucking goddamn mess - it looks look a fucking bomb exploded! What the fuck are you two doing?  I didn't hire you two to waste my time....yadayadayada."  I was terrified, and so was Gus.

Fortunately, my days at this combination Insurance/Accounting/Self Grooming Emporium were short lived after that.  Immediately, Gus and I plowed folders back into just about any opening we could find (don't bend over if you have a big butt and I am desperate to hide bad work), then he whispered that I should meet him outside.  He was pale as a ghost.

"What's wrong now," I whimpered.
"I'm leaving."
I gripped his lapels and hung on like grim death.  "Don't say that.  Please don't say that."
"You should too.  This is bad, Carol."
"Karen.  My name is Karen."
"Whatever.  The shit's gonna hit the fan here, and I don't want to be around."
"Maybe he was having a bad day.  The cut was good."
"It's not that.  He's Certifying reports, Carol."
I blinked my eyes rapidly.  Somewhere in my schooling I had heard that...
"He's not a CPA, Carol.  It's against the law, Carol!"
"Is that really bad?"  I really needed this job.
"YES!  I could lose my license.  I am getting the hell out of here, and so should you!"

And so I quit.  I had to, without Gus Grimley beside me I hadn't a clue as to what I was doing.  Besides, I had learned Tiny Man and his father had already been indicted months before for Sales Tax Fraud, and both had been featured on 60 Minutes.  Lucky me.  I worked for a celebrity.  I went home and cried like a baby, terrified we were going to starve. Who'd pay the mortgage, who'd pay for our food?  Mom, as always clueless as to how bad things were, kept saying, "Stay home with me.  We'll be all right.  I'll make spaghetti."

ARGGH!  I needed a job, and I needed it quickly.  However, I had one small problem.  My grades were pathetic and I had no experience.  And, then there were those hordes of eighteen-year-old looking accounting graduates crammed inside elevators, popping out at me each time I heard a Ding.  No, the competition for positions was thick as Oliver Platt's eyebrows.   I needed a boost, a little edge on these others.

So I began to lie - like a rug.  I falsified the very best Resume money could buy, and talked friends in other companies to verify my working years at their firms. And, I survived.


And now, without further ado, more from my good friend, Colin.  He's never forgiven me for telling him this was a good idea...

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