This is the story about the time I dabbled in being an Economist. I know it probably sounds incredibly boring, but it’s not; at least I don’t think so. It’s a sneak peek into my work life, dear reader. If you’ve ever wondered what it is I do all day, besides read blogs, the answer lies below.
My boss was out of the office last week attending a conference. When he returned to the office yesterday, he stopped by my cubicle so that I could welcome him back. Okay, not really. He wanted to enlighten me on all of the amazingly brilliant things he learned at the conference. You know, as though I cared.
He said, “You mentioned the week before last that you had some free time on your hands. Is that still the case?” I told him that it was. What I didn’t say was that he already should’ve known the answer, because I tell him every single week in our update meetings that I have too much free time. In fact, my free time is a longstanding issue; for years now, I’ve not had enough to do. It’s been especially bad the past two or three years, and I have been quite vocal about it.
Boss Man asked if I’d mind if he sent an email to the team reminding them that I’m available to help them. I told him that I didn’t mind, but what I wanted to say was that, judging from the Investment Consultant’s behavior last week while their boss (Boss Man’s boss) was also gone, they don’t have enough to keep themselves busy either. I listened to very intense discussions on the pros and cons of the fast food joint value menus, and whether the walk through the skyway to a fast food joint further away justified ordering the whole value menu or not. Yes, I’m serious.
If the Investment Consultants aren’t busy enough, it really goes without saying that I’m not going to be busy enough. I am, after all, the lowly Investment Research Specialist.
Boss Man told me that I should continue to let him know when I have free time, because he knows that being bored can take a mental toll. I wanted to ask him just how frequently I need to tell him that I have free time. Because, ya know, I ALREADY TELL HIM WEEKLY! But, I realized he was playing the role of oblivious guy, as he’s apt to do, so I let it go.
Later on, Boss Man told me he had a project for me. He came over to discuss said project after I failed to stop by his office within five seconds of him emailing me that I should stop by to discuss it when I had a chance. The Federal Reserve Board publishes a summary of economic conditions among all its districts eight times per year; this document is commonly known as the Beige Book. The Federal Open Market Committee uses the information in the Beige Book to analyze the economy and to set economic policy going forward.
Four times per year, Boss Man summarizes the Beige Book for release to our Investment Advisors and their clients. He wanted me to complete the summary for him this time around. Boss Man has always made this seem like an arduous task—locking himself in his office for days at a time. He always makes it sound like this project is a really big deal, and a huge time sucker. As a result, I always envisioned him laboriously analyzing an eleventy-billion-page document as he tried to distill it down to two pages of the most important facts. I was quickly reminded that Boss Man is a lying liar who lies. A lot.
He handed me the six page Beige Book, about 3/4 of which was highlighted. He indicated that he’d highlighted the important facts, and that all he needed me to do was to write those facts up in our summary format. In other words, this project was simple. He told me that, while it’s okay to copy word for word from the report, he tries to change up the wording a bit.
His example: If a sentence says Dallas, San Francisco, and Minneapolis reported XYZ since the last survey, he’d switch it up to: Since the last survey, Dallas, San Francisco, and Minneapolis reported XYZ. He said this as though he were giving me the most fantastic top-secret tip I’d ever receive in my life. I couldn’t believe how sly and tricky he though he was. I wanted to say, “WOW!! That is genius!” but I didn’t think my sarcasm would be appreciated.
He must’ve known that I wanted to comment on how changing a few words around is still plagiarism, because he quickly told me that this is like “a book report you used to do in school”; we’re really just restating the important facts. I don’t know what kind of book reports he did in school, but I never rewrote my favorite paragraphs of a book, transposing a few words and sentences here and there, and called it a day; even in elementary school, I think I knew that that wasn’t acceptable. But, Whatever.
After he finished explaining the task to me, he asked if I had any questions. He seemed quite disappointed when I said no, but really how many questions could one have about reading and retyping a six-page document? He eventually walked away, leaving me to my important task. Since it was basically quitting time, I didn’t bother starting on it. I knew I’d be able to get it done today.
Bright and early this morning, Boss Man showed up at my desk. I hadn’t even fully logged onto my computer yet, but more importantly, I hadn’t even had the chance to think about coffee let alone drink any. He asked if I had any questions on the Beige Book project. I said no, but what I thought was: Does he think I’m a fucking idiot?!? What kind of questions could I possibly have?
What I wanted to say was:
REALLY?!? Boss Man, if I honestly had questions on retyping the highlighted information in a six-page document to turn it into a two-page document, you would have to question my abilities as an employee and as a fully functional human being. The project involves reading comprehension and typing. If I had questions on this, it would really be a wonder that I manage to get myself dressed and here every single day; let alone that I am attending college courses and somehow not only passing them, but earning A's. Seriously!!
Be honest with me, Boss Man, when you were flying back from the conference the airplane lost oxygen for a bit, and you weren't quick enough to get your mask on, right?! Contrary to the flight attendant’s pre-flight instructions, you wanted to be the hero and try to save others instead; but you seriously misjudged how long you could go without oxygen. I mean something had to have happened to make you this stupid. Confession is good for the soul; you can tell me the truth.
Oh. My. GOSH! In your oxygen-deprived state, did you get thirsty and stumble around to find a tasty beverage? Did you think the blue water was a special airplane punch? Did you drink the toilet water, Boss Man? Did you?!? That's not for drinking! It's in a little room all by itself in a receptacle that resembles a toilet because it is, in fact, toilet water. You really should see a doctor regarding the possible lingering affects of oxygen deprivation and airplane toilet water ingestion!!
Then I wanted to say:
Actually, now that you mention it, I do have a couple questions: (1) I don't really like the color Beige. Can I call this the Red or Pink Book summary? Would that be okay? Does the color really matter that much? AND (2) Do you understand basic math? I know that you have an MBA in finance and everything, but I don’t understand how you accomplished that without the understanding of basic math.
Let me break it down for ya: You have about 3/4 of a 6-page document highlighted. In what world does 3/4 of 6 equal 2? At this point, the only way I'm gonna be able to keep this to two pages is to make the margins as small as possible and to change the font to teeny tiny eight point. Is that acceptable? You didn’t actually need this to be readable, did ya, Boss Man?
I realized that Boss Man obviously thought that this project was going to be a lot more challenging to me than it really was. I also realized that the reason this project seems to take him so long every quarter is that he probably spends about a day and a half just typing it up. Because I am a whiz at typing, I was going to be able to bang this thing out in less than a quarter of the time it would take him. He probably hadn’t considered that.
I sent the completed summary to Boss Man before lunch. Almost four hours later, he appeared at my desk. “You did a great job on this!” he said. He genuinely seemed to be surprised. I replied, “Yep.” I know I probably should’ve said, “thank you,” but come on. We both knew I was going to do a good job, or at least I knew and he should’ve known. He said, “You’re an Economist now!” and laughed. I didn’t find the joke to be funny. I didn’t say anything, because all I could think to say was, “Well, shit! If that’s all it takes to be a mother-fucking Economist, I’m wasting time and money going to school. Screw social work; I’ve already got it made!”
Sadly, this is a typical day in my life. Despite the fact that I’ve worked in the financial services industry for 12 years now, I’m continuously treated like an idiot. Many years ago, I wasted six months of my life studying for the Series 7 General Securities Representative exam. It’s a huge licensing exam that is so all encompassing that eight hours is the allotted time to take the exam. Many people don’t pass it on their first try, which is telling when you consider that a score of 70% is passing. I passed it on my first try, scoring 82%.
I’ve worked my way up from administrative assistant, to technology specialist, to research specialist. Yet Boss Man is still patronizing; he talks down to me and treats me as though I’m a complete moron on a far too regular basis.
This is why I hate my job. This is why I’ve returned to school to make a career change to social work. This is why, no matter how hard I work, I can’t finish school quickly enough. I originally thought I’d tough it out at this job until school is over, but I really don’t think I can make it another three years. One of these days I’m going to snap. I’m going to say all the things I wanted to say, instead of censoring myself. I just don’t know how much more I can take!!