February 13, 2011
The new head of our group was an extremely nice senior guy who could only be characterized as the Wasp MD. He was the epitome of the banker image many firms built their legacy upon: Ivy-league educated, varsity lacrosse, lived in the City with a summer home in a predominantly waspy enclave in Long Island. Naturally, is wedding announcement ran in the Sunday Styles section in the 1980s while he was a mere associate. His wife and two kids might as well have stepped straight out of a Lilly Pulitzer catalog. He was kind and jovial but seemed somewhat lost as to the best path to incorporate our stranded group into his own. In short, I really liked him.
“Oh, god. It’s really bad today.” Mr. Burrito muttered. Smelly Homeless Kid breezed by our desk on his way to grab lunch. I shook my head. Being cast off from the rest of the group was bad enough. Having to deal with a grown man’s hygienic issues was another ballgame. For some reason, SHK’s body odor was particularly foul the past few days. Sitting along a trader’s desk in close proximity did not help the situation. It was that day in which Mr. Burrito and I vowed to fix the problem. Taking our usual route to lunch, we stopped off at the nearest drugstore. We went in and came out with the only remedy to our problem: a Glade, Clean Linen, plug-in air freshener. At the time, the idea seemed as good as any. Sure, it was childish, but we ran out of options. How do you even begin to have that conversation with a superior? Returning with some pizza, Mr. Burrito and I set to work on our covert operation. SHK’s desk was just messy enough with various folders and large binders to accommodate the plan. Shifting away a few items, we looked around and quickly plugged in our saving grace. Quickly moving a pencil holder, a stapler and one of those wiry-things that held multiple folders in front of it, we settled back into our Herman Miller chairs and quietly ate our lunch. Evil Incarnate’s feminine laugh rang out down the hall as she returned with Apathetic Associate and SHK in tow from lunch. I focused my eyes on the screen in front of me and tried hard not to laugh as SHK sat down. No reaction in any way: either his nose was not functional or the scent of his own nastiness settled as a constant cloud over his being.
Finally, the e-mail I was waiting for had popped up. The SVP who had jumped ship responded to my inquiry. I picked up my cell phone and wandered down the rows to the far side of the massive trading floor, ducking into a corner conference room, which was tucked out of sight.
“Hey, SVP. It’s Fashion Financier. Is now a good time?” He picked up after the first ring. After exchanging pleasantries, I got down to the point. “So, listen. I wanted to get your advice. Do you think it’s a good idea to look for other opportunities?” I asked in one full breath, somewhat nervous. Just because he moved to another group and another building didn’t mean he didn’t have ties to some of the others in my group.
“Absolutely. Look, the way I see it…this place is heading towards major trouble. If you have another opportunity lined up, you should take it. Seriously. Get the fuck out.” SVP advised, almost quietly. Well, that was that. I thanked him for his help and left the empty conference room with a ninja-type of stealth. You know that scene in Titanic, where old Rose does the voice-over and says “That’s the last time Titanic ever saw daylight again.” This felt like that exact moment. I would never talk to SVP again after that conversation. Returning to my desk, I sent out an e-mail from my alumni account to Confidante regarding introductions to head hunters and anyone else she found to be useful She responded automatically, sensing my urgency. A few months earlier when we spoke, she was insistent that our firm would never lay off analysts. Having seen a few of her own get picked off in the process, she was ready and willing to help me with my new job hunt. As people began to leave for the weekend, I simply nodded good-bye as I alt-tabbed back and forth between a ‘model’ that I was ‘learning’ and my draft cover letters to headhunters. Given the slow nature of the current deal environment, my group head had allowed me to take off the following Monday as I was headed back to the Ivy for one of those big Spring weekends.
The news that awaited me on Tuesday was earth shattering to say the least.