Make Your Choice Now – Did he quit or did he get fired?
This is embarrassing but I am going to relay it anyhow. I lasted only twenty days at my new job. I did make around two grand though, well I sort of did. You see when I got the job I decided to put my retirement money in the stock market and so far I am down about three grand. So I worked for four weeks and I’m down a G note.
My only real goal for the rest of my life is to marry for true love. I asked my last girlfriend if she thought I was marry-able. She told me that she was sure that I was marry-able; but that she wasn’t quite sure I was employable.
If any of you haven’t read the book the Peter Principal, you need to. It’s very funny and it’s true. The principal is that workers keep getting promoted until they reach a job in which they are no longer competent. They then stay in that job forever, which means that everyone is eventually incompetent at what they do.
Look at Madonna. Good Singer. Good Dancer. “Now I’d like to try films and write poems to my vagina.”
Peter also says that there are four kinds of employees. The Competent and the Incompetent keep their jobs for as long as they want. The Super Incompetent get fired after like two months. The Super Competent get fired after like two weeks. So I definitely seem to be in one of the latter groups.
My biggest problem is that I made so much money early on for doing so little. I graduated from Northwestern with a 3.96 average. I never once got a B. I then started working for the top option trading firm in the country. By the time I was 27, I was making $135,000 a year. The pathetic thing was that I wasn’t happy. I am totally a night person and my hours were 5:30 AM to 1:30 PM and they just played massive havoc with my life. Most of my workday was composed of standing around waiting for something to happen, exhausted out of my mind, barely conscious of all the people screaming profanity upon profanity at one another.
I knew that I would never be able to do that job forever. Unfortunately, I also realized that it didn’t really qualify me to do anything else either. So I knew that someday I would be in this employment trough that I’m in now and luckily I saved most of my earnings.
Last year, I was going to work for a friend of mine. I moved to Chicago and about 15 minutes after I had gotten there, my friend lost about ten million dollars and I instantly lost my job. I did however wind up with 3 NASD (National Association of Security Dealers) licenses #’s 7, 24, and 55. So I did have that going for me. I then moved back to California where smoking outside was a more plausible winter concept.
About a month and a half ago I put my suit on and went to interview with MB Trading in El Segundo California. MB Trading is basically an online brokerage that lets you trade stock with their software. Pretty similar to that guy I used to trade with in San Francisco who opened up a gambling web site WSEX.com. He’s now a fugitive from the United States and is stuck in Antigua with a ton of money. Lucky sod.
So I walk into this place and I’m met by this really cute girl named Debbie. Debbie is wearing this really tight belly shirt. I think, wow, I need to work here. Debbie sat me down and gave me one of those Wonderlick IQ tests. These are the tests that they use for football players in the NFL. A smart NFL player gets his name right on this test.
Debbie told me that no one had ever finished this test in the 5 minutes allowed, which really made me book through it. Although I came really close, I didn’t get to the last three questions. Anyway, I did really well on that thing. If all you had to do to get a job was pass IQ tests I’d be running General Motors. I’m sort of cursed by the fact that the one thing I do best in this world is take tests well. It’s a good skill but not nearly as valuable as it once was after you turn 22.
I talked to like 5 people that day and they were all agreed that I was very qualified. Wow, I hadn’t heard that in years. Boy did it feel good. The most important interview was with a guy named Keith, who would wind up being my boss. I told him that I had really only one requirement for a job. “I just don’t want to work somewhere where I have to pretend to be busy all day.” “Oh, believe me that won’t be a problem for you here,” Keith said.
Nevertheless the job turns out to be exactly that. It’s weird how employers try to shift the blame on you. “If you were really dedicated to this job, you would be able to find something productive for yourself to do.”
One good thing about the place was that its dress code wasn’t casual. It was super casual. Keith interviewed me in flip flops, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt which is exactly what he wore every day to work. I have to tell you though that if you put a tight ass into shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, he is still a tight ass.
I consider myself to be a leader among the casual work dress crusade. I swear this is true. When I was in college I went to the job center and talked about my future with some really important guy. He asked me to tell him what I most wanted from a job. I told him that I didn’t want to wear a suit to work. So far I never have. He, however, thought that I was a complete moron and told me so.
So they offer me the job. The hours are 5:30 AM to 3 PM and the pay is $35,000. Wow. I was miserable about my hours and my life when I was working better hours than that and earning $100,000 a year more, but I was desperate so I took it. I didn’t ever try to get more money out of them because, well because I am a pussy.
During my last free week they gave me material to study for the NASD Series 63 test which they wanted me to take and they wanted me to read their software’s 100 page manual. So on my last week of freedom I was digging through just mounds of boredom. Hundred’s of pages of security legislation and right click this left click that.
When I got to work I found out that most of the people spend about three months studying for these NASD tests and that they often flunk them on their first try and then have to wait a month for a second chance. I went in to take it after just the one week.
The test I was prepared to take was supposed to be fifty questions long and I needed 70 percent to pass it. When I got there, the test had 65 questions on it. Hey what’s up with that? I was soon informed that all the material that I had been given by Keith was way out of date. Boy was I pissed. The first 10 questions on the test were on something called the NSSAA and I didn’t even know what that was. Somehow I passed the thing with a 73. I was sure that I had flunked though, and the entire escapade was extremely stressful. The testing people were asking me why I was so annoyed. They looked at me and thought I had flunked it too.
The next day Keith laughs it off saying he knew that the material was out of date but that he was sure that I would pass it anyway. What a guy! Next he wanted me to take the Series 4 Test. It took me a week to study and pass that test. So after one week working there I had learned their entire software manual and passed 4 months worth of tests. I don’t think they were impressed. I think that they were scared.
So my first job is going to be on the technical support desk. They sit me down with a nice guy from the Philippines named Chris. Chris was leaving in a week and I was told by Keith to download his brain. Chris was a bright guy but essentially his whole job was answering the phone and sitting in internet chat rooms all day waiting to help someone online. Basically, all you really had to do was tell people where they should be looking on the web site for the information they needed. As for technical support, here is like 99 percent of the job.
“Hi you’re having trouble with your software? Ok can you log out and log back in for me. Hmm, no go. Now I want you to reboot your computer. Still no dice? What operating system do you have? Windows 98? I’m sorry sir you really need to upgrade to run our software.” That was the whole job.
So Chris is on the phone or in a chat room for about fifteen minutes of every hour, which left 10 hours with 45 minutes to fill. There was another young guy there named Keigon and he had the same job. Here is how they filled up their 450 minutes.
1) Instant Messaged Friends
2) E mailed friends
3) Played word games on the computer
4) Read ESPN.com every 25 minutes.
After a week with Chris, I just started doing his job. Keith told me that I really needed to be trained for four to six weeks, but I pretty much had it all down by day 7. You’d think that they would have been pleased but again, I think they were scared.
Here is a funny side note. They needed to create a computer for me. On Wednesday, this guy named Henry says it’s all set up. On Friday, when I need to start using it, I find out that it is all set up except for putting all the programs on it. Isn’t putting the programs on it what setting it up means? Even I can take the thing out of the box.
So by my seventh day when there were no longer any tests to study for, I was bored out of my mind. I like ESPN.com as much as the next guy, maybe more, but I just can’t stretch it out into 450 minutes. One of the other guys on the trade desk is this guy named Jody. He spends his day watching an internet camera that films cars driving by Malibu Beach and reading surf reports. After about a week of this horror, I started bringing in a USA Today to read, this didn’t go over well. You see sitting there reading the USA Today web site is industrious. Sitting there and reading USA Today is wasting time.
One day I was reading the paper and I didn’t touch the computer for a whole two minutes so my screen went black.
Keith looks over and says “Brad your screen is black!”
Again he doesn’t have anything on the computer for me to do; he just doesn’t want my screen to go black. “Hey Keigon, show me how to set this thing to not go black!”
Day 8 or so was a real pride builder for me. MB Trading gives you no lunch break but they cater breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is cereal and pop tarts, if they have any left that you like. After lunch one day, Keith says to me “Mark needs your E-Mail address.” I didn’t even know who Mark was. About a minute later I get this anonymous firm E Mail about hygiene. This guy Mark saw me leave the bathroom without washing my hands. I admit it. I did it. I probably disgust all of you now and God knows I will never let it happen again. The rest of the time I was there I practically bathed every time I went to the bathroom.
Then I have to go see Mark. “I sent you that E mail he said.” Uh “no shit” I thought.
Here’s some advice for you people. If I call you up and ask you for your E mail address and then you get an anonymous e mail 30 seconds later. It’s from me.
Mark told me not to be embarrassed, because there were a lot of others at the firm who were just as guilty as me. Boy did I feel like a Schmuck.
The next day there is a huge note on the intra-firm Web Site in big red font about washing your hands after visiting the bathroom. You can imagine that all the chicks were digging me after this whole ordeal. “Hey that guy who doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom is really cute!”
Eventually, Keith tells me that I can start to learn about the trading desk. Now I’ve probably spent more time on stock trading desks than this whole firm combined. MB’s trade desk takes about 5 orders a day because all the customers are supposed to be using their software to trade. I’m used to dealing with five orders every thirty seconds.
Keith tells me that I have to go sit with a guy named Rex, who is working on another stock desk. Keith wants me over there because Rex is much busier. He takes ten calls a day.
So I go sit with Rex. He tells me that there isn’t much that I can learn from him because the software he uses is completely different from the software I need to learn. Brilliant! This is what Rex teaches me. Understand that I have been in this business for over ten years.
“You ask the customer what he wants to do. Yes Sir, you want to buy Microsoft. How much do you want to buy? 1000 shares? You want to buy 1000 shares of Microsoft. What price would you like to pay to buy 1000 shares of Microsoft? You want to buy 1000 shares of Microsoft for 54 dollars. Great I am going to buy 1000 shares of Microsoft for 54 dollars.” That is the sum total of what there is to learn from Rex.
I spend like an hour with Rex., which means one whole hour with no ESPN.com or E mail for me, although I do get to look over Rex’ shoulder, while he does the same thing!
The next day Keith wants to know why I am not going back to sit some more with Rex. “Uh I think I got it all yesterday.” Bosses hate when you say shit like that.
Keith gives me this huge lecture about how I better be sure I’m really learning this stuff because someday it will be really busy and my ass will be on the line. I’m thinking to myself that in the old days I was standing in a trading pit with two telephones in my ears being screamed at by three people at the same time, while 60 other people are screaming their lungs off at 100 other people. Keith is worried I’ll crack up if two phones ring within five minutes of each other.
So of course, I have to go sit with Rex again. This time, Rex grabs my legal pad and writes me notes. I swear to God this is what he wrote. “Yes Sir, you want to buy Microsoft. How many shares of Microsoft do you want to buy? You want to buy 1000 ….” My head screamed in pain.
Now you have to know that these hours are just killing me. I’ve been getting home at 4 PM and sleeping around the clock for work the next morning at 4 AM. So most of the time, I can barely keep my eyes open. Other people had this problem too. Debbie with the belly shirt often put her head down on her desk and closed her eyes. I couldn’t wait until I had been there long enough to become important enough to be able to do that for a few minutes here and there.
Now I swear to you that this is the truth. I had a really shitty attitude about this job, but I really treated it very responsibly. I read everything I could get my hands on about that place and I treated every customer call as if it were of the utmost importance. Keith can tell that I’m overqualified because he refers to the sister firm’s software one day as taking four months to learn. He tells me that it would even take me 4 weeks.
While this whole saga is going on, I’m trying to get my Chicago friend to pay me back part of the $60,000 he owes me. He had promised to send me twenty of it a few months ago, but he sent it to the wrong place, etc etc etc. It wasn’t looking good and he was notorious for this kind of behavior. What can I say? I loaned it to him before he lost the ten million.
I wind up phoning him at home and at work like three times every day for ten days in a row. What the hell else did I have to do at work? After getting no response, I am despondent. I’m gonna get stiffed on 60,000 after tax dollars. I leave my friend a message saying “Hey if you don’t have the money, I understand but you at least owe me a phone call.” Like I said, I’ve seen this guy yank people around like this before. No one is better at it than him. For some reason though I never figured that he would do it to me. How smart am I?
Here’s how odd my friend is. The next day I receive three $20,000 checks. Two were postdated by three and six months and one was current. What a strange dude.
Don’t get all misty yet. I take the current check to the bank and they treat me like I have cholera. “That is a credit card check for a lot of money. Those always bounce. We will have to hold your money for like 50 years.” I still don’t know if the thing has cleared yet, but looking back on it getting some of my money back killed a lot of the desperation with which I had taken this insanely bad job.
After I’d been there two weeks, Keith could tell I was bored so he walks over to me and says “Have you read our software manual yet?” “Uh, yeah I had it read before I even started working here. You were the one who gave it to me.” Believe me I had read everything in that place. Anybody have any questions about the minimum wage laws they are required to post everywhere?
One day I said to Keigon “I feel like such an idiot sitting here having Keith watch me do nothing.
Keigon said “Don’t worry he’s not doing anything either.
After 19 days of this, I’m just miserable. I have no free time. I’m always tired. I spend my entire day pretending to look busy. I’m so close to quitting that I just can’t go into work on Friday June 21st. Ok now admittedly calling in sick on the first day of summer isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, but a smart person wouldn’t be in my shoes now would he?
I call in to this really gung ho guy named Mike to tell him that I am not coming in. This guy Mike is a really nice guy. He graduated from UCLA when he was 35 and he is employee of the month every month. He’s supposed to be there from 3:30 AM until 1 PM. For some reason he is always there until 3 PM. Some days he leaves later than me.
“Hey Mike, I woke up with a really bad cold.”
“No problem, so you’re going to be a little late?”
I couldn’t help it. I almost started to laugh. No dude I’m not coming in.
Mike dressed exactly the same as Keith. In fact, they even had one Hawaiian shirt exactly the same as each other. There was like a 50% chance on any given day that one of them would be wearing that shirt and on one day they both wore it. I was in hell.
For my part I never wore shorts to work. I’m into the casual thing, but I was a peon and I knew that peons get into trouble and I can’t think of anything worse than getting yelled at while you and your boss look like you are heading to the beach.
Mike was a great guy though. He was really good on the phone with customers. That guy was worth every dollar they paid him. He also had the really amazing ability to be busy all day long. Now he didn’t get more work done than me. It just somehow took him all day to do what I did in an hour and a half. One day I was sitting over with Mike learning by osmosis like Keith had often instructed me to do.
I swear to God he managed to do nothing productive for over an hour. He was phoning his wife. He was taping up his phone lists. After an hour, he has a short discussion with the compliance guy Erick. He then comes out and sends an email to all of the trading people. It is a four line e mail, but Mike reads and rereads the damn thing for at least 15 minutes. Finally, he sends the thing out and upon receiving it Erick is furious because he sent the exact same e mail to the exact same people.
The two then proceed to discuss this for at least 45 minutes. It was like an Abbott and Costello routine. I wish that I had taped it. “You said you were sending it.” “I said that I was sending it.” “Who did you send yours to?” “Both E mails said the same thing.” “Why did you send yours out?” I decided that I had learned enough from Mike for the day.
One day Mike asked me to type up his brother’s UCLA admission essay for him because he wasn’t a fast typist. Someone else in the office had written the essay for him. Ouch, it was barely even in complete sentences. I asked Mike if I could rewrite it, and I wrote the hell out of that essay. I even managed to quote Alex Haley. No way his brother wasn’t getting into UCLA!
Keith and I often had some Abbott and Costello type conversations too.
Brad: Keith I have a customer here who wants to speak to you about an E mail you sent him.
Keith hated getting calls. He made me ask who it was, what they wanted, their bra size. I was his own personal voice mail maze. Once he yelled at me for announcing that he had a call from a doctor too loudly. “Don’t let the entire office know I’m going to the proctologist!” Well, dude a second ago they just knew that it was a doctor.
Keith: Who is it?
Brad: Arthur Jennings.
Keith handles the call and then comes over to me.
Keith: You know that you could have handled that by looking up his E mail and explaining it to him.
Brad: I know but he asked for you specifically. Do you want to me just handle those kind of calls and leave you out of it from now on?
Keith: No, I can take them.
Monday June 24.
I once got fired from a job on my birthday. This time I got fired from a job on my old girlfriend’s birthday. Somewhere she had to be smiling. I had spent the entire weekend debating whether or not I should quit. I wasn’t making that much money. It was making me feel more and more like a peon every single day, and I just couldn’t physically deal with getting up at 4 in the morning five times a week.
So driving to work that day, I pull out of my lot and I can tell I’ve got a flat tire. This isn’t going to make me look good, but at least I’ve got evidence. So I get there 45 minutes late and Keith is pretty curt to me all day, although he doesn’t mention my Friday absence or my being late. I ask Keigon if he was upset that I missed Friday, but he says that he didn’t hear anything.
Suddenly, a guy in the chat room shows up asking for belly shirt Debbie. Now Debbie had been really nice to me in the interview, but she was er well uh a heinous bitch to me every day after that. I kept asking people. Is it me or is she like that to everyone? Both they said.
Every time I went to Debbie with a problem she would act annoyed, deny that the problem existed, think it over for five minutes, and then do exactly what I told her she needed to do from the very beginning. One time I was pointing to something on her screen and she went completely off on me. “DO NOT TOUCH MY SCREEN!” I’m guessing that it was the hand washing E mail, but then again she always treated me like that.
On this day, I had sent her an instant message about a guy in the chat room. In the meantime I chatted “One Moment” to the customer. Debbie never responded so I went over to her desk where she promptly said about as rudely as possible “BE MORE POLITE IN THE CHAT ROOMS. TYPE ONE MOMENT PLEASE!” I look at her kind of like Charlie Brown looked at Lucy after she had pulled the football away for the 700th time.
At 2:00, I get a message from Keith. “Come see me for a moment after you are done with that call. After I hang up he takes me to the conference room with a senior guy named Brenton. “Did I do something wrong?”
“Not today” Keith says.
Keith tells me that I’m being terminated because they think I’m a sexual harassment lawsuit risk. I’m shocked. I’d been working with 99% guys and I’d been really formal and nice to all of the women.
Here’s what I got fired for.
One day right around the end of work, Keigon gets an E mail picture which he shows me. It is a back shot of a 600 pound naked fat woman.
Brad: Would you have sex with her for a million dollars?
Keigon: Hell, no
Brad: Who would you rather have sex with her or me.
Keigon: (laughing) I’m not even going to answer that
The next day was my big screw up. I rehashed the previous day’s conversation
Brad: Who would you rather sleep with Jody (another guy) or me?
Keigon: (Getting up) I’m not doing anything if it’s not with my wife
Brad: (too loudly) does that mean you’d have a threesome with a guy and your wife?
Mike hears this and thinks that I have said something bad about Keigon’s wife. I apologize to him and explain that we were just goofing around. Worried, I check with Keigon when he returns from the kitchen. He could care less. Life goes on.
So that is what I got fired for. I had had two sexual type discussions. Now, none involved the presence of women and I never even once used profanity. I tried to defend myself and say that everyone else there had said things just as bad if not worse. After all, I wasn’t showing around a picture of a naked 600 pound woman. They even used the fact that I had apologized to Keigon as evidence against me.
One guy there had a wallpaper of a nearly nude Britney Spears. I saw at least three guys looking at porn. Every girl in the place wore really tight shirts every day. One even wore (I swear to God) a shirt that said “Porn Star.”
Instead of debating with me, Keith told me that I had told somebody that I had planned to be sick 12-14 times this year.
Here was that exact conversation, which took place the first day I had gotten there.
Chris: We only get 12 sick days and vacation days here combined. So if you call in sick you use a vacation day.
Brad: Wow, that’s not very good. I used to get 8 sick days and three weeks of vacation. With my luck, I’ll probably waste all of my vacation days being sick.
Now I have no idea why it’s worse to be sick 12 days and take no vacation, than it is to be sick twice and take 10 vacation days, but Keith wasn’t impressed with my response that I had just been joking. Believe me bosses don’t get or appreciate jokes.
Here was the finale and it’s still perhaps the most amazing question that I’ve ever been asked.
Keith: Here is your final check. You are free to finish out the rest of the day.
Brad (incredulous): Uh, what do I get if I finish the day?
Keith: Well, .. nothing.
Brad: Uhh, in that case, I guess I’ll knock off early today.
Damn, now that I think about it I should have put in that last hour.
Brad: Hi, MB Trading, this is Brad
Customer: Hi, I have a question about your software
Brad: I couldn’t fucking possibly care less, I just got fired.
Now that would be well worth waking up a 4 AM to do all day. I’d probably do that for free.
Hey, I know I haven’t got the best attitude, but I really tried to do this job the best I could. I was ten times as productive and competent as any person working there and I didn’t even get a warning. You could get fired by Ronald McDonald and take my word for it, it still makes you feel like a total loser.
I swear to god. She wore a T Shirt to work that said Porn Star and I got fired for sexual harassment. Oh well, at least I don’t have to get up at 4 AM tomorrow morning.
I sent this essay to Keigon and he passed it around the office. Mark, the hand washing guy, emailed me and told me that I had become a hero around the office. Even Erick and Mike, who I had mocked, loved it. Debbie and Keith, probably not. Amazing, I was there for four weeks and everyone hated me. I send them back a ten page story making fun of everything about their daily life and I’m Big Man on Campus. I don’t think I’ll ever understand life.