From the Wilds of Manhattan
Work Like Wall Street:
Earn Like Main Street
Photo by Joy E. Stocke
Ever since he cheered John F. Kennedy’s presidential election in 1960, Desk Jockey has always seen himself on the right side of history—which is to say, the left side.
He whimpered—okay, bawled—when Humphrey conceded the 1968 election to Richard Nixon. He got majorly verklempt when George McGovern lost every state in the Union (except Scott Brown’s Massachusetts) in the 1972 presidential race.
And Desk Jockey was so proud of Barack Obama’s win in November 2008 that he stood in sub-freezing temperatures for two hours in Times Square, cheering every moment of the inauguration via jumbo screen.
But now, when everyone from earnest liberals to Tea Party animals diss the investment bankers who earn big salaries and even bigger bonuses, Desk Jockey hereby departs from his flock.
He not only understands these bankers’ high salaries, he positively envies them. Because Desk Jockey has also worked these Wall-Street-hour weeks, earning one-quintillionth of the bankers’ coin.
The recession is NOT over
Don’t be misled by the temporary blips downward in joblessness and upward in the stock market. Companies are still in a recessionary, sorry-not-hiring-right-now mode.
This is most evident in the widget company for which Desk Jockey writes new business proposals. His job, loyal Wild River Review readers may recall, is convincing Company A to purchase widgets from his firm, rather than the sorry lot known as the competition.
Unfortunately, due to the targets’ natural reluctance to change widget firms during bad times, the firm has been losing the race for new clients to that sorry lot known as the competition.
Failure to win has consequences. As you might expect, none of them are good.
The reason our widget company loses is not the quality of the proposal (how could it be bad? Desk Jockey is the writer.). No, time after time, the competition has a leg up on us in one or several other ways: greater familiarity with the subject matter, or personal acquaintance with the client, or lower rates. Sometimes all three.
Do the math
The torrent of proposals show no sign of abating, as current clients decide to take advantage of a down market and threaten to leave us, if we don’t lower our rates. That causes our firm—and its widget proposal writers—to scramble even harder.
More proposals + No additional writers hired = longer work weeks.
You can’t even wish you’d gotten a law degree or MBA any more—because these highly educated graduates are facing the same squeeze too.
Why a 91-hour work week? Why not?
Throughout his 35 years as an FTE (full-time equivalent, for you normal, non-business-buzzword types), Desk Jockey has always worked hard. But there was invariably a carrot at the end of the stick: a 20 percent raise, or more vacation time, or a promotion, or even a small bonus for a job well done. Sometimes, all of the above.
These carrots have gone the way of Americans’ good will toward President Obama. No raises. No small bonuses (and certainly no big bonuses.).
Now, “comp days”—compensation for extra hours worked—are Saturday and Sunday. Weekends, which used to be considered off-limits, are often considered work days. And if you have plans Saturday night, and the widget proposal is due Monday morning, you know what you can do with your Saturday night plans.
The Friday Night/Saturday Night/and Every Other Night Massacre
Desk Jockey’s most famous (or infamous) illustration of this principle was a recent week when he was given an assignment on Friday at 5 p.m. He was told he would have the weekend off, because the proposal wasn’t actually due until nine days later, but that the following weekend he would have to work.
Digging further, he discovered that unfortunately, he would have to work bothweekends, including the next day, Saturday, beginning at 830 a.m.
Desk Jockey, who was beginning to feel like an EMS technician on ER (except that no one was dying) obliged and showed up Saturday at 830 a.m. He then showed up the following day, Sunday, at 11 am.
He then proceeded to work Monday till 2 a.m., Tuesday till midnight, Wednesday till 3 a.m., and Thursday till 4 a.m. All told, the hours for the week amounted to 91.
After four straight days of working, and managing edits, Desk Jockey was soon expressing his feelings about working these hours by leaning over the toilet bowl in his apartment, sick to his stomach.
When he called into the office after the 4 a.m. work night to get an update on the status of the proposal, he wasn’t congratulated for his hard work, or told to take the morning off.
He was upbraided by one of the principals for leaving out some very minor detail that came in at 10 p.m. the previous night.
After three hours’ sleep, Desk Jockey dragged himself to the office, printed out a page from the proposal, and attempted to prove to the principal that he had indeed not neglected to put in that detail. The principal refused to look at it, because that would be an admission that he, the principal, was wrong.
Desk Jockey was then removed from the proposal, because he was too “argumentative.”
As Billy Pilgrim, hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five would say, and so it goes.
Haiti and Chile who?
During the 91-hour work week, Desk Jockey was so consumed by work that he was barely aware that an earthquake had struck Haiti and that thousands of its citizens had lost their homes, their lives, or both.
Events like the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes give one pause.
For no matter how hellacious your own life seems, there are others who are suffering far greater torments than you.
On the other hand, Desk Jockey finally understands why those “overpaid” bankers are demanding their huge bonuses and compensation. They too work 19-hour days, seven days a week. They have families they never see, and houses they never get to live in. They, too, are badgered by clients who don’t understand. They take vacations where they are tethered to their offices by their Crackberries.
It’s only right that these people—whom Desk Jockey suddenly understands completely—get something out of the deal, besides broken marriages, thick waistlines, and gray hair at age 35.
There, he’s said it.
What to do?
As Desk Jockey mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the recession is still roaring. This means that staying in an abusive job beats leaving the abusive job, because no matter what adjective precedes the word “job”, it is still, in the end, a job.
But just because positive consumer sentiment has disappeared, doesn’t mean the carrot has to go as well.
Desk Jockey’s advice (easy to give and impossible to follow) is, create your own carrot. Have a plan whereby you are not forever linked to a regularly scheduled paycheck. Pay off your mortgage faster. Get rid of credit card debt. Live within your means, not beyond them.
And finally, follow the dictates of Voltaire’s Candide who, confronted by death and destruction of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, rejects Doctor Pangloss’s vision that things happen for the best “in the best of all possible worlds.” Instead, Candide says, “we must tend to our own garden.”
In other words, if you can mange it, chill, baby.
Searching Rubble – San Francisco Earthquake – 1906
Courtesy of the New York Public Library
August Cosentino is a professional writer who cycles passionately, eats discriminately, attends theatre religiously, Facebooks constantly, and as the photo indicates, is as good to his mother as he was to his father who passed away in 2012. He lives in Manhattan with his two carbon-fiber bicycles, and G.
ARTICLES BY AUGUST COSENTINO
AIRMAIL – From the Wilds of Manhattan
The End of the Bucket List
Fifty Shades of Pain: Cycling the Pyrenees, One Mountain Pass at a Time
Go West Young Desk Jockey
Greece: It’s a Riot
How Many Facebook Friends Are Too Many?
Marylebone and Me
The Sandwich Generation: Eldercare and Me
Scandinavia, The Great Escape
Welcome to the Jungle: Is Mad Men Really About Advertising
Work Like Wall Street: Earn Like Main Street