The struggle became existential fast. By Friday, I still had more licences — one — than orders — none — and I was wondering whether there were some kind of cyber-wall or force field around me which diverted orders like an aircraft carrier’s defence systems deflect missiles.
I felt like some rare but loveable ungulate putting its muzzle through the bars of its zoo enclosure, begging to be fed titbits by visitors ignorant or contemptuous of the admonition, “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL”. I checked the legal disclaimer which appends all my written correspondence at Salvation Bank to check whether there might be an explicit or even an implicit deterrent contained within. There wasn’t. It appears I am to broking what a drowning man is to deep-sea diving: a statistically irrelevant example of what can go wrong.
As I strode on to the trading floor, a man with a plan and licensed to fill, my line manager greeted me warmly. The look of hope and expectation on his face was heartbreaking. You know, I think even up to that moment he actually believed what I had claimed in my interview. God bless his gullible soul. “Make it rain,” he implored as I lowered myself into the seat and gave my best impersonation of a salesman infused with the irrepressible spirit of mercantilism.
Man with a Plan became Desperate Dan in short order, though. By the time I arrived at work on Friday morning I met with the same kind of disengagement as a checkout clerk bidding you to "Have a nice day", although the tone implies it’s a matter of utter indifference to her whether you drop dead in the parking lot 10 seconds later.
First week blues
What I had hoped for was an initial flurry of orders from friendly faeces I mean faces then after that momentum began to fade slightly I would establish a regular drip of business, just enough to keep me afloat. What I got was a brick wall of disinterest into which I ran headlong, a deeper lull, a stirring up of apathy then a gradual mutation into a full-blown desuetude. My first week has now passed at the speed of a funeral cortege and a cumulonimbus of despair squats above my desk just waiting to be cloudseeded.
To make matters worse and the scores on the doors look even more unfavourable, I put my expenses in for my maiden business trip and it became apparent that £3k for a two day-trip which generated goodwill but nothing else was less than good value. Because I had travelled before my corporate Amex was delivered I paid for everything up front on my personal credit card.
I spent two days trying to work out how to use this stupid, inflexible and user-unfriendly Concur expense system which simply could not process bills in Czech koruna and, Gentle Reader, they were legion. I’m hoping it’s just an unfamiliar currency causing the delay in repayment and not that the algorithm has been able to decipher the receipts and spotted a discrepancy between what I claim was coffee and cake with a buy-side analyst but actually translates from the original Slavic as "soapy massage".
Not having drawn a salary since January and not having been at Salvation Bank long enough to receive a pay cheque yet, this cash flow hiatus was enough to send The Pained Trader into humiliating overdraft. It was like being a student all over again; living off loose change in my pedestal drawer, eating other people’s food from the fridge in the office, taking all foreign currency from various trips abroad to the post office and exchanging it at egregious rates and pretending to forget my wallet when, o joy of joys, my wife and I made a midweek supermarket jaunt.
When my inability to pay for my kids’ pizza delivery meant I could no longer keep my indebtedness secret, my wife was incredulous. “What happened to the payoff from Chaucer Securities?” This wasn’t the time to tell her that some of my afternoons during my long time out made Charlie Sheen look like a choirboy nor to show her how the gaps in my cellar have been replenished with every Brunello di Montalcino from 2010 that was still on sale. I just told her it was on a time deposit which surprised and thrilled her in equal measure so she bailed me out.
I was disappointed that some clients, when broached on the possibility of a ‘Welcome order’, were unwilling to let bygones be bygones and overlook some of the less than prophetic calls I made on stocks and markets back in the depths of January before I left Chaucer. Over the course of the first half did they sweeten in the sun like a cluster of grapes on the vine or did they rot horribly? I don’t even need to answer that question. I have the market nous of a Native American Indian selling Montana for a row of coloured beads and a bottle of whisky. I disowned and denied everything. That was then and this is now. The past is a foreign country: it’s worse there than it is here. Of course, if I had still been involved in the cut and thrust of the markets I would have changed almost all my calls. While I was away from them, though, the markets went on regardless, above my heads, massive and uncaring.
Tell me: do you agree that it is always better to have people wondering why you haven’t been successful rather than why you have been?