|Posted on 2004-12-06 02:19:03 by Denver|
My hair was falling out. I kept brushing it off my shoulder and picking it out between the keys, hoping that tall brunette secretary two cubes down wasn't watching. Global Compliance made their secretaries sit in half cubes. I'm a fan of the full wall cubes because of the privacy. She could see me picking my nose, scratching my ass or surfing the internet. She looked like she could be on crank she was so skinny. I was seated at a desk three feet above the ground, my feet folded under the chair like a rag doll - staring at a spreadsheet titled 'september 30 regulatory exam reporting presentation'. Next to my computer sat a thick hardcopy of the spreadsheet - over five hundred pages with thousands of horizontal entries. My task was to analyze the comments on the regulatory reviews of every citigroup subsidiary and decide whether they should be noted on a separate worksheet that lists negative regulatory issues (red flags) that have been raised about each citigroup business. For instance, regulators in greece caught a citibank atm issuing counterfeit bills to their customers. I noted that this has not been flagged on the worksheet titled "closed exams with open issues" and highlighted that column in yellow.
The fourth floor at 425 park ave., - the citigroup global compliance unit- was lit like a submarine. No windows. Clam shaped sconces screwed to the walls between each office door. Files were piled everywhere - in doorways, all over the floor, under desks, balanced on top of fax machines, inserted in to room-length metal grills called "accordions". Overweight secretaries wobbled past their cubes to the coffee room like drunk humpty dumptys and men with mustaches and bifocals compared the merits of Ben Affleck as a possible democratic presidential candidate. Everyone seemed to be on task ensuring that none of the bazillion citigroup businesses broke the laws in any of the hundred and eighty countries we did business in.
I was starting to get hemorrhoids. Luckily I had noticed it before I left home this morning and grabbed some of those preparation H pellets. I went to the restroom, stuck one in my ass, and tried to go for a walk at lunch time. I made it about two blocks before the pain became too excruciating. The phone rang. It was my mother.
-how are you doing Den?
-well, i could lose my job any day and I'm currently sitting in a windowless cubicle in a building that is one the top five targets on Osama Bin Laden's list, doing a mindless tedious monotonous cut and paste job on a spreadsheet eight hours a day. And I have hemorrhoids. And Cecile is going to break it off with me because i'm thirty five and don't have any income security.
-you have hemorrhoids?
-are you exercising?
-i did for the first time in a month the other day
- that might be what did it. (pause) you've never said anything nice about that woman before.
-that was a defense mechanism mom
-your sister told me she ran over a family of poor people in an SUV and didn't feel anything.
-yeah, well...she has a problem with compassion. She's working on it. we're going out to dinner tonight.
-(disapproving tone) Denver. (pause) Your sisters been having dreams about Johnny.
-(disapproving tone) oh god. that's too bad.
-(disapproving tone) don't be judgmental.
-i can judge that situation just fine. he's got a lot of problems and it wouldn't be a good match.
-that's not for you to say. It's none of your business.
-you brought it up. it is my business. it's my sister. and there's nothing wrong with judging that relationship.
-listen. there was a man who was driving a boat down a river in Viet Nam. Another boat came along and side swiped him and kept going. The man got very angry at the other driver of the boat and wanted to hurt the driver. He was filled with rage. He chased after the other boat and caught up to it only to discover that there was no driver. He realized he was angry at no one.
-that's a parable. Think about it.
-Don't be so quick to judge.
-I gotta go back up to my cubicle.
-Okay son. I love you.
-I love you too mom.
After I went to the bathroom I came back to my cube. My boss was waiting for me.
"This is a list of global compliance contacts. I need you to update it with the most up to date business division and contact information. Use the online Global Employee Directory."
How many f$%#ng hours of my adult life have I devoted to list maintenance at Citigroup?
I began entering names into the directory, a tedious maneuver that involved copying and pasting with the right click of the mouse. My hips began to fuse with my pelvis and I began to wonder what Candy Wang, eighth name on my list, the citigroup international documentation officer in central Taiwan, was doing to keep from flinging herself out of her office window.
Jake, the secretary for the hook nosed woman down the hall, was staring at me over our adjoining cubicle wall.
"Whatcha working on?" he asked, nosily.
"Oh. I'm fixing a list." I sighed, "Global compliance contacts."
"It's kind of interesting" I lied, "I'm beginning to understand the different global business divisions in the company."
Jake's eyes rolled to the ceiling in disbelief and he was silent.
'Well,' I thought, 'At least I'm still not going on auditions for sprint cell phone commercials that I have a thousand in one chance of getting cast in. where you have to strip nude and make fun of yoga and shill for fried chicken chains and phone companies that are ripping off poor people and blocking free internet access. At least I don't do that anymore.'
I know a lot about Jake. He goes on these auditions for corporate commercials and makes his little subversive avant garde films on the weekends. His behavior is suspiciously close to my own. Sometimes I fashioned my life as some kind of Wallace Stevens journey- huddled over the corporate desk day after day, heart wrenching verse popping into my head on the subway - but it was always a guy like Jake who would snap me out of that delusion. Jake is also a green belt in tae kwan do. I know this because I overhear him bragging about his 'physical artistry' and how many boards he breaks in half at class whenever Debbie, the brunette secretary down the hall, visits his cubicle.
Debbie is the secretary for Nick. Nick sits across the hall from my cube. He wears jeans and a sports jacket and has a nose hair creeper. He is constantly making loud, sneering remarks about bank regulators. I like to think of Nick as the cowboy compliance officer. I like to think of Jake as kind of a new age weenie. Lately I've been thinking more about Debbie, who sits behind me and stares at the back of my head and has been watching my hair fall out. She has a two hundred dollar raven colored cut and dye job and is skinny as a stork. I think it's drugs but she has an awfully expensive haircut for a drug addict. She has the looks of hard living - cohabitating with the wrong man for too long and a bar room pallor. Every time I come back from the coffee room (today on the hot plate they are serving Vanilla Fantasia and Amaretto Almond) she gazes up from her global compliance computer monitor and flashes me a smile- inviting me to come over and break the ice. I can't. She is a symbol of sadness- of heartbreak and desperation. Of compliance.
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