A Good Day on the Job

The main character in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities is a bond trader. There is an amusing scene in the book when the character is attempting to answer his young son, who has asked him what his occupation is.  It goes something like: “Hmm. Well, you know the bridges that we cross when we come in and out of the city,” he says.  “You build bridges!,” the child responds excitedly.  “Well, no, but…”

As difficult as it would be to explain bond trading to a child, I imagine that for a hedge fund manager who rakes in billions of dollars per year with a computer program that executes trades with lightning speed–never intending to hold onto a security, but only to grab quick profits as the price moves on the trades of others–it would be even harder.

But in fairness, I suppose someone has to shuffle the money around.  It wasn’t so many years ago that I was pretty good at cleaning up the messes those folks often made, and The Man would toss me a few of his crumbs for my effort.  I could have generally described my job to my young son, but the daily specifics would have been challenging to explain.

I had a pretty good day on the job yesterday. Some of the things I did not do: I did not obtain a temporary injunction, or effectively cross-examine an expert witness, or win a summary judgment motion, or discover a fatal technical deficiency in a pleading, or jet off to the other side of the world to interview a witness, or schmooze a client at a fancy restaurant, or eat Tylenol and drink coffee all day, or come home stressed long after the family had gone to bed, or sleep in an airplane seat, or cancel a family vacation due to an emergency hearing. Some of the things I did do: I tended to farm animals, I weeded beets and lettuce, I picked vegetables for the farmers market, I spent all day with my wife, I watched the sunrise and the sunset, I stayed home all day, I went to bed tired.

If a child should ask me to describe my job, I could do it.