Friday, October 03, 2014

25 Stories About Work - Industrial Decay

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Somewhere in a Northwest Indiana formerly industrial city, the 90's...

We had a utility client in Northwest Indiana. The city used to be a large industrial town but had been hit hard by various plant closings and also the rout of the US steel industry in the 70's and the 80's. A friend of mine joked that you wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur walking around the abandoned ruins of the nearby towns and city. For some reason I thought that was really funny after working there for a while.

At our client they had multiple buildings that were connected by walk ways that were sometimes rounded or with all around glass. We called them the "habitrail" just like the hamster homes you could buy for your pets.

The work onsite at the client was grim. I was given the least exciting areas to audit, the balance sheet and plant accounting. The balance sheet had assets that were not documented that were stagnant for years. At that point in auditing all you did was to re-word the notes from the prior year accounts and then put them back in this years' file. After just a few hours as a novice auditor I pointed out that the notes didn't make sense and started to do a bunch of new analytics when they told me to stop and just gave me something else to do. This is where you get the joke
Why did the accountant cross the road? Because they did it last year.
If you tell that joke to an accountant I am telling you they will laugh their heads off. It isn't really funny to anyone else but it sums up the drudgery of what auditing used to be.

One day the partner came out. Now we were all packed in a grimy little room. These were also the days when you could smoke like a chimney in the office and we all wore wool suits so I might as well have smoked 3 packs a day too. I stunk. It was after noon and I was hungry and I broke the silence by asking if we were going out to lunch. The whole room swiveled their heads at me and I got a tongue lashing later from the manager. I wasn't supposed to talk or ask any questions while the partner was on site. Live and learn.

Driving to Indiana from downtown Chicago was a long effort. The air conditioning in my car wasn't great so I'd usually just drive in a T shirt and change when I got near the facility. One time I was pumping gas in a gas station nearby when the auto shut off didn't work and I got gasoline all over my suit. That did not make for a pleasant afternoon of work.

Another time when I was pumping gas a deranged, toothless local came up to me with his arms waving.
Don't sign the deed! he screamed. Don't sign the deed!
I didn't.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

2 comments:

Mark said...

Ha - never heard that accountant joke. Good stuff; keep it coming.

Terry from Crown Point said...

Love the reference to habitrails for humans. Took my mind to images of futuristic scenes from old sci-fi movies and artwork.