There is a sect of accountants that reside on a different floor than us financial beancounters:  the dreaded ‘Taxians’.  Within that tribe there is actually a caste system where the income tax accountants assume an exalted status and the sales/property tax accountants maintain the role of plebeian form filler-outers.  In our estimation, both groups provide the same function:  to completely annoy each of us at exactly the worst times.

We have a theory here on the island that when a Taxian is hired, they are issued a sort of ‘irritation alarm clock’ device.  This contraption gauges when we are bored out of our minds versus when we are buried under an avalanche of cascading deadlines.  The alarm sounds whenever it is most inconvenient to have a visitor, and will howl until the Taxian is officially en route to antagonize his/her victim.  An interruption from an income tax accountant can be easily countered by simply ‘going away’ to somewhere peaceful in my mind, while also chanting key words like “book value” or “depreciable life”.  The real challenge is to ward off the occasional sales tax troglodyte, since no small issue is easily explained to them, and every encounter sucks the professional essence from my very soul.

To illustrate, let’s relive a real encounter from last month – picture your humble narrator, worked into a productive frenzy, and well, obviously very freaking busy:

Troll:   Hi Savage!  Do you have a second?

Me:      Of course – I was just hoping that someone would completely obliterate  my train of thought.

Troll:   Great!  I’ll just be a minute – can you tell me if we are still operating at location X?

 Me:      Hardly likely since we’ve sold every asset except the land.

 Troll:  Really, so no sales then?

Me:       Umm, more than likely – no.

 Troll:   And we still have the land?

 Me:      Even now.  Here is the rather thick purchase agreement for all the assets we did sell, go make a copy, and take your time.

 Three minutes elapse…..

 Troll:   Here is your original, thanks a bunch.

 Me:       You’re welcome, anytime.  Hey Troll, guess what??

 Troll:    What??

 Me:        You know, in those three minutes you were away – we sold the land!!

 Troll:    Really?!?

 Me:       No.


This is a bubbly Accounts Payable chick, fairly dim and oblivious, who feels the need to “out” your every arrival, departure, and absence:  “Hey Savage, I haven’t been able to catch you in your cube all day!” Or “You ALREADY outta here Savage?”  I believe my favorite situation is when I’m obviously trying to slink in a few minutes tardy without being discovered by one of Cankles’ sentries, having only a few steps to go until cube-sanctity is reached – only to receive a boisterous “Good morning Savage!  Was traffic really heavy?”

 Even more irritating is the fact that every now and then the unfortunate situation arises when a pdf-challenged individual needs to zip some vital document our way via ancient technology.  This of course means a fax will be delivered to your cube, and the Announcer dons that role with pride.  She does it with style of course, by thoroughly digesting its contents en route to the intended recipient, so that she can announce what is being placed in your inbox upon her arrival to your cube – “Looks like this one is from your Mom!”  Just yesterday I saw that some guy’s freaking prostrate exam results were on the machine – wish I could’ve been a fly on that wall!


Being in office teaming with catty hens does result in some touchy lavatory situations.  There are four distinct camps regarding bathroom etiquette:  

  • The Gross:  Those who do not care what anyone thinks about their gastrointestinal issues and lets loose without thought of cover-up (Lysol).
  • The Polluters:  Those who do care, so much so that they liberally hose down their stall (again, Lysol) and create a nuclear disinfectant mushroom cloud for others to inhale.
  • The Discrete:  Those who care greatly about keeping ‘innard discomfort’ to themselves, and therefore steel away to less frequented facilities with hopes of privacy.
  • The Phantom Pooper.

 The fourth is best described with a real-life example. The year was 2010, the lunch Taco Bell.  Being in the third camp, I slinked downstairs to the first floor bathroom with dreams of relief.  At first all the conditions seemed right:  Muzac cranking, and all stalls apparently empty and inviting – sanctuary!  But it wasn’t to be.  Lurking in the handicapped stall at the very end of the row was an infidel.  The two little feet that were hiding in the shadowy stall were very, very still.  It was if nobody was there at all, and my instincts were telling me to wait it out.  I therefore chose my position carefully, allowing for a 2 stall buffer, and waited for her to flush and leave.  Surely this Phantom Pooper would make a move at some point, but no – she had the patience of a sniper!

 I held out as long as I could, then completed a token flush and exited my stall. Forlornness and despair overwhelmed me for a second, but then another person entered the restroom.  Raising fist in air, I let out a sinister chuckle – you just bought yourself another duel Phantom Pooper!

 

Update 8/30:  a strange, new, yet equally vile inhabitant has come to the Island – the “Preemptive Striker!”  Apparently this woman has had major run-ins with the “Gross” (see category 1), because she has a rather drastic stall routine:  after entering her favorite station, locking the door, and applying the paper ass-gasket to the seat, she does the most peculiar thing:  she makes her “barrier!”  This involves the heavy spraying of Lysol to all open areas above and below the stall walls, basically making her the ‘lady in the disinfectant bubble’.  I wonder if she has suffered from some sort of bathroom ambush in the past that has left her deeply scarred.  My fellow savage and I have each witnessed one of these hose-downs, but, because we were already ‘installed’ (get it, get it?) we do not know who it is. 

Update 7/1:  I now know.  It is the new receptionist.  I was in ‘my’ stall, when a person came into the restroom and entered the fourth one down from me.  The hosing began and seemed to last forever.  I decided I HAD to know who this stall dowser was!  I waited patiently for her to do her thing, flush, and exit to the sink area.  She did, then I did – and now I know.  How anti-climactic.  Hell, she probably thinks I’m a Phantom Pooper!


Puppetmaster’s Nazi administrative assistant (picture Seinfeld “Man Hands”) is responsible for two vital functions on the Island:  she is the official keeper of the department calendar, and is chief fund raiser of various gifts for our leader.  

The all-important calendar is where we record all vacations, off-property travels, and various appointments that preclude us being jailed in our cubes at different times.  Forgetting to indicate your planned absence on the calendar will result in audible Elder speculation, coupled with the dreaded “stink-eye” from Cankles upon your re-surfacing.  

We also have a very unique situation on the Island, where apparently the leader makes far less money than us minions, so Deranged Assistant takes it upon herself to blackmail crusade for extravagant birthday and Christmas presents for the Puppetmaster.  Whatever do you get a man who lacks for absolutely nothing?  The latest electronics and big wads of cash represented by handfuls of gift cards of course!  It is during these ‘drives’ that she reminds us of all of the wonderful things that he affords us – by God such decency should be rewarded!  What says “thanks for the employment” more than a $200 gift card to Home Depot?  We therefore place cash in her secret manila envelope – and always, always, while she is looking or else no credit is received – knowing full well that the second we exit her cube she will be checking to see what your contribution was.  If your deposit does not compare favorably to that of your peers, or if you failed to make one – even after the soliciting email had been dispatched countless times – then you will become a pariah and publicly crucified.  This is accomplished by exclaiming to those who have conformed “thanks for helping, not everyone cared as much to do so, I guess xxx is too busy”. 

Deranged Assistant also thinks it is very important that you are kept abreast of her various travels and activities.  She is also 100% certain that you care and are truly interested in her every endeavor, so she vigorously plies everyone with photo albums the second she returns.  I am enjoying a memory right now of her Grand Canyon hike!  All of the amazing pictures and their captions!  “Me with nameless strangers”, “Me by the burro”, “Me with many rocks” – I simply cannot wait for the next excursion so that I might continue to live vicariously through her adventuring self!  

Finally, Deranged Assistant is completely unselfish and knows that each of us are on the edge of our seats to learn her every thought and feeling.  Even the most minor things are not denied, so as she walks through the Island she thinks aloud:  “I’m cold”, “I’m hungry”, “Who has the Chinese food?”, or my favorite:  “These shoes are tight”.


Each member of the Island positions herself differently in her cube – your Humble Narrator faces a corner so that I have a monitor on each side of my face, as well as ample work area.  This setup is not without its downfalls however, because some of the Elders do not abide by certain personal space rules.  Should anybody complete a textbook cubicle ambush, I can be mercilessly pinned into my little nook – without the ability to turn around and face the attacker head on. 

It won’t be easy to tell this tale, as I’ve woke many a night drenched in sweat and shaking furiously, but I feel it would be irresponsible to keep it to myself.  

It was the winter of 2008, the sky was very overcast, and the mood on the Island was dark.  I had just finished closing for the month – or so I thought – when brittle old Bony Elder came tottering into my cube.  She was returning some work for me to adjust to her liking, so she placed it in front of me and started to explain.  That was when it happened.  She leaned over my left shoulder (this is the rough part, hold me) and each of her skinny boobs came to rest on either side of my upper arm (holy water balloons Batman!)  I couldn’t convince her fast enough that I knew exactly what I needed to do, and thanks for coming by!  I think the incident lasted 15 seconds, but to me – an eternity!  

I had barely forgotten that tragic day when it happened again last week.  This time, it was <blinks back tears> – Cankles!  I had a question about the fixed asset system, and had it pulled up on my screen to illustrate my issue, so she trundled over and I was pinned again.  Instead of the “one on each side of my arm” maneuver, she opted for the “plop them on either shoulder” routine.  Yes, my head actually divided her two girls for her, and my shoulders provided the reinforcement they no doubt yearned for.  Again, I could not insist that I had obtained clarity on my asset issue fast enough! 

I have to go now, as the shivering is making it hard to type….


Upon graduation, every accountant not only receives a parchment symbolizing commitment to a life of diminishing eyesight, but also his/her own personal candy bowl!  Acceptance of the bowl is a contract entered into in which the accountant promises to maintain a certain daily chocolate level that will ensure maximum expansion of your bottom over the span of your career.  

Here on the Island, we Financial Accountants share our floor with two other accounting clans – here is the candy bowl to butt ratio (estimated) of each group:

Financial Accountants  1:1

Tax Accountants              1:1.5

AP Clerks                              2:2 

We Islanders also supplement our candy bowl diets with birthday breakfasts.  Deranged Assistant is in charge of maintaining the annual calendars, published for all to see and be alerted to various agings of various beancounters. Should your name be on the calendar, you will walk in on your birthday morning to a cube teeming with baked goods.  Then, the rest of the day you are forced to receive guests proffering forth phony wishes in order to get fed.  Then, once the grazing has been deemed sufficient by the Tribal Elders, you get the pleasure of marching all the leftovers into the big kitchen for the rest of the company vultures to feed off from.  It is very Serengeti. 

Finally, there are monthly luncheons in the chairs from hell.  All accounting clans march through a buffet trough and then squeeze into tiny tables that could comfortably seat six, but in this case bulge with ten of our ample rumps.  The chairs can only be likened to a praying mantis or sea anemone, because it detects human backside, it clamps on for dear life.  Should you attempt to escape the iron maiden chair it usually will accompany you.  I’ve chosen this moment to give visual aids a try! 

Pre-ass chair of death:                    

Chair of death with victim firmly in its clutches:

It is at this time that I realize I should have included a warning disclaimer about the violent content of this post – my sincerest apologies.  This victim did eventually escape and is alive and well in her cube.  Also, no accountants were hurt in the filming of the event.

 


One of Puppetmaster’s favorite things to do is to have Deranged Assistant arrange for all of his catty minions to congregate.  It is usually for meetings, but he will sometimes orchestrate awkward outings for us to, ahem, enjoy. 

The meetings, known to the Savages as the “BDHC”, or the Beating of the Dead Horse Club, have to be – no offense to you, Spanish Inquisition – the most painful events since the dawn of time.  We meet in the conference room around the vast table, and an individual is chosen to lead.  This is normally the one of us that forgot to pee beforehand, and raced to the bathroom at the last minute – only to return after the meeting was underway. The newly shamed accountant is then forced to choose the order at which we each update the group to the status of various projects.  The majority of us aren’t working on anything other than the typical things we do 12 months out of the year, so it is very common to get a lot of “got nothing” responses.  

It is when the next person chosen is noticed possessing a pile of “handouts” that there is a huge audible group sigh – and thus the beating begins.  After the awkward passing around of the assorted schedules phase, we launch into an all encompassing discussion of whatever boring schedule had just been distributed by the newly appointed most-hated person in the department.  Our entire group begins scratching and clawing for kudos from Puppetmaster, and leave our mostly sane bodies to transform into a coven of witches, stirring a cauldron of bubbling spreadsheets.  The critiques fly!  “More pivot tables!”  “More columns!”  “I can’t read this without my glasses!”  It goes on and on.  After watching enough of this cockfight (minus the … nevermind), Puppetmaster releases us back into the wild and we return to our usual states. 

The outings get more interesting.  Puppetmaster has Deranged Assistant plan lunches at various restaurants for us to attend.  We give her our order in advance, and then we meet up at the chosen restaurant and jockey to sit close to those in our assorted cliques.  There are so many of us crammed around the table that even if you are lucky to be close to your clan, you will still be well within Elder stink-eye range.  He has even had Deranged Assistant organize a few lunches at Dave n’ Busters if you can believe it.  What screams “fun” more than a group of 40-65 year old catty wenches playing skeeball?  Perhaps a no holds-barred air hockey match versus Cankles?  Who will be the first to break a hip at Pop-a-Shot?  So far they have been non-eventful, but who knows about next time???


She was born a Midwest Preacher’s daughter – the youngest of her brood.  I’m unsure if it was her upbringing that conditioned her to use the weird little girl voice, or to employ Schoolmarm vernacular, but something in her life made a big enough impression on her that she uses terms like “potty” and “naughty” regularly as an adult.  And, no, she isn’t speaking to her Grandkids when she uses these words – she is talking to us:  Savages, Neutrals, and her fellow Elders alike.  It is not uncommon to have her drag into my cube in order to alert me of my “naughtiness” in not completing something to her satisfaction. 

This behavior, coupled with the “Big 3” I outlined last week (Condescension, Badmouthing, Tattling, oh my!), made it very difficult for a prideful person like your humble narrator to adapt in my early goings on the island.  It was ugly from the onset, and I resisted and fought the Tribal Elder system until, like my own personal Appomattox, I gave in and surrendered to the side that would no doubt be victorious.   

Thus I was reborn into a work-life void of spine!  It is also chock-full of brownnosing to the point of silliness.  Veiled sarcasm that borders on hilarity is the only defense system destined to be successful against Puppetmaster and his beloved Cankles.  It has worked beautifully, so much so this Island exists and thrives. 

The most recent example:  I call this plan “Operation Befriend the Battleaxe”, or “OBB”. It came to pass that I volunteered to take up the slack for Ghoul – a horrible three-faced accountant and second Evil Twin (stay tuned for more info!), who needed heavy assistance with one of her projects.  I of course said I would do it with relish, even though in my mind I know that this particular project is where accountants go to die – hence the undertaking was fraught with peril!  I worked my humble butt off trying to interpret her work product and it really put me in danger of not meeting my own deadlines.  To say that Ghoul’s work is shoddy is a huge understatement – she doesn’t even staple straight.  I spent days trying to reconcile accounts that made zero sense, so in a moment of horrible frustration I devised a plan to do the unthinkable: cry on the meaty shoulder that belongs to the one, the only, Cankles!  I found her in the kitchen, and like a cattle dog I nipped at her sturdy heels until she was cornered – then I let it out, all of it.  She listened, and then related frustrations of her own about Ghoul – it was incredible really – she gushed on and on about how she is also experiencing crazy problems trying to help out with another one of her projects that is in complete disarray.  What a moment – we laughed, we cried, we held each other – it was a real “come to Jesus” scene.  It was at this point that she said she was going to go to bat for me with Puppetmaster, and to just take my time and do the best I could.  She even drug into my cube later to whisper (complete with post-toast breath) that she had completed the conversation with him, and that I would be given a pass! 

So “OBB” goes well for now.  Yes, I have sold most of my soul, but it had to be done (desperate time/measures/the whole bit).  There was clearly no other way.

 


On my second interview here, Puppetmaster asked me how I would feel about working with other accountants who didn’t exactly operate under the definition of professionalism, but had been here so long, and had accumulated so much experience, that they were given some leeway in that regard.  I of course, desperately wanting gainful employment, proffered up my most enthusiastic support for those dedicated trailblazers that have loyally devoted years of their lives to ensure this company grow and thrive!  Well, after accepting “Best Actress” and officially becoming one of Puppetmaster’s minions, I showed up to work on my first day primed and ready to earn my keep on the Island.

On my first day I learned I would have a trainer (who has been with the company for over 25 years!) who would mentor me through my first two years – enter “Cankles”.  She would initially be referred to as “Battleaxe”, and then just “Axe”, but after a solid six months under her tutelage I determined she could only be dubbed “Cankles”.   To say she is a thick woman is like saying Brad Pitt is hot, or Kirstie Alley’s diet didn’t work out. Such a heartless nickname would not be necessary, and would be downright ugly if she wasn’t evil to the core – which she is.

Examples of such hideous behavior include:

 Condescension.  As “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” would say, “It ain’t fittin, it just ain’t fittin” for a professional to talk so “down” to another peer.  Making this even worse is the fact that it is done in a high, little girl voice – sorry, I just threw up a little.

 Badmouthing.  She has no qualms about announcing your mistakes aloud, whether on the phone or in person.  The problem with this is that it is not ME that she is talking to, but rather someone else and it is ME that is overhearing the discussion.

 Tattling.  She has the ear of Puppetmaster, and arrives before anyone else does each and every day in order to catch him up on all of our scandelous behavior.  She tells him everything, embellishing tales of fiendish accounting mistakes and late returnings from lunches.  If we ran late that morning, we know that it will be recorded in her secret “Hall Monitor” log that we all know is hidden in her cabinet.  Everything we know that she knows has ended up word for word in our annual reviews administered by Puppetmaster – picture her as Deep Throat!  Sorry, just threw up again…

That’s enough for now, more behavioral nuggets will be shared in future chapters.  For now I need to explain the “dragging” and then be off.  Many people here at the Island are what I call “Cube Ambushers”, and are able to sweep into my space unannounced before I am able to turn around.  I am therefore penned deep within my own work area, unable to escape without addressing what it is the Ambusher came to discuss.  The better Ambushers can do this in complete stealth, so that the first sound they make directly behind me results in instant heart attack, and causes me to instinctually sling my mechanical pencil straight into a ceiling tile.  Anyway, Cankles does not posses any Ambusher traits, and in fact drags her hooves along the carpet in such a heavy manner that I am alerted to her presence before she can pen me in.  This allows me to straighten up (if slumping), and begin to type, 10-key, print several pages of stuff, etc, at a feverish pace, lest I become the subject of her next session with Puppetmaster (see “Tattling” section).