Thursday, March 20, 2008

Post# 5 - "I Can't Believe It's A Job!"

Growing up in small town Nova Scotia I had a variety of jobs early in my life and was happy to get them for the most part. The first 'real' job I can remember having other than a paper route, was cutting and clearing brush for power line right of ways. That was when I was about twelve. It involved being intimate with a chainsaw. I also had a few summer jobs which all revolved around picking things. In the summer it was strawberries, blueberries and cranberries. I also made hay every summer, but that wasn't a picking job, per se. Mostly piling bales of hay and it sucked!

When I was fifteen I spent the summer vacation in Boston with my mom and step dad Frank. Frank drove a black station wagon for the McCool Funeral Home in Boston. He was the guy that picked up the bodies from wherever they might find themselves after passing on to other less earthly plains. From hospitals, retirement homes, peoples houses and sometimes hanging in closets for three weeks. I was Frank's helper for that summer and to this day it still creeps me out. I won't bother telling you too many details, but all you need to know is, I spent the summer, in a heat wave, in Boston, picking up dead bodies and delivering them to a funeral home. Eeeeeech!
When I started university, I spent my summers and off times operating my own painting company. It helped me tremendously to get through without incurring too much debt. It was pretty much what my idea of a job was, working long hard hours for enough money to get by and thinking it was great.

None of my labour related experiences prepared me for what was to become, by far, my most thrilling and fulfilling career direction. I feel absolutely blessed to have had the opportunity to have a job that most people could only dream of having. Amazingly it felt like this job was as much a source of entertainment as it was a career. It was unique and exciting!
After I got over the hate I had on for capitalism, which took about two paychecks and I started to actually pay attention to the details of my job, I realized that I was in a very enviable and interresting position. If I were to start taking this job even a little seriously, I thought I could earn enough money to do whatever I wanted after five years or so. I would later realize how insane that thought was because in THIS business, probably more than ANY other, the more you made the more you spent. Man...did we spend!
Being on the Arb wire and getting to know the cast of characters on the floor at the Exchange was an absolutely life altering experience. I used to believe that ALL stock broker, trader types were stereotypical tight assed money obsessed anal idiots. As I later came to realize, for most of the people I worked with, nothing could be further from the truth. The group of individuals who made up the population and work force on the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange were the most diverse, grounded, funny, serious, professional, goofy, hard working, hard playing and just plain GOOD people you could ever want to be associated with. As with most things in life, there were of course exceptions to the rule.

There was a certain air of cockiness that came with the job and the territory and we earned every bit of it. When people came to the Exchange to the visitors galery, or on the floor, they were enevitably amazed and excited about the whole energy driven environment. It was a magical place where dreams were manufactured, and in some cases actually made to come true. It was equally true that many dreams were left lifeless on the floor like so many dead orders at the end of the trading day. None the less, this was a place of dreams and how many other jobs could make that boast.
When you went to a bar for drinks after work and people found out that you were a floor trader at the TSE, there was an absolute respect and awe, sometimes begrudgingly, that was palpable. At the absolute risk of sounding chauvenistic and elitist, office girls would swoon and office guys would leer with envy. We were the front line warriors in the battle for the buck. We were the mercenaries, the secret hand-signaling heartless bastard capitalists that everyone wanted to be, or be associated with. In the words of Gordon Gecco, "Greed is good"!
It was a really good feeling to tell someone I was a floor trader and have them look at me completely differently from that moment on.
It was a fact that we did indeed fuel our own image by being hard partiers, huge tippers and aggressive ladies men. This was because we could...and we did! When you went out with the guys from the floor, to a bar or a party, there was zero doubt that it would be an exciting, one of, time. Our adrenelin was worn like a badge of honour and we rarely missed an opportunity to put it on display.
Too many party nights ended with the closing of the boozecan we usually ended up in. It should be noted that we usually made it into work that same morning.
I might be guilty of overly gushing about the way this job made you feel, but I don't think I am guilty of exaggeration. It was all that and more, at least in my eyes and humble opinion. It was hard not to live the moment to the fullest and my regrets are few and far between. I don't think I would trade that part of my life, as a floor trader, for ANY other job or career.
When I talk to people about my job experience as a floor trader at the Toronto Stock Exchange, I am enevitably filled with pride in the job, pride in the powerful friendships and pride in the esteem it created in me.
With all due respect to the Marines, 'there was 'no life like it'. We were kings and queens of our own domain and we all share the battle scars to prove it.

Stay tuned for..."The Cast Of Characters, Part One"

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