Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Balcony

The dude who was mumbling gypsy curses at his monitors seemed normal when I introduced myself. He stood up and gave me a wide grin, but quickly sat back down to continue cursing his screens. I thought this odd, but I would soon identify it as his signature move.

As he weaved his tapestry of curses he would hold the back of his right hand up in front of the monitor in a menacing way. I imagined he was saying something to the effect of, "You misbehaving pile of silicon, you want me to slap you? Eh? Is that what you want?" He'd hold the hand there for a couple of seconds, slowly shaking it. Then, when his stream of curses reached their crescendo, he'd quickly bitchslap the monitor with the back of his fingers.

The seat on the other side of me was empty, but the monitor situation was telling.

Used tissues were stashed into the millimeter of space between the screens, and the sticky keyboard looked like the inside of a chimney; thick, black, and sooty. Fruit flies were quietly circling the open mouth of a Snapple Iced-Tea bottle. It was filled with a clouded brown fluid from which a solid piece of fungus was emerging. It seemed that this fungus was attempting to make an evolutionary leap, and that if it succeeded in escaping the confines of the bottle, it might walk off the desk.

Most telling was a sticker that had been plastered to the middle monitor; it read, "My other butt is my ass."

When my neighbor did return to his desk, moments after I first sat down, his odor preceded him; eau de smoked cigarettes. Surely this man, if tested by the FDA, would qualify as a carcinogen. Indeed, his nickname was "Char" which was short for Charlie but given what his lungs must look like, had a sad double meaning. His face was tomato-red and shiny, as if his skin was stretched too tight. He was slightly overweight and his clothes were always disheveled.

Amazingly, he'd always complain about his inability to attract females.

I'm not sure how Char ever became a successful trader, because every 10-15 minutes, he'd walk out to the "balcony," which was a small ledge overlooking a ventilation shaft, and smoke a cigarette. I don't smoke, but as I got to know him better, sometimes I would accompany him out to the "balcony" so we could talk about trading.

We were on the 7th floor, and looking straight down from the balcony, you could see the floor of the shaft, littered with cigarette butts. In the middle of the floor, was a large circular container. It was impossible to tell what it was from seven stories up, but that didn't stop the smokers from aiming their thrown butts for it, to "make a basket."

The balcony was an interesting place to hang out, because every smoker who was on the 7th floor congregated here, even the men in uniform from the well-heeled brokerage house next door. They'd gather and talk about what you'd, football, or how they had successfully duped an unsuspecting customer.  Another person who hung out here was one of the better traders from the company, Bobby Trimbo.

Now, I'm an honest person, and perhaps even a little naive. I understand there is evil in the world, but I always think of the evil as being "out there" and not right up in my face. People who commit mass murder are evil... child abusers and pedophiles are evil... Dick Cheney is evil... but this Bobby Trimbo character was pure evil and sharing a ledge that hung over a 70 foot drop with me. It was always unsettling when he was there.

He'd come out onto the balcony with his little "yes man" and talk up a storm. The balcony was small and could only fit about 5 people, but despite the close quarters he never really paid anyone else any heed. He'd be talking to his "yes man" while waving his hands in little circles up out in front of his face, near his shoulders, about some of the trades he was making. I didn't understand what he was doing, but he was always talking about "distributing" shares and "finding buyers" for massive quantities of stock. Oh, and fucking people. He was always "fucking somebody up" and very proud of it.

My cancer-riddled neighbor would grow silent when Trimbo was out on the balcony, and this was something, because most of the time he wouldn't shut up.

One day we got to the balcony just as Trimbo was about to leave. Trimbo turned to open the door as he took a final drag from his cigarette and then threw it over his shoulder towards the shaft. Char was trying to light his "smoke" when Trimbo's used Marlboro Red bounced off his eyebrow and hurtled down the 7 stories. 

Char wore the little brown burn mark near his eyebrow like a badge of honor; it nearly improved his appearance. But the cigarette drifted down and landed perfectly in the middle of the container, where it started a small fire. 

The balcony smelled of the smoke it caused for days.

A couple of years later, Trimbo would start larger fires...


mdawsz said...

You shoulda kicked that asshole off the balcony, for realz.

Anonymous said...

write a book dammit! brilliant stuff.

Attitude Trader said...

Holy crap! LOL LOL LOL.

Quality dude...pure quality.