I can count on one hand the number of times I left the office before 5pm (New York time) the first six months at the bank. I was 5 hours ahead in London as well. Understandably, it was not unusual for me to have dinner away from home most nights. More often than not at my the desk whilst staring at one of a handful of computer screens.
But let’s get this straight: I didn’t have to eat at the desk on each of those nights. It wasn’t imperative for me to be there each and every moment. I was at liberty to sit and dine in a restaurant near the office if I so desired, so long as I returned to the desk right after to finish my work. Yet most of those evenings, after I stepped out to grab a bite and a member of staff at the restaurant would ask me, “Eat in or takeaway?” I’d pause for a moment and think. It would really be nice to sit here, away from the office. Should I stay? Probably good for me to take a break from the office. And then, as always happens, doubt would slowly creep in. No, I must return. Suddenly, I am mysteriously drawn back to my chair. As if it called to me. As if it whispered my name like an enchanted sorceress.
Sitting in the ergonomic comfort of my chair had become second nature. With its delicate yet sturdy support, I helped European titans of business acquire peers, Arabian sheikhs realise multi-billion dollar constructions fantasies in the desert and Spanish banks raise capital to do who cares what.
The chair was born to ensure its master was comfortable during the course of his or her job at the bank. So when I would walk over to the local Italian restaurant in the evening to grab a pizza, and the Italian girl with the nose ring and striking dark eyes asked if I would be dining in the establishment or order take away the answer was almost always the same. I yearned for my chair. “Take away, please.”
Of chairs and bankers
You develop an inexplicable attachment to your seat when you work for a bulge bracket investment bank. When I would sit at my chair I rarely felt discomfort. On the contrary, I felt I returned where I belonged. Home.
The sheer number of hours, day after day, week after week and month after month, spent sitting on my chair created a special bond between us. God help someone if they tried to swap chairs with me. The one time it happened, after I heard someone ask, “Do you mind if we switch chairs because–”. “Never,” I screamed without bothering to look to see if the person who’d just asked was more senior to me.
On occasion, when there was a slight backlog of work, which could very well be completed on a Monday, I nevertheless willingly chose to go in to the office on a Saturday morning. And every time I walked into the building, took the elevator up and entered the floor to find a relatively empty area, it was simply surreal. Only yesterday the place was being drowned with the sound of phone lines ringing off the hook, bankers nervously running about with stacks of paper and the rest of the people getting high off of the smell of the next billion dollar deal. From hyper activity to ghost town.
On Saturdays I would get twice as much work done as normal. Mainly because there were no interruptions. No annoying pests asking you to help out on random projects. Phones lines were silent, apart from the occasional ring or two. And when they rang I rarely answered. Answering the phone was like playing Russian roulette in a bank. The first and last time I answered a call, what I hoped would be a two hour stop at the office turned into a living nightmare and I practically spent the whole weekend working away at my desk.
Once finished with whatever work I came in to do, I would spend some extra time sitting there surfing the web, planning my exit, working on a potential side business or calling family and friends around the world. One would think I’d want run out of the place as soon as possible. Not always. Sometimes the resources at my disposal and the comfort of the chair gently persuaded me to spend an additional hour or two there. In a strange way, I felt more at ease sitting on my chair than being in my apartment.
Just as every individual within an investment bank plays a part in the organisation, every object, too, plays a role. Your chair was tasked with one mission: keep you seated as long as possible.