Tom, an analyst from some or another financial institution that you will have heard of, but only barely, is trying to convince me that a perfect storm of sub-prime and corporate debt woes is actually a reason to invest heavily in financial institutions with sub-prime and corporate debt exposure. This makes me immediately suspicious what kind of analyst Tom actually is, if his title is attached to the investor relations department of his own firm, and what webinar he's been repeatedly viewing to pick up the absurdly pop-finance vocabulary he seems so fond of using in every sentence that manages to avoid the filter of his super-ego and escape him (and many accomplish this trivial bit of evasion).
I'm only even listening to Tom because the Debt Bitch isn't bothering to answer her phone. It's Laura who constantly plots "dates" with these randoms, so far as I can tell merely as a bit of sadistic and carefully authored finance theater with her as the chief protagonist. I only agree to attend because it is both the cheapest and the most entertaining finance-speak that can be had. But now that she is late, and I am not, and seeing as how I was stupid enough to introduce myself to her not-date before she arrived, well, I might as well be the demonstration model for a waterboarding seminar.
We are sitting at a upscale (and accordingly very dull) bar with the sort of organic New York finance look that you would expect people who have little to do with the large transactions that flurry about this city to talk about the large transactions that flurry about this city. I want to drain the martini in my hand in a single draw, but I am afraid that the quick surge in systemic anesthetic would somehow dull my annoyance and prevent me from escaping Tom's formidable verbal event horizon at some point later. Instead, I practice wordsmithing the offering memorandum Tom's hedge fund, if ever investors were foolish enough to fund such a venture, might issue. This tactic, one I employ often of late, permits me to appear interested and involved in the discussion without enduring the emotional damage actually concentrating would inflict. I suppose it is telling that the process of mentally penning fictitious offering memorandums completely suppresses the urge to recognize the content as unadulterated bullshit.
It reaches a crescendo when Tom insists that "post 9/11," consumer spending has become fatalistic. In the same fashion that, back in the day, people sold all their worldly possessions on hearing H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds broadcast, the lack of any hope would spur reckless spending in proportion to the fear in the air. A sort of emotional "tilt," would result. The sub-prime mess was so bad, and the corporate debt market would eventually be so decimated, this effect was sure to kick in and the markets would give back their losses like so many slot machines. Just look at Black Friday this year, he insisted. I wondered if he meant this to be the shock that would induce panic buying, or the result of it, as I remembered the reports to be rather mixed this year, but I wisely held my tongue.
I just don't have the killer instinct of the Debt Bitch. I waited longingly for her arrival, eager to have a proxy to throw Tom and his theories that, as their novelty wore off, lost their improbable and novel appeal to the weight of his droning, under the Holiday Express bus.
I managed to slip off with the pretense of a ladies room visit, hug the wall around to the entrance, or in my case exit, unseen. My route required me to navigate behind Tom, and some other banker to whom he seemed now acquainted, by about two meters. Just before I gingerly deposited my martini on the first convenient flat surface and slipped into the sweet New York air, soaking up harsh, chilly smell of freedom, I caught a snippet of their conversation.
"She's way into you," Tom's new friend intoned.
"It is what it is, my friend," he replied smiling. "It is what it is."
(Taken from actual events, performed by an actual "Tom," filtered through the polarized lens of an actual Paul Kedrosky prose contest).