I’m Ringing People Up

From behind the counter, I keep an eye on the people. Baskets hanging from their forearms, they’re busy harvesting, hunting, and gathering, 2012 style. During this lull, I pull a roll of paper towels from a shelf and spritz the scanner.

The last person I “rung out” was visibly irritated when their Kombucha didn’t scan and I’ve found, despite everything I’d thought I knew about myself, that I like to make people happy.

Agata, the floor manager, approaches the register. She’s carrying two pieces of paper and she’s not smiling. Her English is passable, but combined with my poor hearing, we’ve had some early communication trouble. Agata is paid in cash.

“Chris, what are these?”

“I’m not sure, what are they?”

“Chris, they are invoices. They are your responsibility to put away. I tell you now, but next time, I talk to the boss. You understand?”

In the meantime, a customer has approached the register to witness this scolding. The customer is an old friend of mine, a real estate broker. When we first met I was trading and making well over $200,000 a year. He recently sold a house for over $10 million. I’m tempted to say that our paths have diverged, but here we are, involved in a transaction.

As Agata walks away he shakes his head and looks me in the eyes, “Dude, what are you DOING here?”

The answer is simple, I’m ringing people up.

A year after graduating from school, I drove across country. I was proud and I had one of those college stickers plastered to the back window of my car. But something strange came over me as I sped through Nebraska.

The road was empty that morning as I left the campground. It hadn’t rained, but the asphalt was dark with dew and the sky was deep blue. I drove a straight line through empty fields and came to a small rise where a black and white cow stood chewing grass on the side of the road.

I had passed many cows on the first week of my trip, but the rise allowed the black and white of the cow to be seen against the clean sky. I stopped the car and stood in the road looking at the cow chew. Such clean lines. Beautiful separation. True simplicity. Wind hit me and I felt some sort of ecstatic release. I screamed into the wind. I don’t know where the scream came from. I opened the back door of the car, reached in, ripped my college sticker off the back window and sped away.

I felt like no one I knew.

I wanted to be new.

So back in the grocery store, I guess the extended answer to my friend’s question is that I’m ripping the old stickers that defined me off the vehicle that dropped me off in this spot. My position isn’t easily explained, but it’s true. This hasn’t been easy. Quite the opposite. In the last 3 weeks since I’ve started this job I’ve often felt humiliated, embarrassed, and sometimes angry at myself.

Judy understands. She’s my guide.

She says that not many people could do what I’m doing.

She says the hardest part is over.

She says this is a beginning.

She says I’m not a check out boy.

She says I’m just a baby.

She says I’m terrifying.

Want to be terrified?  Follow me on Twitter.

Exit Music.


14 responses

  1. I appreciate the post. I’ve wondered what you’ve been up to. Not many people could do what you do. And I don’t know anyone who has written about life post trading. Best wishes.

  2. This is good stuff. I am on the same path but in reverse. When you have been to the bottom or feel like you are going there you realize its not the bottom and what you thought was the top really wasn’t the top. It’s all just part of the journey. The only thing we need to worry about is being decent and kind people. Everything else always finds a way to fall into place. Good luck brother.

  3. Hey Chris. I empathise with your world right now & the questions you ask yourself. Life is most certainly a test. I came by this Scientist last week, Maurice Cotterell, he has some interesting views on life & more so stick with this video & listen to what he has to say about LIGHT. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x_XwKLdfC0&feature=relmfu
    (i’m not into religion, & Maurice Cotterell doesnt really speak of religion, but more of the spirit, he has some interesting views)
    Again a great piece & visual style you have.

  4. Bleak and freaky. Don’t ever start using ‘journey’ or ‘growth’; this is real life and not reality television. May I offer this to you as way of congratulations (or piss weak advice if you will):

  5. I used to trade as well, until I whittled away at my account… and my life, far too much.

    I’m glad you are surviving. It is so hard to push through sometimes.

    After trading I took a job as a letter carrier and on one of my first days I saw an old friend from high school, a boss that had fired me, and I had to deliver mail to the trading floor I used to manage. It can be tough facing life again.

    I read your post to my wife while I was on the toilet the other day. She was doing her hair and said, “Wow, that’s like a novel.” You should really keep writing on the side, you’re good.

  6. Wow. For some reason, this reminds me of the Kill Bill movie where one of the team assassins is willingly working in a low job that heaps abuse on him- as if paying penance for his sinful past.

    I can definitely relate to your experience staring at the cow chewing grass against the sky and the feelings it evoked. Something similar happened to me recently as I had a morning meeting with the homeowners association as we were checking the quality of repairs to the buildings in my complex. As trading doesn’t place me outside early, I felt a strange sensation seeing the bright morning sun and smelling the freshly cut grass and dew. It felt like my soul was leaping for joy. I realized that I need to get out more in the mornings as opposed to being primarily a night owl.

    So the question is what do you really want to do post trading? The trader position separates you from the usual corporate “cubicle” mindset, as well as the simple lower level jobs. Surely, the supermarket is just a temporary transition as I doubt you are finding full edification there. If you think helping people is your calling, why not check out social services or non-profits? Since it also sounds like natural settings appeal to you, check out park ranger like opportunities.

    This could very well be a temporary phase where you may find yourself again in the role of trader at some future time.

    May you be fortunate enough to find what it is you seek on your new journey.

  7. Glad to see you are writing again. Interesting car photo. That wouldn’t be a, say, Volkswagon Rabbit, would it?

  8. I used to have a hard time getting to work on time.  Getting to my job on time seemed more important to the boss than the work I did after punching in.  I was fighting the time clock because a pretty new plant in the ditch on the commute would distract me or the interesting things in between or on stuff needed to be seen and addressed properly.  It probably would have made for some bad poetry, but whatever.  Then I drove into a shitstorm.  Both parents dead, credit crisis, tight budgets, a couple relocations, and a new daughter.

    I punch in on time now.  I scream at stupid drivers, sometimes for inattentive meandering.  I bitch about retirement and taxes and politics.  I’ve been interrupted fifteen times in fifteen minutes while trying to write this.  I had to finish it in the parking lot after punch out.  Hey they’re not paying us anymore someone said.  I don’t remember when it was exactly that I fell asleep last night or others.

    My daughter is teaching me but it is slow and unpredictable.  Recently I was watching some guy talk in an endless stream.  He memorized his thinking well.  I saw the pores on his face move as he talked and got a glimpse.  God, it’s all so damn funny!  And terrifying.  Thanks.

  9. Longtime listener, first time caller. Sounds like you’re doing what you need to do, no matter how tough that is. Just like that Honda made it cross country almost seventeen years ago, you’re going to make it through this too.

    Mr. Benson

  10. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, DT. I sure hope you are taking a lot of notes and will put them to good use in future writings.
    Such Serious Talent ..

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