Arthur Andersen and Other Jobs

A tale of my first two post-college jobs. This will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.

After getting out of graduate school in 1983 my first “real job” was working for the now defunct Arthur Andersen & Company accounting and consulting firm. Yes, “Uncle Arthur” Of “Enronish” fame. I was not an auditor but was in the tax division preparing Federal and State returns, plus doing research on tax issues. I worked there for two years even though I hated the place after being there two weeks.

I actually started in the Dallas office but was sent to Fort Worth to work on a big oil and gas client since I had background in that and lived in Tarrant County too. I was glad to go due to the back-stabbing snobbery the “Big D” office was filled with practiced by the ladder-climbing inhuman corporate clones and seeing some obvious corruption too.
Corruption you say? At AA? Yep. In one Enron Moment I once heard a consulting partner tell an audit partner “If you put that in the audit report we’ll lose the consulting business”. ‘Nuff said about that obvious departure from ethics and professional standards, eh?

AA’s Fort Worth office was much calmer than its “neighbor to the east” (AA = Arthur Andersen) not Alcoholics Anonymous although some thought they were the same due to the stress induced boozing that was common). It was much smaller and the very nature of Fort Worth’s more relaxed, honest, and traditional culture made its presence known. But it was still AA – Uncle Arthur owned 24 hours of your day and what he didn’t need he let you have. One example of that you ask? In one two week period of tax season I had 120 overtime hours. That’s overtime not regular or total hours. In the end such things, the abuse of one terribly egregious assh*le tax manager, and my lack of talent for work papers & proper tick-mark usage meant I had enough and resigned. And then I went to work in IT for that big oil and gas client mentioned above, which shows Uncle Arthur did provide some side benefits. And it gave me a clear image of some of the bad things about our corporate culture and clarified what I wouldn’t endure for my paycheck. That is a choice everyone in the workforce must make and will define what your life will become over time – “Choose the form of the destroyer” it was said in the movie “Ghostbusters”. But it is still a choice…..

To be fair I will say AA was not totally cruel and inhumane since I had no trouble travelling to the hospital when my son Roger was born (see my third book) which I did every day since he was in the NICU after being born there months early. Plus they had wonderful health insurance as I saw when I saw my son’s $100K hospital bill and only had to pay $2K. “En extremis” they too became human if only for a short while until the need for greater billing & utilization reared its ugly head again. But that’s business and they aren’t charities with bottomless coffers like some deluded people in our culture wish they were – “AA means low pay” we used to say satirically reflecting the need to control costs so the partners cold get their draws.

Working at the oil company mentioned above was OK until oil prices started to drop more and I got laid off with some other folks. That company was filled with good folks who mostly and fortunately had not been in public accounting or consulting. But there were some “unique” personalities too. In no particular order there was CFO who collected expensive porcelain baby dolls (he was not a bad guy I must say but his hobby was a bit different), the controller who said he had to drink a six pack nightly due to the stress. He was not well liked but worked liked a proverbial slave for the overlords, thus his continued employment. And the Vice President who asked “can’t you just push a button and get this report out”? My reply? Yes, after 200 hours of custom programming and data conversions. He was non-plussed by my honesty. I do not think he ever worked at AA but he probably would have fitted in there given how he responded to my answer. And finally the pretty receptionist, who was always nice to me, who joked about becoming an “intrepreneur”. INtrepeneur versus ENtrpeneur you ask? IN as working as a high class call-girl, I think you understand the term now, eh? I don’t think she ever made that career change, she WAS joking remember, but it would have been tempting to “shop” with her after I got divorced from the kid’s mom. I sometimes wonder what became of her so perhaps I should fire up Google one day to find her.

Oh well, life does go on and every human group is a sapient zoo with numerous specimens in its figurative cages for us to observe and hopefully learn from. After departing oil company I got unemployment, earned my real estate broker’s license which I never really used, and obtained a job at a small software house in Dallas which was another mostly miserable Dallas company run by a group a verbally abusive workaholic assholes except for one good man, God Bless his probably still tortured soul, who his pathetic partners forced out one day in favor of my direct boss. But that’s another story for another book. Or maybe it’s the same old job story……

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