After graduation in May, 2008, Daisy and I started at Salinger Brothers. The economy had flat-lined; layoffs deluged every bank. But Daisy’s Uncle Bernie was vice-chairman. Typically an analyst’s first year is volunteered slavery: running spreadsheets nonstop for eighteen hours. Thanks to the collapse, however, Daisy and I ran spreadsheets lackadaisically and still pretended to act busy. We left at six o’clock, seven tops.
Our goal was to rise at a fabled financial institution and to stand out as stellar beauties on the late-night glamour scene. So even though we made decent enough money, the social aspect required Armani, Dior…Louboutin heels and artistico hairstyles and maquillage. Knock-offs fooled nobody.
To compensate, we rented one-sixth of a studio apartment and ignored our hulking coevals. Sometimes we sneaked into Versailles (Uncle Bernie’s membership helped) for body work and basic morning grooming. We enticed still-rich fellows to buy us drinks and dinner. Skimping on breakfast and lunch kept us willowy.
We honestly relished working in the historic Salinger tower. And at penthouse parties we feigned insouciance while secretly basking in the city’s incandescence. By the winter holidays our social whirl sped so quickly as to make us dizzy.
But in January, a massive pall took hold. The exquisite dinners dropped off; the glitter faded; and our roommates, now unemployed, stunk up the studio with take-out food, poor hygiene, and sloth.
Bad before, but now double-digit layoffs swept through Salinger’s every echelon, every week. Daisy phoned her mother who was not reassuring. “Do not bother your poor Uncle Bernie,” she said.
So we held tight, made no mistakes ever and affected brisk, inconspicuous attitudes.
In May, Daisy and I and two hundred other survivors convened for “Continuity Management.” Or, how to keep Salinger afloat come some global catastrophe.
During a restroom break, Daisy and I discovered the “Aloha Suite,” a floor of offices reserved for fired chieftains. Unlike those escorted out by security guards, the top dogs retired here until they had their prospects and portfolios in order.
We ditched the seminar to explore the higher floors. And guess what? No people. And yet: electricity, water, functioning computers, lounges, and mini-kitchens.
That night we invited Nico, a club kid who specialized in popping locks, and moved in. (Oh yeah, closets galore!) Nico opened the media room and the gym. And on the top floor, we found the catering room from back in the executive dining room days—with industrial washer and drier.
Daisy and I still worked and still partied, but lived in luxury.
Last night we traipsed home around midnight. At the forty-ninth floor the elevator door opened and an old man shuffled by in robe and slippers.
“Hey Uncle Bernie,” Daisy called. He dashed out of sight, dropping a toothbrush. Apparently, unlike us, he doesn’t love the new Hotel Aloha, the quintessence of Wall Street.