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« When the lightning strikes | Main | Wish I knew what they find so all-fired funny »


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Perhaps they're desperate. Some people who are allegedly successful really /REALLY/ want to get out of their jobs and do something where they can relax, and when they go on holiday and see all the people around them enjoying themselves while the seven-day timer ticks down to next monday morning when they have to be back in the office dealing with the same old nonsense, I could see how they'd get all tense and curt.

At least that's what my Male Answer Syndrome thinks what might be the problem.

TX Poppet

Brilliant post. Insightful and poetic and oh, so true. In my house we call them the coke drinkers. No time for coffee, they only drink cola or Snapple. When they laugh it's always a polite laugh, never a guffaw. When they shoot hoops or come to bat they are so intense, you wonder why they bother. To stay fit, to win, but never just to have fun. It's a little sad, no?


Perhaps they're approaching their vacations as a job, as another thing on their "To Do" list.


I think they're tired, in the same sense that Lily von Shtupp was tired. Graduate from ivy league school? Check. Good job with room at the top? Check. Wife and kids? Got 'em.

But then it gets interesting. The job requires just a few more hours a week than the body can handle, and the hours don't slack off. One decade, two decades, the mortgage is huge, the kids are in private school, Phil in accounting just bought a BMW, the wife is unhappy, and what are you going to do about it?

You close up your emotions, try to stay focused, keep your eyes on the prize. At forty, the prize looks a lot less enticing than it did at twenty. The confidence and leadership skills morph into patronizing impatience.

The American dream becomes a nightmare.

That's my feeling, anyway.

Mike Schilling

Perhaps his mind was elsewhere, like on the simply elegant thing that's waiting for him once he gets back to the city.


"There's a lot of money down here, which means the town must be crawling with people who make it by the sackful and plenty of them must be lawyers, stockbrokers, numbers-crunchers of various types"

Lance, are you stuck in the 1950s or something?

Lawyers and stock-brokers? Stockbrokers are mere salesmen, and not particularly well compensated ones, once the commission structures were deregulated thirty years ago. Unless, of course, you're talking institutional salesmen, who are completely different from what stockbrokers looked like decades ago. Retail stockbrokers don't make much money anymore and they're dime a dozen.

"Phil in accounting just bought a BMW" Unless Phil is the controller, accounting is a comparatively low-paid field.

No, ok, if you're going to write realistic fiction, or even just understand people, you have to have some modestly current picture of reality. Using stereotypes from 50 years ago just doesn't cut it.

Ok, here's the breakdown: the archetypal corporation man doesn't exist anymore as you're imagining him. And, in the Boston / New York areas, working for corporations has declined so much in prestige it's very difficult for them to recruit any top-grade talent anymore (at least, outside of the Fortune 50). Not only does "Wall Street" in general pay several times more than corporations can, the most attractive ends of Wall Street (hedge funds and private equity) often pay 5-10 times more (and sometimes more than that). The only place where working for any large corporation is still regarded as "high status" is some aspects of Silicon Valley, the MidWest outside of Chicago and the South.

At least in theoretical terms, everybody is hoping to play some sort of private equity angle: work in private equity, get an ownership stake in a start-up, do a management-led buy-out, etc. My last boss was ecstatic when he got a chance to leave our massive corporation and work in a tiny partnership on the partnership track. Why? Because he went from being a salaried employee (even if his actual work was supported by a lot of people) to having that ownership slice (and not being exposed to a political environment where dozens of executives fought each other for power, but rather being in a much more understandable environment). And a tiny partnership, with the right people, can get as much or more financial capital than some big firm. You just need the right investors, and there's so much loose capital floating around, you WILL get too much interest from investors (again, if you have the right people).


"I'm saying that we can only get our work done by going through other people, which must infect our perception of people with a certain utilitarianism. If a person isn't being useful to us, why is he taking up our time? For some of us this becomes a habit that's hard to drop even with the spouse and kids."

You thought capitalism (our ruling ideology) doesn't also affect all of our personal relationships? Dreiser, Tarkington and Wharton were writing about this over a 100 years ago. Cheever and Yates were writing about it 40-50 years ago.


"Phil in accounting just bought a BMW" Unless you're in the accounting department as well (in which case, my condolences), you wouldn't know Phil and you wouldn't want to know him. Corporations these days are too big and decentralized to know people from departments you don't work with.

And, a BMW? Hardly even registers as a status symbol. No, the status symbol of today is where your real estate is (again, the thing of importance is where somebody's personal private equity is invested, not the status symbols of yesteryear). No one cares what you're driving, as long as it's relatively reasonable. Any reasonably luxury brand is viewed as equivalent.

Jim 7

Not only do they work for a certain type of boss, their goal is to become that certain type of boss. Always guard against your dreams, less they come to own you...


I know this type perfectly, since I was one of them even though I'm a woman. Maybe I was better at covering my discomfort, so people like you couldn't catch it on your radar. But for about 8 years I either didn't take vacations or if I did, I took them knowing that my first week back at work would be spent scrambling to catch up again and put out various fires. It took the joy out of taking time off. This was because the company I worked for wouldn't hire someone who could step in and take over for me and do it competently.
Anyway, they laid me off, finally. All that work, all those missed holidays for ... zilch. Won't be going that way again in my career, believe me.


Very nice, Lance. I know exactly the type you speak of. I have a friend, formerly a close friend, who is like this -- he is sooo focused on what other people have, and he's terribly uncomfortable with leisure time.

I detect this type more easily in the female of the species, though. I call it "end of the nose" syndrome, because I see a lot of women who seem to constantly have their eyes focused a few inches in front of their nose. They're completely wrapped up in themselves, their material desires, their incredibly important tasks. If they're driving, and have to stop for an ambulance to pass, they're bewildered that anyone would claim to have higher priorities than them. It goes beyond narcissism. There's a desperation. Other human beings are either obstacles or a means to their ends.

Whether male or female, they never look a waiter or waitress in the eye. They don't say please or thank you unless there's a utilitarian reason to.


Wow, growing up in the Hamptons, I know this type well. And out here, another thing that fuels these guys' barely sublimated aggro is competitiveness. There's constant one-upmanship, someone out here always has a bigger boat, a newer car, a million-dollar stand of mature Japanese maples they've just had installed. As rich as they are, they're endlessly covetous of the next guy in their bracket.

Mike Schilling above accuses Lance of being stuck in the 50's , "the archetypal corporation man doesn't exist anymore". I heartily disagree- come to the Hamptons or the Cape and observe the moneyed Cheeveresque angst.

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