While I was hoping for a day or two to enjoy being left to my own devices, guilt-free, while a snowy storm raged outside, it didn’t start out well. My boss started emailing me at 7:30 a.m. to ask me to arrange a conference call with some colleagues in London to discuss a matter that (to me, anyway) was a waste of time and effort. I feel like that about most of the “tempests in a teapot” that get heatedly debated in legal negotiations: highly unlikely circumstances and scenarios that nevertheless need to be accounted for and argued over, sometimes quite antagonistically, even among entities that are supposed to be business partners. Inevitably, the biggest battles are saved for the 11th hour before some arbitrary deadline, threatening to derail the transaction entirely when the issues in dispute could have been discussed in a reasonable way at the very beginning of the negotiations (but it never works out that way). Balls get dropped, items get missed, because it’s a fire drill of massive proportions (and paper) just to get the deal done on time. Delays and conflict and arguing for the sake of arguing – it is all so alien to me. “Trust” seems to be a dirty word.
My boss can sometimes get overwhelmed, partly because he is trying to manage multiple chaotic deals at once and partly because he is an old-school guy who has made much admirable progress with technology but is still dinosaur-ish when it comes to simple things like saving documents into the firm’s file management system. I could offer to do more; I only work part-time, after all, so I could conceivably fit a few more hours of work into my reasonably flexible schedule. But the problem is that there is a certain point at which I cannot help. Despite my decade-plus of experience in this field, I am not qualified to make the assessments and decisions that need to be made at a higher level, where a lot of these transactions get hung up. I can take care of the bulk of the gruntwork – and of course nagging, which is another despised aspect of my work: I am literally a Professional Nag (“Where is this document?” “When can we expect an answer?” “Why didn’t you make this change?” “What is the status?”) – but ultimately everything has to go up the chain to the boss.
On this particular deal, we are also going through a transition with new in-house counsel for a long-time client. The newbie’s predecessor was someone whom we have been advising for years, and we had developed a certain style of working together. The incoming attorney is simultaneously more hands-on and less experienced, more independent while in some ways more needy, all of which has created an interesting dynamic with my boss and made me even more of a sideline player. But I continue to be on-call and available throughout it all, which is why I woke up early and aggravated on a morning I would have loved to stay in bed to send text messages to London to set up a conference call.
This transaction is the latest prime example of why I am not well-suited to do work of this nature and can really only provide value in a limited role, and only when given clear instructions. I’m bright enough, I know, but the subject matter is beyond me and I don’t have the intellectual curiosity to delve any deeper. I am also not a bold risk-taker or a confident decision-maker, although I’ve managed to survive 56 years of my life with these weaknesses, and I’ve even achieved some minor successes along the way. I am not ashamed of my limitations. There is still a great deal I can do for my boss in my current capacity and remain useful (see above: Professional Nag), and I am nothing if not cost effective for my company, earning them nearly four times what they pay me per billable hour. But deals like the present one are very difficult for me. There is just too much irrelevancy and excess and needless back-and-forth. It’s mentally exhausting. Nothing is smooth, nothing is easy, even when the people you’re dealing with are pleasant (which they often are, and which I always try to be, until pushed to frustration at which point I can become uncharacteristically testy). There is always SOMETHING ELSE that needs to be done. It is never-ending.
* * *
The storm itself thankfully did not involve any disasters – no power outage or collapsing roof or flying objects bursting through my front window – despite over two feet of heavy, wet snow and whipping winds over the course of an entire day without let-up. I dreaded the dig-out, but my ex played “shoveling elf” and cleared my steps and a path on my deck before I even got out of bed! There was also a lovely man in a hooded parka, who I did not recognize but who I assume lives nearby, who kept passing by on the sidewalk in front of my house all day Saturday with his snow-blower, trying to stay ahead of the onslaught. And then yesterday, two kindly neighbors helped me release my car from its wintry prison, aided by some ice-melt and temperatures in the upper 30s. By today, it was 45 degrees and mild and the dirty snow piles have shrunken considerably. Someone joked that we’ve had two days of winter this year and it would be just fine with me if that’s ALL we have.
I hate the winter. I hate the cold and I really hate the snow. But I feel stuck right now. I can’t envision moving to another part of the world – to Florida, say, or somewhere in Central or South America where it’s warm year-round – because I (and J.P. Morgan Chase) own this house and, even after I get it elevated with generous assistance from New York State (if my contractor ever calls me back – ugh! – another post for another day), I will never make enough to pay off my mortgage and afford ANOTHER house, even if it’s in a lower-cost jurisdiction. The seed is there, though. I think that someday soon I want to become an ex-pat in some sunny locale. My daughter can have the house (in fact, she has asked me to promise her not to sell it, but that may change if she pursues a career that will involve travel to exotic sites to work with indigenous creatures, which is what she would like to do), so I will need to figure out how to afford to live elsewhere on a very limited income. I confess that my retirement funds are sparse and shrinking daily, especially given the recent market volatility (whatever that means – I am clueless; I’m also deathly afraid of my so-called “investments” losing rather than gaining value). As I think I’ve mentioned before in these posts, I HATE MONEY. I hate NEEDING money.
I’m confident that I’ll sort out my future home in due course. But mark my words: Wherever I do end up, there WON’T be snow. Hurricanes and earthquakes, maybe brush fires and mud slides – BUT NO SNOW, thank you very much.