27 February 2007

Brain-Dumping Day Again

So as I have designated Tuesdays as official brain-dumping day, today I'm going to write about another old job.

By "brain-dump," I mean that I'm dumping a bunch of random thoughts in my head out on to the computer screen and seeing what comes of it. Perfecting my storytelling skills, as the quote from David Mamet says above. There's a funny line in a song by Tommy Lee, of Motley Crue fame, on the "Tommyland, The Ride" album (yes, I will admit to owning that, with a slight cringe), in the song Good Times where he says "All the trash in my head, gotta throw it away". I like that line. Wish that I could, sometimes, ya know?

I dearly wish that there was such a thing as a Pensieve, as JK Rowling writes about in the Harry Potter books. Pensieves allow you to remove thoughts and ideas from your head and store them for later reflection or because you don't want to think about them. I could get rid of quite a bit of my own trash that way!

Back to the old jobs, then, I'm really not going to write about Supernatural, Jensen Ackles or Dean Winchester today, really. That is, of course, some of what stomps through my brain on a daily basis, but I'm trying to remember that I live in the real world. (Oh, go on then. You've never had a crush on a celebrity? Riiiight.) No, I'm not going to post any of the pictures I found, or links to the episode recaps on Television Without Pity, which made me howl with laughter. No. I'm not. Really. And I'm not going to bitch, at all, about the fact that the show is on a month-long hiatus. The next new episode doesn't air until March 15th. The Ides of March?!? CW television network, you're killing me. Yeah, OK, all right, I'm a liar. Here. Take note, please of the pretty.

Where was I? Ah yes, old jobs. I wrote here about working for the cash vault of a large Midwestern bank, and said that the next job I had at the bank would have to be a story for another day. I graduated from University in 1998, and the bank began making vague noises that they were going to outsource the vault's operations to an armoured carrier service, in a cost-cutting effort. My co-workers, who were really nice women, but not well educated, couldn't see the writing on the wall, and kept telling me that there was "no way that the corporation would be able to do what we do by outsourcing."

They were 1000% wrong, as it turns out, and I quietly began looking for another position within the bank that required my degree. When I had been trying to leave the first branch of the bank that I worked for, with the Evil Hag, I had applied for a job in the bank's Trust department, but I hadn't gotten it because I didn't have a degree at that time. Now I did, and so I applied again and got the job. The department had many various names, but I'm going to refer to it strictly as the Trust department because it amuses me....bank...trust....big evil corporations....hee.

I went to work for a really nice guy, who happens to be a lawyer. Cue the lawyer jokes...and I've got a ton of 'em...but he was really a nice person, and a great example of how I'd like to be as a boss. Since he's still working for the big o'l bank, and I respect the hell out of him, we'll just call him Mr. Lawyer. Mr. Lawyer and I were a department of two, working on accounts of clients who had passed away. Perhaps it is no real surprise that I ended up working in such a morbid field...I've had a lifelong fascination with the paranormal and odd occurrences, a few brushes with the occult as a young teenager, and was a bit of a hippy child/goth girl in college. My baby sis was about 13 or 14 when I went to work with Mr. Lawyer, and when she saw my business card for the first time with the word "Estates" under my title, she suggested that we add the line "We see dead people" on the card. *snerk* The bank has NO sense of humor, however, so I never suggested it.

Most of the clients that we had were really, really old folks, and it never bothered me to be working on the estate of someone who had kicked it of heart failure at 87. We had the occasional younger person, but mostly these were folks who had lived long, healthy lives, and who were very wealthy, had wanted for nothing. Their heirs were a whole 'nother story. I can't tell you how many phone calls I had from nieces, nephews, cousins, and much more distant relations wanting to know where their money was even before Aunt Edna was in the ground.

Many of the stories I have from that time are things that I certainly shouldn't be telling on teh internets, as it would be a breach of confidentiality. At least, I think it would if I was still working for ye olde evile bank, and if I gave enough detail for you to figure out who these people were/are, but since I have not worked for the big ol bank in 3 years, I don't think it is illegal. I think it would be completely unethical to give away enough detail to allow even RL friends to be able to identify them. SOOOO, I'll have to tread very carefully here.

One of my favorite heirs was the daughter of a dead guy, and best illustrates the old axiom, "The wealthy aren't strange, they're eccentric." She showed up to our first meeting after her father's death wearing a sundress, a long sleeved t-shirt under the dress; socks, and Birkenstock sandals. It was January. In Ohio. There were 3 inches of snow on the ground. And she complained about being cold. She was one of the very few who wasn't a money-grubbing brat, however, and I'm being honest when I say that she was one of my favorite heirs.

The two heirs that I disliked almost the most of all of them had to be a pair of sisters who despised one another. The estate I worked on was their mother's, their father having passed on years ago. This was one of the larger estates I worked on...and to put that into perspective, a short government/history lesson is required.

At the time I was doing this work, the bank wouldn't take on an estate unless they could get a fee of about $100,000. Now I never saw a dime of that, and neither did Mr. Lawyer. The bank sure did, though. In the state of Ohio, the fees are based on the amount of the gross estate. So the bank could charge 1% of the first $100,000 ($10,000), 3% of the next $300,000 ($30,000) and I can't even remember what the balance was. Maybe 3% on the balance of the gross estate. So the bank could charge $40,000 on $400,000 worth of assets, and if the whole estate was worth $1 mil, then the fee would be in the $90,000 range. The ones I worked on were big estates. Small estates for Mr. Lawyer and I were in the $800,000 range. Big ones were over $10 million.

These two heirs I'm going to kvetch about were the sole beneficiaries of a BIG estate. Money, money, money, honey. And they hated each other with a passion and ferocity that you rarely see except in the most bitter of divorces. They were sisters, close in age. The assets were huge, real estate, cars, stocks....and these two morons were fighting over the sheets and towels in mom's linen closet. They fought over the holiday decorations and family pictures too, but I get that. My great-aunt had most of my great-grandmother's 1950s era Christmas tree decorations, and I would have loved to have them; they went to other family members, and given the chance, I would have fought for them. Sheets and towels? Um, not so much.

One of my favorite parts of that job was going into the houses of the decedents and doing an inventory of every item in the house. Which I will freely admit is morbid and creepy. Yes, we spent time in houses were people had actually died. Mr. Lawyer and I usually did that sort of thing ourselves, and there were strict rules about staying in sight of one another at all times. Not because of superstition, but because the bank took a pretty dim view of theft on the job. When we were in the dead person's house, we would be looking specifically for tax records, bank statements, statements from investment accounts, other important papers, but also we'd be on the lookout for artwork, antique furniture, clues about other assets the person had. I liked doing that because it got us out of the office. But also I liked it because it taught me a few things about human nature, and because I'm a nosy busybody.

We almost always found cash in the freezer. And under the mattress. People think they're so clever when it comes to hiding money, but they're so predictable. Human beings are creatures of habit. Mr. Lawyer even had one where he found stacks of cash on the steel i-beams in the basement...unfortunately, that was one he did before I went to work with him, but he always checked the i-beams in every house we went into, because you never knew what you were going to find. We found cash stuffed in filing cabinets, behind old framed cross-stitch samplers, in the medicine cabinet.

I must note that we did house inventories only when there wasn't a surviving spouse or other family member who lived with the decedent. So there were never family members hovering around when we did this. It was far too distressing for a family member to witness complete strangers going through Uncle Ernie's bottom drawers. And we did. We went through every single drawer, every single shelf, in every single room. We cleaned out the refrigerator, we gathered up the mail, took care of a myriad of details. We had a checklist that ran to 17 pages full of stuff that needed done pretty quickly after someone passed away.

I worked with Mr. Lawyer for 5 years, spending almost more time with him than with my spouse. We had a really great working relationship. Get your mind out of the gutter, there was none of that. He wasn't my type, and he is the same age as my dad, so ick. He was a great example of how to treat your staff; when I made mistakes, he would say things like, "You ought to be more careful" or "Slow down and take your time." He was gentle, extremely patient, nice, generally a good guy. I think we made a good team because I'm abrasive, bitchy, and impatient. We often did the good cop/bad cop thing when we needed to on various cases, even once switching roles so that he was the bad guy. Which was really hard for him to pull off...when he gets really pissed off, he says things like, "Jiminy Christmas" and "Gosh Darn it". When *I* get really pissed off, I say things like "Kiss my ass, motherfucker."

By the time I moved on from that job, I'd had more than enough of the bank's politics, policies, and the general garbage I had to do each day. Like somehow it had become my responsibility to sort the department's mail, and don't even get me started about the department's coffee service and how it became the responsibilities of the assistants to clean up the coffee area when everyone drank it. Stuff like that just burns me up. So I left with few regrets. Just about the only one is that I don't have the opportunity to bounce ideas, thoughts, and theories off of Mr. Lawyer on a daily basis anymore; his opinions tended to be rational, reasonable, well thought out. I miss a few other co-workers as well. But I really miss my free daily copy of The Wall Street Journal...


~E~ said...

What a wonderful entry. I totally understand your Jensen crush. I've been crushing on him since his stint on Days of Our Lives. Admittedly, it has gotten worse, with each and every episode of SN. Oh well. It's fun. I refuse to feel guilty about it. Jensen is my #2 celeb crush, just a bit behind Hayden Christensen in my roster of cuties, but nonetheless, he's a star player within my fantasy world.

You mentioned that you write? Where do you post your work? I've written quite a few Hayden fan fiction pieces, but never a Dean/Jensen fic... yet, that is. I did write him into a chapter of the current Hayden fic I'm writing, and I wrote him into another story before that, but in an innocent way.

Well, enough rambling. As I said, I enjoyed your blog! Please send me a link to your work. I'd love to take a peek!

Happy Wednesday to you!

Lucy Arin said...

Hi E and thanks for commenting!

I'm not writing fan fiction...I am working on writing a novel that has nothing to do with my Jensen obsession.

I did some non-fiction writing last year on the Well Fed Network, www.wellfed.net, about food and healthy lifestyles.

There are no examples of my fiction writing on the web. I'm just not ready to share yet. When I am, I will probably post it first here on WellBehavedWomen. That would be any short stories that I wrote; I'm hoping to actually get the novel published, and if and when I do, I'm sure I will write about that process here on the blog as well.

I can suggest JRAunlimited.com's forums, Nuns with Pens, or the ABO forums for Jensen fan fic. Some of those are linked in my blog roll on the right side of the screen.

Thanks so much for your encouragement, it means a lot to me that someone wants to read my stuff, sight unseen.