Every odd day or so, I’d see Mystery Girl on my morning walk to the office. I’d see her behind me in line at the nearby cafe and decide, this is now a good time to read the Wall Street Journal on my phone for 5 minutes, right outside the building’s main entrance. Then when she got her coffee and bagel and left, I would serendipitously decide that reading time was over, time to go to the trading floor now. I’d walk a few paces ahead and hold the door for her. We’d share the ride and my mind would be in the clouds and I’d think OK… this is the day I finally say something to her.
An average elevator ride lasts 30 seconds. The walk through the Y5 hallway to her door was 10 seconds. I had that much time to make a good impression. What should I say? Should I just say hello? No she’s standing in front of me now, she has to turn around to react and that might startle her. And what would be your followup? Any dumbass can say hello and be forgotten. How do I work with so little to eventually ask her out? Maybe I ought to tell her she’s a mark for an unscrupolous burn and churn trading firm.
No. No, I’m not going to do that.
Ding. Elevator doors open. I didn’t say anything… again.
The more I saw her, the harder it would get to actually speak to her. I was so deep into my own head and overthinking… just like trading. I had this rising fear that she now knows my face too well and she would pick up that I was this weird stalker who had been timing these rides with her. So I decided to stop doing this until I knew exactly what to say next time.
I start to do what I always do when I needed answers: I googled away and read online forums. I thought maybe I could find some secret hack to make asking a girl out easier–like five magic words to say to a girl to win her over. I even read some of that toxic pickup artist material and while I didn’t exactly approve of it, the claimed success of some practitioners did reinforce the idea that some kind of strategy could help me out. I saw a thread by a guy who was just experimenting with asking girls out immediately and right on the spot wherever he went. There wasn’t any dumb gimmick like magic tricks or pranks, just a super direct approach i.e. My name is [name], I think you’re cute, give me your number. He’d log every attempt on the thread. He’d go to grocery stores, libraries, yoga classes, and he claimed it was surprisingly effective. I convinced myself this was the way to go because A) I didn’t have a lot time in an elevator ride and B) given the firm she worked at, she could disappear at any moment.
I started thinking about all the trading pep talks we had been given. Victor telling us to get larger on our tier-sizes. Tuco telling us to get uncomfortable in our best positions. He had this great line: If you’re too comfortable in your position, it means you don’t have enough size. Trading has become such a focal obsession in my life that now all these trader narratives were bleeding into my personal life. It’s time to get uncomfortable Pete. It’s time to stop being a massive wimp. Just do it.
So the next day, I just went for it.
Me: Hey I see you a lot and I think you’re really cute, do you want to go out sometime? Oh and my name is Pete haha sorry, what’s your name?
Mystery Girl: Umm…. okay. I’m Kelly.
I pry her for a number and we exchange info.
Ding. The elevator opens. She smiles at me, turns away, and walks toward her scammy trading firm.
I did it. IT WORKED!
The rest of the day I just had this warm feeling inside… like everything was going to be different from now on. I’d churn some stocks, get stopped out, but who cares? It would just free up my mind to daydream about our dinner date at the River Cafe.
I wanted to wait three days to call Kelly because watching the movie Swingers reinforced this idea that if you call too quickly, you’d seem desperate and needy–which I was but I should at least make the token attempt to hide it. But on my walk home, I had these negative thoughts nagging me deep down… almost like I felt it was too good to be true. That was too easy. There was a fearful part of my brain that believed I didn’t deserve nice things. I asked my roommate Ping if I could use his phone and I dialed the number Kelly gave me.
“You have reached a number that is disconnected or that is no longer in service.”
Ouch. Of course that wouldn’t work. I should have just asked her about stocks. Now I’m praying she blows up her account quickly so I never have to see her again.
I gave the phone back to Ping and then he told me he had to break some sad news: he was moving to Utah to take a temporary job for a year. His girlfriend Kristy, an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs, would stay in NYC and renew the lease. He then asked for a favor… Kristy held “traditional values” and she didn’t feel comfortable living in an apartment alone with another male who wasn’t her partner, so she wanted to proceed with a female roommate… i.e. not me.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled to stay if Ping left. Kristy carried this frosty, distrustful demeanor and we didn’t have any friendship between us. When crossing paths in our tiny living space, she would never greet me or smile, she’d just stare daggers right at me and then turn away. On top of that, she was messy as fuck–I’d vividly remember the sight of all of her loose hair strands sticking to a dirty toilet rim and then I’d gag. She really did live up to everything her previous roommate had warned me about in a hand-written letter. The problem was that this was very late in the calendar for me to make new living arrangements. There was little more than a couple weeks until the lease renewal deadline. I told Ping I’d try my best to accommodate them but if I didn’t find a desirable situation, I would stay for another year. It took me an entire summer of e-mails and in-person visits to find a suitable price point, location and roommate situation and I didn’t have the time to do it again. I had a terrible month in August and I had to focus on trading. Ping agreed and then got the renewal agreement out and he walked me through all the pages. The pages just wouldn’t end and there must have 100 things to sign and I put my signature on all of it. If I couldn’t find a new home in time, we’ll just hand in the agreement as is.
One week later, they knocked on my door for a conversation. Kristy told me we had to talk about the new lease while Ping quietly stood behind her.
Kristy: Peter, we delivered the leasing agreement with a woman who will take your spot. You have to move out at the end of the month.
Me: I’m sorry… what?
Kristy: You signed the papers last week agreeing to vacate.
Me: I didn’t sign anything saying I’d vacate. I signed saying I would agree to renew.
Kristy takes a piece of paper from a copy of the renewal agreement. She points to my signature and then to a paragraph about declining the renewal agreement and an intention to vacate the premises by the end of the lease. My full name was even printed into the paragraph. For the longest minute of my life, I just read it over and over in silence, not really believing what I was reading. Once my mind pieced it altogether, the blood started flowing to my face and I erupted.
We argued non-stop for twenty minutes. I couldn’t even think cogently. It felt like Kristy had her every line scripted perfectly to a tee to anything I would say and all I could do was just shout until my voice became hoarse. She’d call me immature and unhinged and that would just inflame me to the point where my words would again devolve into an incoherent and angry babble.
I couldn’t believe it. Soft-spoken and smiley Ping who was one of the first friends I ever made in NYC. We watched Linsanity together! I trusted him. Did he just sandbag me? What did I really sign? Why didn’t I read closer? Can I go to management and deny it? Should I get a lawyer? What if I just squat here indefinitely? My anger had brought me to the point of tears. I’d just stare at Ping… I wanted to shake him and ask WHY???? Kristy must have manipulated him into doing this. He barely said a word while we were at each other’s throats up until the end when he called a timeout for both of us to separate and cool our heads. He promises me that they’ll help me find a new place and put in a good referral and I don’t want to hear another word because I might punch him in the face.
We’re back in our bedrooms and I just flop helplessly onto my mattress… feeling hurt. Betrayed. Lonely. I thought we were friends. Then I felt dumb that I let this happen because I was naive and too trusting. It’s all my fault. I’m disgusted and ashamed that I got played. All my negative thoughts about trading and being rejected by Kelly starting to bleed in and create this super crisis in my head. Moving here was a stupid fucking mistake, I’m going to fail at everything and I ought to just move back. I wish I spoke to someone, anyone at that time who could offer me advice on what to do… but I just locked it all away because I didn’t know how to share any kind of vulnerability at that time in my life.
Once I cooled off, I came to an unfortunate conclusion… after that horrific confrontation, what good would it serve me to stay here? Live here with Kristy for a year after all that? Untenable. I had to cut bait even if it meant losing the moral battle. I went on Craigslist and frantically started searching for a new home.
FIve months later
I still live in same building on West Street. I pulled a rabbit out of my hat and found a new set of roommates 3 floors above the old apartment. My current roommate had 12 people lined up to interview for the 3rd bedroom (another fake box bedroom that divided the living room but I gladly took it) and I begged him to pick me and somehow managed to convince him I was the guy. I didn’t have to make any moving arrangements and I just did all the heavy lifting myself.
It’s March 2013 and we are leaving our office in the Financial District and moving to Midtown. It’s time to pack up and say goodbye. More like good riddance.
I’m in the elevator after a lunch break and Kelly strolls in. Just us two. She sort of looks at me quickly and then away. I can’t pick up the vibe… awkward? Pity? Just wants to GTFO asap? That I would understand. I had avoided Kelly like the plague. Every time I saw her, the cringe would roll up my spine. I can’t believe I tried to just ask her out in the elevator all at once like a gigantic weirdo. Of course she gave me a fake number, she saw me as some humongous creep who needed to be placated. You’re such an idiot.
The tension was unbearable. I just blurted something out.
Did you trade AAPL today?
Her eyes light up.
I did! It’s up 3% after I brought the breakout. Good trade!
I nodded. Cool. Good trade.
Ding. Elevator opens. She takes the door to her shitty trading firm and that’s the last time I ever see her.
(to be continued in Sandy)