Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Accountant in the Hermit Cave

This will be a relatively short posting (ha!), because I'm working on two papers for school at the same time, and need to be working on a third before I go to bed.  Furthermore, the time I ought to go to bed is about an hour ago. *Sigh.*

My desk.  Sometimes it's worse than this. The bulk of the travel agency where I work is a large while room full of desks, visible from the parking lot through a glass wall.  Standard stuff, I suppose.  Off this main room are two offices, one about halfway back on the left, and another behind that, tucked away and completely invisible from the front half of the main room.  The office halfway back belongs to my boss, but he seldom goes in there any more.  The hidden one behind that is mine.  I call it my hermit cave.

Over the years, I've done my time in retail, dealing directly with the public, or with unreasonable managers, or both.  I've worked for Friendly Ice Cream, a hippie variety store called Monkeys Retreat, McDonald's, a record chain I probably won't name here because at some point in the near future I'm probably going to say nasty things about its owner, National Record Mart, two locally-owned video rental chains, and four travel agencies.  By the time I burned out on being a travel agent, I was half-convinced that the average traveler wanted the following:

1.  Leave Tucson after getting off work at 5 PM;
2.  Arrive in NYC by 8 PM local time. (Note: in summer, 8 PM EDT = 5 PM Arizona time);
3.  Purchase the ticket for no more than the half-remembered low price paid on another trip five years ago to a different destination;
4.  Get the low fare reserved for three week advance purchase with a Saturday night stay, even though the ticket is being purchased today for travel tomorrow and return on Friday;
5.  Dictate exactly what kind of plane the airline is flying, and the exact seat to be sat in, and never change planes;
6.  Use an expired $100 off coupon from a different airline for additional savings;
7.  Specify a special no-crying-babies section;
8.  Get a free upgrade to first class;
9.  Receive an invoice with an inflated fake fare so the passenger can overbill the travel expense; and
10. Successfully order a SFML (seafood meal), VGML (vegetarian meal) or other special request, on a flight that only offers a snack, or possibly just peanuts.

Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but you'd be surprised how many of these unreasonable demands I ran into from one client or another.  (Hint: all of them.)  If I didn't give them what they wanted, I was thought to be either mean, stupid, uncooperative, or incompetent.  The passenger's usual tactic at that point was to ask the same question again in slightly different words, in the expectation that the answer would change to the desired response.

This is pretty much why I'm an accountant now, or about to be one.  Officially, I'm an operations manager. Definitionally, my job can be construed as either bookkeeper and accountant, but I am not yet a CPA. Accountants are seen (at least in accountant jokes) as shy, introverted people.  One joke, told by an instructor of mine, goes like this:

Q: How do you know than an accountant is an extrovert?
A: He or she looks down at your shoes while talking to you.


I don't buy into stereotypes, even for accountants, but this one fits me in particular.  I am an introvert, and this job suits me better than travel agenting ever did.  As the bookkeeper / accountant, I seldom talk to the public, except to tell someone on the phone that everyone else is currently speaking on another line.  I don't book airline tickets or cruises or anything else.  I just make sense of the numbers, and enter missing data into the accounting system from stacks of yellow invoices, a task this old English major finds surprisingly pleasant.  I do this in the privacy of a back office whose only window looks out onto the back of the main room.  I don't look out that window much, although it's right in front of me.  Even if I do, I can't see what's going on up front, where some of my co-workers spend most of their time.  I like to say that someone could have a baby at Eleanor's desk, and I wouldn't know about it unless someone happened to think to tell me.

Suits me fine.  To quote Xander Harris, I like the quiet.

So now I'm three weeks and two days from my last class at the University of Phoenix, four months away from taking the CPA exam.  By July, I will have to start paying on the student loan.  This means I will HAVE to get another job, a full-fledged accounting position that pays more than I make now.  This is a wrench for me, because I'm been with this agency for nearly 12 years, working for the best boss I've ever had.

When I do leave, there are several kinds of accounting jobs I can try for.  The ones who make the really big bucks are CFOs of major firms.  That's not an entry-level job, and anyway,  as a scoffer at management theory I'm not much interested in working for a big company.  Or I can be a tax accountant.  Um. yuck.  I could probably learn to like that, but I didn't even do my own taxes for the first time until last year.  I can get additional training to be a fraud examiner, but that might be too confrontational for shy old Karen.  I might even need to carry a gun, and that's never gonna happen.  Or I can be an auditor.  That would be less confrontational than full time fraud work, more interesting than tax work, and more independent than cog in the big machine work.  And maybe if I'm lucky, I can spend part of the time in a new hermit cave.

Yeah.  I think I'll try for that.

Dang. I never did get around to that third paper.


P.S.  I did write most of that third paper after writing this entry, and went to bed very late yet again.


shellys555 said...

Hi, Karen! Just passing thru via BE. This is the first time you've come up on my rotation. :)

ryanagi said...

Hey! I never got an alert for this entry. Hmm. Anywho...Auditor is probably the way to go. My Dad does that for the IRS. You might want to give the IRS a try (even if most of your friends and family will go eewwww when you tell them who you work for). LOL There are probably other options you haven't thought of yet too. There used to be a group at AT&T that did cost analysis. We would go to them to find out how much a new project might potentially cost and what the return on investment might be. That seemed like a fun and interesting job to me.