Sunday, May 14, 2017

How I committed economic suicide (part 5)

When I completed recording daily transactions, I turned my attention back to the project my boss gave to me. I was able to download a template to try to figure out how to import transactions into our accounting system. The template looked like a complete mess and I spent at least an hour trying to figure out which fields imported figures. After trial and error, I was able to finally get something to import into our system however it barely had any information on it. If something was in the wrong place or format, the import would fail so I had to change only one field at a time before importing. If I changed too many fields and got an error, I couldn’t be sure what the cause of the error was. I was able to import transactions with a few fields such as customer ID, transaction amount, and item however there were several things I could not import. I couldn’t figure out how to import the currency and exchange rate. More importantly, I wasn’t able to figure out how to make the import flow to the correct accounts.

After spending too much time trying to figure out the import process, I didn’t have much to show. At my boss’s suggestion, I decided to look up what macros were. I spent some time doing some research and found out that macros are like hot keys for spreadsheets. When recording a macro, the spreadsheet will record every mouse click, function, and keystroke until the recording stops. In the beginning, I created some simple macros that would automatically format sales data and eliminate excess data. It wasn’t the legendary one button fix but it helped to save a little bit of time recording daily sales.

My workload continued to increase. My boss took the time to train me how to set up the payments to the vendors. We had an online platform where we could set up and release payments to our vendors via ACH or wire transfers. As I logged in, I saw that we had preset templates for each of our different types of vendors. Here, I would take the information from our vendor payment report and enter the payments individually into the vendor set up in the templates. One thing that I noticed was that ACH templates had multiple vendors included but there were no templates for wire transfers. My boss then explained to me that only vendors based in the United States can receive payments via ACH. Vendors with with banks located overseas could only receive a payment via wire transfer. The biggest differences between the payment methods was twofold. First off, ACH payments take one business day to clear while wire payments would hit the vendor’s bank on the same day. The second biggest difference was that ACH transactions cost us a few cents while wire transfers cost us $10 per wire. For this reason, we wanted to send as few wires as possible.

After I was done setting up the payments, my boss would release them and the funds would be debited from our bank account. This system was in place for proper separation of duties.

I would come to dread Wednesday’s for some time because of vendor payments. When I was first learning to set up payments, I could find every vendor in the preset templates. However, there were weeks when we had vendors that were nowhere to be found in the templates. When this happened, I usually had no idea how to pay the vendor. This resulted in me having to pull people’s teeth to find out what the vendor was, where it came from, and most importantly the banking information. Finally after I retrieved the necessary information, I would have to figure out how to add it to the existing template or set up the wire individually. ACH payments were a pain to add because adding the vendor to an existing template required my boss to approve the template before I could set up payments. Setting up individual wires was a little easier but it would be a challenge if the banking information on the invoice was confusing or incomplete. Furthermore, there were often times vendors which got paid by credit card and I didn’t know what to do for those vendors.

Some of the worst nightmares occurred when the banking information was not clear. Invoices from foreign vendors would include multiple account numbers, methods of payment, and SWIFT codes. On a few instances, the payment wouldn’t reach the destination because the account number was used instead of the IBAN. In one particular instance, I had to send the same payment to one of our vendors over five times because we couldn’t figure out why the payment was being rejected. Every time, I remembered the worst feeling was when Barbara saw an amount credited to our bank account and was asking me if it was due to a returned payment.

The one bit of relief I could remember was when I got to take Mei Ling out to dinner in August. I was happy that she agreed to go. After all, it had been months since I could spend one one one time with a woman. The restaurant that we went to was unique in that it sat on an airstrip and you could watch biplanes take off and land while you were eating. The restaurant was based off of World War II and featured a lot of memorabilia and decor from the era. As soon as I picked her up, everything just felt natural. It felt like I was talking with Julia again. While eating chicken and steak, I was bringing up any interesting story or anecdote I could just to engage her or get her to laugh. Even though we had known each other for years, we never really got to know each other very well and we never talked as much to each other during those few hours.

It was my motivation to just get her to take Julia’s place. Forget all about Julia and experience this new woman. I was confident that I could make something happen with Mei Ling. After the night, I felt like I was riding high. Unfortunately, I tried to make a few advances over the next few weeks and months but I could never get a connection. I just gave up on her after a while and she found another boyfriend months or a year afterward. It was disappointing that I couldn’t make anything happen but it wasn’t as disappointing as what I had realized.

If things had worked out with Mei Ling, then I would have just completely forgotten about Julia and have completely disregarded her. I would have denied her very existence and all the experiences that we shared together would have been null and void. There was nothing special about Julia. She was just a girl I wanted to have sex with. Most likely, she viewed me the same way. All we did was use each other. Thinking about relationships in that way makes it hard to believe in love in any sense. Unfortunately, despite this revelation, I would still continue to think about her.

Back at work, the drudgery continued. There were a few days when I arrived at the office and received an email stating that one of our vendors shut off our service due to us running past our credit limit. Everytime this happened, I panicked and felt like I was running around like a headless chicken. Most of the time this happened, my boss would berate me for not having set up a big enough payment to our vendors. He had a good reason to do this as our telecom staff would have to scramble to communicate with our vendors and beg them to restore our service. The would also have to try to figure out how to reroute traffic until service was restored.

Towards the end of July and beginning of August, I felt like I was screwing up almost everything I tried to do. I was also nervous that my performance was so poor that my boss would fire me but that didn’t happen. It was the latter part of 2013 that caused me to change my perspectives on life. I was in a miserable place and I kind of gave up on the prospects of ever owning a home. If living like the average American meant enduring two hours of traffic a day, working 12 hours a day, working extra hours on the weekend, and waiting in fear each day of getting berated by your supervisors then I wanted no part of it. I would rather just never move out of my parents house. I would get a job working minimum wage stocking shelves at a grocery store and do that until I died. And why shouldn’t I? I didn’t want to have any wife or kids, buy expensive cars, or travel to Italy. I had no real reason to work hard or achieve anything. I would work just hard enough to sustain myself until death. It was an idea that I toyed with but I did my best just to endure my current lot in life.

In August, the independent contractor program started to destroy my life. Up until August, all of the contractors took their payments in US dollars. During August, the marketing team decided it would be a good idea to let contractors take payments in their native currency. Now we had contractors that also took Canadian dollars, Euros, Australian dollars, and British pounds. This caused an absolute mess for accounting purposes and would take several months to eventually resolve. During the end of August, I tried to make the closing journal entries for the independent contractors only to get error messages in our accounting system whenever foreign currencies were involved. During that time period, I vowed that if I ever took another accounting job, I would make sure it was US based only and did not deal with foreign currencies.

The first problem occurred was that half of our independent contractors switched over to a different currency. Before moving forward with the accounting, I had to make sure that the contractors US accounts were closed and did not have any more activity. After that, I had to make sure to open up new liability accounts for the independent contractors in the foreign currency they had requested. Afterwards, I’d have to find the date when our IT staff transferred the liability from the US account to the foreign account and record the transfer as a journal entry with the correct exchange rate. Figuring out how to do all these steps took me several weeks to figure out mainly because I had to egg and prod as many people as I could to get the entire picture. It was like getting one small puzzle piece every time I asked something how to do something. I also was working with Lenny to try to figure would what kind of transactions that our accounting system would and would not allow as certain transactions had limitations. In one instance, we couldn’t have two accounts payable entries in the same journal entry so we had to move the independent contractor liability to a clearing account before moving it to accounts payable. Other journal entries would not let us have two different currencies in the same entry which forced us to use the clearing account again.

Due to the amount of work the team endured, my boss thought it was a good idea to hire another accountant in our office. During the month of September, he interviewed a number of candidates until he finally decided on a guy. In October, Lenny would relocate to our city and train the new guy. This was the plan, however things when awry when the new guy rejected the job offer one week before starting in October. The man could have quit for any number of reasons but I suspected that our company was trying to lowball him on the salary. Either way, Lenny arrived in the office in October and we had a fresh face in the office.

Interacting with Lenny was not what I was expecting. Over the phone and internet, he seem very professional like but in person, he was like a college frat boy. His favorite hobby back in Texas was getting drunk with his buddies in the bars and he would tell me about places that served $2 margaritas. Each day at work, he would check the criminal records in his hometown to see if anyone he knew got arrested for disorderly conduct involving alcohol. If he saw someone, he would spam the mugshots all over social media. He talked a lot about bitcoins and of stories of him drinking with his buddies in high school and college.

During October, we were getting our insurance and benefits situated. The health care reform act of 2013 took effect and companies/individuals had to comply with the mandate or get hit with penalties. Up until that point, I had a high deductible health insurance plan with a deductible of $10,000 annually. I was thoroughly satisfied with the plan as it only cost me $45 a month. However, since my company was going to pay 100% the cost of health insurance, I would eventually drop my plan. The reform act was an utter mess. It made insurance premiums a lot more expensive than they already were. Since companies were required to offer healthcare to full time employees, companies started moving their full time staff to part time to avoid complying with the regulations. Furthermore, the regulations were an extra barrier/deterrence from starting new companies. Our company held a meeting with the benefits specialists and we all sat together while the specialists explained our coverage. While looking at the documents, I was thinking about Julia. It had been several months since the last time we talked. I kind of wanted to just talk to her again one more time.

When I got home, I decided to call Ting and ask her for Julia’s phone number. When I got it, I saved it in my phone and made sure not to commit it to memory. I held the information in my phone for a few weeks before deciding to call her. I was in no rush. During November, I finally gave her a phone call and she didn’t recognize who I was at first. But after identifying myself, she seemed really happy to hear from me.   

It was only supposed to be a phone call that lasted a minute. I just wanted to talk to her and see that she was doing okay. However one question kept leading into another question and when I finally ended the call, I had been talking to her for 20 minutes. We also decided to meet at a restaurant in the following week. It wasn’t supposed to happen, I just wanted to ask her a few questions and then hang up.

The following week, I was in a foul mood after work. When I was talking to Julia, I felt myself filled with hatred and spite. I left work slightly earlier that day but I was in the mood to trash the office and quit. It was almost a year since I had last seen Julia and I almost regretted seeing her again. I had no game plan or end goal. Did she have a boyfriend now? If she didn’t, could we set something up together? I barely even wanted to talk to her and let the conversation go limp several times. When we did talk, I talked about how I hated my job so much and wanted to abandon it. I just wanted to buy a lifetime worth of food, live with my parents forever, and never do anything again. Back then, I had a vague idea of how I might be able to pull it off. There was a bank that offered certificates of deposits at an interest rate of a whopping 2.3%. Sure, it was low but certificates of deposits were FDIC insured so it was almost a risk free investment. If I could accumulate $100,000 and dump it all into a CD, I could earn a total of $2300 interest per year. During 2010 to 2013, my average annual expenses was about $8000 per year however most of that figure was due to auto insurance, maintenance, and gas. If I didn’t have to work, I could have easily kept my living expenses down to $2300 per year. If I needed more, I could just pick up a part time job while working no more than 20 hours a week. At that low income level, I would most likely qualify for a stupid health insurance subsidy from the federal government. Regardless, I was pissed off and I just wanted out of this situation.

Julia told me not to do this and that it was a horrible idea. I told her, I’d rather eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life if it meant I never had to work in accounting again.

I was reminded of the grass eating men in Japan. These are men that abandoned all aspirations of sex, relationships, marriage, homeownership, and hard work. Instead, they live with their parents and play video games all day while eating grass jelly. While society judges these men as losers, I have an admiration for them. Why should I bust my ass working 12 hours a day and multiple hours a week for an unfaithful wife, a house with ever increasing property taxes, children that I’ll have to neglect for work, a leased luxury car, and tons of worthless electronic crap. Screw all of it. On top of all of that, I’d be paying 20% to 40% of my gross earnings to fund the welfare state and wealth redistribution. I won’t be a slave for anyone for any longer then I have to. The grass eating men of Japan are sticking it to the Japanese federal government by not producing and not paying into the welfare system to support the baby boomer generation. As far as I’m concerned, those men are freaking geniuses.

Julia and I finished eating some pie but I really didn’t have anywhere to take this encounter. I spewed out my hatred and anger and I really couldn’t think about how to move anything forward. We just kind of left.

I wish I could say our story together ended her however I sent her a text just to make her laugh the following day.

The rest of November went smoothly until my boss came to me and told me the sales agent program was a mess. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to fix the problem or identify it in the first place. I went back and forth with Lenny and eventually he figured out what had to be done. We had close to 80 agents with an individual balance and about half of them wanted to do business in a foreign currency. I had to go into our internal IT system to see all the activity for our sales agents and make sure the balance matched up with our accounting system. For the last few months, I recorded all of the foreign sales agents transactions incorrectly but this was never caught by the accountant that reviewed every monthly closing.

Perhaps another one of the biggest lessons I learned about office jobs is that you don’t always get feedback if you do things incorrectly. And when things get done incorrectly, they can go on for quite some time. And when problems go on for quite some time, fixing them is a massive nightmare. One of the biggest headaches that I had was that I had to correct dozens of journal entries from several prior months. In order to fix the entries, I had to ask permission to open previously closed months in order to make adjustments. I had to do this dozens of times. Fixing all the mistakes took countless hours, several months, and a lot of heartache.

I spent sent several days working in the office until past 7 pm and occasional 8 pm. I would be lying in bed dreading going to work. During my commute, I occasionally considered driving into oncoming traffic. By the end of 2013, I had nearly accumulated $50,000 but I was convinced it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Things got really bad in January when I came under massive pressure from my boss. I had forgotten to set up the payment for salaries for the employees in our Europe office. Unfortunately, I was backed up into a corner. As much as I hated my job, I remembered the experience of going through 16 job interviews to get it. I still needed the money. I’d stay with the company until I accumulated $100,000 and then I’d depart. I’d have to endure the misery for at least another 2 years. However, I looked forward to making my departure. I’d dream about smashing the office to pieces on the way out. I’d smash the laptops, printers, phones, windows, and routers. I’d cut all the cords to the office to disrupt communications for at least 24 hours. If I didn’t want to cause physical damage, I could go into the accounting system and start destroying records and cause untold amounts of damage that way. I thought about my options.

At this point, I was finally serious about my plans. I gave up on thinking about homeownership. As miserable as life was at the time, I’d feel no qualms about living with my parents well into my 40s or 50s. I didn’t want to have a wife or children so why not? If it meant working under insane hours, insufferable management, and unclear orders, I’d rather just spend my time watching cartoons all day.

February arrived. Julia’s birthday was on the 10th. To do something special for her, I decided to take her out to a restaurant close by my office for sushi. Thankfully, she said yes. I took off of work after 5 pm and waited at the mall for an hour. I wasn’t waiting for Julia, I just wanted to get out of the office. We met up and made some small talk before we headed to the sushi restaurant. I gave her a gift that I thought was unique. I gave her a dime. It wasn’t an ordinary dime though. It was a Mercury dime from the year 1929. I purchased it at a coin store in December of 2013. I always wanted to have a silver dime or quarter but they are impossible to find in normal circulation. I paid $7 for it and it was in a very worn condition. Truth be told, it could have been a fake for all I knew. But, I had it and was happy. When Julia’s birthday was arriving, I figured it would be a unique gift to give. And she really liked it.

Afterwards, we were about to part ways. I gave her a hug and tried to kiss her on the cheek. Unfortunately, she let her hair grow out and her hair block her face. I tried to kiss her again but I had the same problem. As we left, I mentioned that we might be able to do something for Valentine’s Day but she mentioned she was busy. I backed my car out of the parking space and looked back at Julia. She looked back at me, smiled, and waved. This was the last time I ever saw Julia. This was the last time I ever heard Julia’s voice.