All The Good Professions
When I was young, I wanted to be a troubadour. I wasn’t sure what a troubadour was, but it sounded very exciting. Then I thought it was a bull fighter and I became certain it’s what I wanted to do. Then I found out what it really was and I became an accountant.
After taking the CPA exam the second time and failing, my brother’s dick friend gave me a number of a tutor, saying maybe I should get some extra help from someone who really understands accountancy. I took the number wishing him a painful death, without meaning to ever use it. I had been working for a global company in the accounting department at the time and had already spent too much of my time and my money trying to pass this exam. I took a long weekend off from work and was browsing the internet trying to find another career path. I had thought there had to be something else I was good at. There was not. My choices were staying an average accountant at my current job or retiring early to a life of couch sitting and reality TV. Since I don’t like reality TV I called the number he gave me. There was no answer and I was beginning to think I would never, in my life, get a break. Then, I got a call on my cell and the woman on the other line was speaking very quickly, and not to me. It sounded like she was on two other calls at the same time: “… I’ll get you the fish when I can Maureen, I couldn’t find the time today” there was a pause. “Yes I know you’ve been waiting since Tuesday, you’ve told me every day, listen I got to go I have a call on the other line, hello?” I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me so I didn’t respond.
“Yes, hello” I said, finally realizing it was my turn, “this is Jeremy, I’m Mike’s friend he gave me your number.. it’s uh.. About the CPA exam?” I felt like an eight year old talking to his teacher. “Ok, why don’t you come by tonight?”
That was fast. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to put on shorts, let alone leave the house. “umm sure, I’m..”
“Can you make it before eight?” she cut me off “I got a thing”.
Her apartment was in a building on El Camino Real, across the street from the beach. I went up the stairs hearing loud music coming from the third floor. I had imagined it differently. Mike told me this woman was sharp and successful, that she had done more in three years of work than he had in ten. I thought she would live in an apartment with a doorman and next to ladies with poodles. I knocked on the door and once it opened I realized I’d been even more wrong. This girl was maybe twenty five years old, was very short and was wearing sweatpants and a T shirt that said “what would Jesus do”. She had long blond hair and big glasses. I thought there was a mistake, and checked the apartment number on the door. “Rebbeca?”
She smiled and opened the door wide. “Yes, come in”. I stood there for a minute, trying to make the right decision, thinking if this woman was my last resort, maybe I could get used to reality TV.
She had already walked inside so I got in and closed the door behind me. The apartment was very small. There were a couch and a coffee table in the middle of the living room, and on the left there was a chair and a big desk with three computers on it. There were boxes and packages all over the floor and in the right corner there was something unrecognizable, floating in a small fish tank. I had definitely not made the right decision.
“So tell me a little about yourself, I’ve known Mike for a while but I don’t think we ever met, I’m sorry, do you want something to drink?” She sat at the desk, looking at one of the screens. “Um,
no thanks… I uh… I know Mike through my older brother, they went to high school together but we’re not very close”
“Yeah I can understand that, he’s kind of a dick” she smiled at me and I thought maybe she’s not so bad. I sat on the couch trying not to kick any boxes.
“So I’ve been working at this place for like three years now, and I took the test twice. I took the preparation course twice too. It’s was sort of a requirement to pass it in my office, but no one there really cares if I passed, I just need it if I want to make partner someday”.
She turned on the chair towards me “and do you?” I shrugged. “I took it twice and now I’m here, so… obviously”. I took another look around. There was a fluffy pillow in the left corner, like a bed for something to sleep on, but there was no sign of an animal and she immediately said
“There’s no dog, don’t worry. It’s gone”. I was going to tell her I wasn’t worried but she had already started talking again. “So let me ask you, if you studied for so long why haven’t you passed the exam so far?” she looked at me and she really did have the scolding teacher look. “I don’t know, I guess it was harder than I thought. Twice”
“But you’re sure that you really want this, right?” her words were left in the air. I wasn’t concentrated. I tried to figure out what was swimming in the fish tank but it was too dirty. “It’s a jelly fish” she said, keeping her eyes on the screen.
“A pet jelly fish?”
She laughed. “No, I just sell them”. When I got closer to the tank I could see it more clearly, round and chubby, floating in the water. “Why?”
“Why do you sell them?”
“It’s my job” she said and turned around facing me again. I kept standing, looking around again feeling stupid. “So… you’re not an accountant?”
“No, I quit a while ago, didn’t mike tell you?” I sighed and shook my head, wishing I was back in bed in boxers. “So why am I here?” I looked at her, starting to get mad for the time waste.
“I’m a really good tutor, I help a lot of people pass all kind of tests, it’s my job”. “Isn’t your job selling jelly fish?” I frowned and looked at my watch.
”I do a lot of things” she said “. It was quiet for a moment. I was thinking of a polite way to leave.
“How old are you?” She stared right at me and I said “twenty nine, what does that have to do with anything?” “I was just curious, and you already know you want to be a partner?” she started typing quickly, her finger moving like crazy on the keyboard. “Yes, I think most accountants plan on being partners at some point” I sat back down.
“You’d be surprised” gave me a look and smiled, then said “do you mind looking at this for a moment?” before I could respond she played a video showing a crow eating a carcass of a deer. “Do you think this is too much for YouTube?” she looked at me eagerly. “Yes” I said disgusted. “Definitely, nobody wants to see that” but she said “naa, I think it’s ok” and she continued typing on her computer. I was beginning to think Mike was screwing with me and it’s getting late. I looked over at her. She was sitting with her back to me, her long hair reached her waist, she had two keyboards and three screens. It seems like she was doing six things at once, she kept opening and closing windows on the screens.
“So what is it that you do?” I was curious seeing a colorful screen with changing T-shirt images. I got closer to take a better look and she adjusted the glasses on her nose. “I do a lot of things. I don’t have one full time job. There are so many small jobs you can find online that pay a lot of money, look”. She opened the website with the T-shirts. “This is a company that gives me money for wearing their T-shirts to promote their business, I take pictures with it and post them online” I looked at her, trying to decide if she was crazy. “Is that what this shirt is about?” I pointed at her shirt she laughed and got up “yeah, that reminds me, come here”. She pulled me close and took a picture of us in her phone. “Now this will go online and I make five dollars” she sat back down. “Do I get a commission?” I pulled a chair beside her. She laughed again. “You won’t believe how much money people pay for the craziest things”. She opened the site with the crow video – “reviewing sensitive contents for google makes more money than you’d think, but it’s kinda depressing so I only do that on Fridays” she opened another one that seemed like a weight watchers website. “This is an online bet for weigh loss, the person losing the most weight wins a thousand dollars”
“What? But you’re so thin!” I looked at her; she couldn’t be more than a hundred and twenty pounds. “I wasn’t always” she smiled and looked at her laptop. “There are so many things you can do online, some days, I don’t leave the apartment, I watch over pets for people, I tutor online, I take online surveys for money, did you know that the going rate on jellyfish is about three hundred dollars? Do you know how much it costs to catch one? Nothing, I just go to the beach”. I looked around again, this apartment started to make sense to me now, the boxes, the fluffy pillow. “But you can’t really make a living doing this?” I said. “I make almost twice what I made at the firm” she said. “I already bought a house is Pasadena, I’m renting it now, but in 5 years I’m gonna retire and move there and live off the interest from my investments”.
I thought this was enough information for one day, with the jelly fish and the crow eating the deer. We made plans to get together that Sunday to study.
I came over to her apartment on Sunday morning. It was a bit more organized this time, you could see the floor and the fish tank was gone, but there was a furry creature on the fluffy pillow. “That’s Sammy” she told me. “He’s a ferret, I’m watching him until Wednesday, isn’t he cute?” The animal gave me a look and then went back to its nap.
“Do you always work on Sundays?” I slammed my books on the table, she was still on her computers “not always, but if I’m bored and if there’s work to do. Today I’m mainly working on my blog”. I couldn’t help but laugh and she went to the kitchen to make coffee “why are you laughing?”
“Because you’re working on your blog, it’s so serious” I said and shrugged, thinking it would be rude to tell her it sounded ridiculous. She sat next to me with the mugs. She was wearing a large yellow shirt, with a picture of a yoo-hoo bottle on it and looked like a five year old. “I make a full time job income with that blog”. I stopped sipping my coffee immediately.
“Yep” she drank her coffee. “People don’t understand that jobs are evolving, we’re not chained to old career paths anymore, we don’t have to spend ten hours of our day in an office. There are so many other options”. “Maybe it’s not for everyone” I said and opened my notes. “I think it is. I think anyone can find something he’s good at that he can do if he doesn’t want to rot away in an office all day. I learned graphic design online and now I’m a freelance designer for small businesses. Like, what are you good at?” I looked at the ferret, thinking for a moment and said “I’m good at accounting”.
We studied for three hours. Mike was right, she was brilliant. She remembered everything about state laws and knew a lot about federal laws as well, down to the smallest details. After we were done for the day she asked if I wanted to take the ferret out to a walk with her. We went outside and I took a picture of her wearing the shirt with the ferret and walked down Sixth Street and I asked about her blogs. She said she has two blogs, one for finance and one for art and lifestyle. “When the blogs got more and more popular, online stores and companies offered me money to advertise there so that’s good money, and it’s fun to write and I can do it everywhere”
“Don’t you get bored? Sitting in front of your computer all day? Not talking to anyone?” I asked and she stopped walking and looked at me like I’m crazy.
“Of course not”. The ferret chased its tail.
“I can do whatever I want, I’m totally free. Sometimes I feel like having a pet so I watch pets, and sometimes I just wanna work on my art so I work for this company that pays to paint on dumpsters. Last year I managed the twitter and Facebook account for some of the Muppet characters, it’s so much better than having to answer to a boss, sit at a desk all day, wearing pant-suits”. She seemed upset so I changed the subject. “Wait, that dumpster on Market st. with the giant rat painted on it – that’s yours?” she laughed and pulled on Sammy’s chain. “Yeah, it’s a Tasmanian devil, I always wanted one. Look, the opportunities would amaze you, and that way you can work for maybe six or seven hours a day, be your own boss, life is just so much easier I’m telling you”.
At home I tried imagining what it would be like to sit at home all day working from my computer, doing all sorts of things without the florescent lighting or the office politics. Not having to write any more reports or sitting through meetings with clients. I tried thinking about what I would do in a scenario like that. Nothing came to mind but a professional basketball player, but I could never find time to play after work. What kind of life is that with no coworkers no office jokes, no Christmas office parties. Maybe my mind was too set. Rebecca had worked at a place like that but decided to leave. Although I don’t see myself walking ferrets anytime soon.
We met up again on Wednesday. I was shocked when she opened the door. Her hair was cut almost as short as mine. “What happened?” I circled around her “I sold it” she ran her fingers through her pixie haircut. “I don’t even like long hair, I only grew it long to sell it online, easiest 500$ I ever made”. We sat down to study. Every now and then Rebecca would look up quickly to the empty fluffy pillow in the corner of the room and run her fingers through her hair. When we finished she asked if I wanted to go get coffee but I had dinner plans with people from work. “I read your blog you know” I told her when I gathered my things “it’s really good”.
“They’re both really good” “Soon you’ll write one”
“It’s not for me” I opened the door. She stood there looking small, with short hair and a large shirt that said “Hal’s garage” and an image of a naked girl on a motorcycle.
“I know, I know, you’re an accountant”.
At dinner we talked about our senior partner retiring, wondering if someone’s will get promoted soon and who it might be. We made fun of Helen for her short skirts that might get her the job. Someone mentioned maybe I would get it if I just passed the exam, Helen said she would be willing to start wearing longer skirts if I just passed. Everyone laughed.
Two weeks later I passed the CPA exam. I called Rebecca to tell her but her line was busy, I thought she was probably out catching jelly fish again. The guys at the office threw me a party at the office and brought a cake and a huge banner that said: “The office will stop its daily prayer now that Jeremy passed the CPA”, I don’t know where they got it, and something made me think that maybe Rebecca designs specially made banners for office parties.
She didn’t call me back the following week and I got caught up with work so I forgot about it. There weren’t any new entries on her blog either. I thought maybe she was out on vacation or retired and moved to Pasadena earlier than planned, she did say business was good.
After six months I was offered a promotion and decided not to take it. I was thinking of leaving the firm for a while and do something different. I sat at home for two months and started to think maybe I made a mistake, there was no something different. I didn’t know how to write a blog, I didn’t want a blog. Then my neighbor asked me if I could help her son with his finals in math and I tutored him for a while. He got a good grade and then I went on tutoring him for the SAT’s, then other kids asked me to tutor them and then some students learning math and accounting. Soon I was really busy. I still had time to play basketball when I wanted or sometimes to just sit at home in my boxers and watch reality shows. They weren’t so bad.
One day a few weeks later I went to lunch with the guys from my old office. They said the new accountant is brilliant but wasn’t the same without me. They were very surprised to hear about the tutoring. I couldn’t tell from their tone if they were jealous or feeling sorry for me. Either way I didn’t care. I walked them to the building and said goodbye, thinking maybe I would walk home. I had the entire afternoon off and it was a beautiful day to be outside. Just when I was turning to the sidewalk I noticed a woman passing by me on her way to the building. She was wearing a long blue pants-suit and high heels, carried a hand bag and was speaking on her phone. When she reached the stairs she dropped it and it fell down. She turned to get it, and it was Rebecca. Her hair was longer and she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She picked up her phone then got up and looked at my direction. I don’t know if she saw me. Either way she said nothing, just turned around and got into the building. I decided to walk home; it really was a beautiful day.
By Maayan Sulami from Israel