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Memoirs of a Minyan: War Stories


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

Sleepless in Manhattan

I was the first person on the trading floor the next day for no other reason than I hadn't been able to sleep.

At 6:00 AM, the bank trader from the listed stock desk walked over to me, smiled and said "You're still involved in Letter I, right?" My heart froze.


"You''re still long it, right? Please tell me you're still long it."

My mouth opened but nothing came out. The trader turned and walked away without saying a word.

I grabbed the Journal, went to the men's room and stepped into the far stall. Three minutes later, the entire trading floor erupted. I'm not sure how long I sat there it didn't matter-I desperately wanted to stay.

I took several deep breaths, left the Journal on the floor and stepped out the door.

You would have thought that I hit a walk-off home run and teammates were waiting for me at the home plate of Yankee Stadium.

Salesmen patted me on the back; traders gave me the thumbs up and friends from the Street left messages to congratulate me. The head of the department walked up to me with a sparkle in his eye and almost hugged me.

"Way to go, Toddo, way to stick it out!"

There was only one small problem-I was short. Very short, betting that the stock would decline and I would be able to cover the rest of my position for a profit.

Instead, the stock traded 35 points higher and what would have been a seven-figure win suddenly morphed into a multiple-seven figure loss.

Wells Fargo (WFC) had been in talks with First Interstate and the deal fell apart. That may or may not be the reason Keefe tried to sell his position. I didn't know and it didn't matter. Wells Fargo made a hostile bid, which at the time was unheard of in the banking sector.

To add insult to injury, Morgan Stanley was the banker on the deal and I was restricted from trading either stock. My position was taken from me on the opening. In other words, I was completely screwed.

I didn't move from my turret all day. I didn't go to the bathroom. I didn't eat lunch. I didn't make outgoing calls. I didn't do anything but stare at the flickering "I" that continued to wink and blink and taunt me so.

Around 7:00 pm, Ralph Reynolds, the head of our department, called me into his office. Here we go, I thought, the end of my world as I knew it.

Someone once told me that on Wall Street, you're only as good as your last trade. I assumed that spoke to the general direction of performance, not the literal interpretation that suddenly sank in.

I was so close to the cash register yet after a single trade, my career was over. I would have banked millions of dollars if the deal were announced a day earlier. Instead, I was going to be a sacrificial lamb. My confidence and self-esteem were shattered as I prepared myself for the inevitable news.

I explained the sequence of events to my boss as he stared deep into my eyes. My trading account was still up substantially for the year but I was certain it wouldn't matter. He measured me as if he was judging my soul. After a long pause, he spoke.

"Go home, get some rest and come ready to play the next day."

He wasn't happy about the loss but he wasn't going to spike my career over it. The mechanics of my swing, he decided, outweighed the results of the at-bat.

I walked from the office, took the elevator downstairs, exited Morgan Stanley's offices and turned the corner.

There, as I leaned against a neighboring building, surrounded by strangers making their way to the theater, I began to laugh.

Within a few minutes, tears were streaming down the sides of my cheeks.


Click here for the next chapter of Memoirs, "An Officer and a Gentleman."

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