When I was in eighth grade, my class took a trip to Wells Fargo Bank and the Pacific Stock Exchange as part of our Junior Achievement program. Staying true to the nerd I was, I had a pretty strong interest in business, particularly the stock market at the time. It was the late 80s after all. Greed was good. After stepping foot inside of the stock exchange, it became a dream of mine to someday work there, wearing a goofy jacket and yelling “Buy! Sell!” on a daily basis. Little did I know that eleven years later, I would actually be working for the Pacific Exchange, Stock & Options (PCX). I wasn’t a broker, like I had imagined, but I was a surveillance analyst in the regulation department. I intended to work there just while waiting for my bar exam results, but even after passing the bar I decided to remain on as an analyst. I loved working at the PCX … at least for the majority of the time I was there. It was only at the very end of my time there that I was less than happy. Most of my unhappiness stemmed from an uncertain future at the PCX. The combined forces of 9/11, the implosion of the dot-com industry and the inevitable shift to purely electronic trading left the exchange on very unsteady ground. And when CEOs continue to get huge bonuses while their employees are denied raises or laid off, it does not contribute to a pleasant working environment.
One of the things I loved about working there was the location. The office is located in the Financial District. A ten minute walk in either direction and I could be at Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach or the Embarcadero. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars and shops nearby. There is also an endless supply of interesting people to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of bitching and moaning about BART delays, bike messengers acting as deadly weapons, weirdo perverts on the street and the flood of Marina-ites in the FiDi. Deep down though, I really loved the hustle and bustle of it all. I really am a city girl at heart.
What I loved most about my time at the PCX, however, were the people I met. My boss, Karen, was fantastic and everything one could want in a boss. I met some of my dearest friends while working there. Whenever I feel blue at my current job, I always think that the experience at PCX spoiled me. That if the people I met there were here instead, things would be much brighter.
Last Friday, I met up with two of my PCX cohorts, D and M. Technically, the PCX is now the NYSE, but that’s a boring story. Let’s return to the fun. I met them both at our usual spot: the parking meter in front of the building. It is entirely appropriate that the office is located on Bush and Sansome Streets, as bs’ing on that street corner was part of our daily ritual. Our fourth partner in crime (or regulation), R, wasn’t able to make it, which was a slight bummer. But I was still ecstatic to see D and M; I hadn’t seen any of them at all since my wedding over a year ago. I've always believed that your closest friends are those people you can pick up a conversation with right away, no matter how long you've been apart. D and M are definitely those types of friends. M received a well-deserved and overdue promotion last year and was too buried in work as a result to join us for lunch. So after a mini-catchup session with M (who is looking super fierce these days), D and I headed off to Bistro Burger for burgers, brie, mushrooms and frings. Over lunch we gabbed about anything and everything, including D’s upcoming wedding. I’m so excited for her! We also spent a fair amount of time reminiscing about some of the more colorful characters from our past such as our drinky ex-VP, the “little beady eyed guy”, some pervy security guy in a Kangol hat, my IT stalker and a certain rotisserie chicken loving broker.
After lunch D took me over to the trading floor. I was shocked when I walked onto the floor; it seemed to be a shell of the place it had once been. Back in 2000, on my first day on the job, the trading floor had been full of people, loud voices and flashing screens everywhere. Now there are only 2-3 companies still using the trading floor. There were maybe a couple dozen people milling about. As the closing bell rang, we met up with another one of the old timers from back in my day and chatted with him for a bit. We even saw the rotisserie chicken loving broker! I did my best to skulk past him; I was responsible for him being slapped with a rather large fine several years ago. I don't think he likes me very much. Then D took me back to her office where I hung out at her desk for a while, just as I often used to do. M, unfortunately, was still tied up with his gnarly project, but managed to get away long enough for one more lengthy chat down at the parking meter. Before we knew it, it was time for all of us to part. After hugs from M, along with a promise of drinks next time I’m in town, I walked with D over to the BART station. More hugs and promises to get together again soon ensued. Then D went down the escalator as I was left to ponder, “What if I had stayed at the PCX?”
From the BART station I walked over to the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero. The marketplace hadn’t been opened yet when I worked in the FiDi and I was itching to see what it is like. It’s filled with many yummy shops that sell many yummy things. It will take me several return trips to try out all the yumminess it has to offer. On this visit I tried gingerbread cupcakes and hazelnut parisian macarons at Miette and smores bites and fleur de sel caramels at Recchiuti. Raves for all. Raves for everything that Friday afternoon actually.