I wrote a post a while back about the first rule of FI Club. Man, was I right!
I haven’t broken the rule. It was someone else, with me as captive audience. The experience was awkward to say the least.
What went down
A new colleague (let’s call him Vagina) and I are having our intro meeting. On Teams. Cameras on. He’s going commando — no virtual background, no blur — behind him is his actual home office. Not a very large one (mine’s bigger), but I am treated to a view of several guitars hung on his wall, his camera angled so as to show them off.
I wonder about his other wall, the one to his right. Is there a state-of-the-art sound system set against it? Maybe. Though most likely it’s just a messy shelf with stacks of paper, a few trinkets and such. Or, just outside the camera angle, there could be a Peloton bike. He has some of that mid-fifties-but-down-with-the-kids look. Urban. Fitted t-shirt. His exercise of choice won’t be hiking or proper cycling, or any of the rock or wind sports; he looks too pale for that, anyway. Yeah, probably a Peloton.
While I ponder why Vagina thinks it’s a good idea to transport his coworkers to his own rendition of MTV Cribs, the Midlife Crisis Edition, he shares what he considers the highlights of his CV. Upper middle management at one of the big four banks. Blimey. We’re hiring from the retail now? This Brexit-COVID people shortage must be worse than I thought.
I brace myself for an invitation to list some of my past job titles along with the names of the relevant firms as part of what’s shaping up to be a cock-measuring exercise. But the invitation never comes. Instead he proceeds to discuss his professional qualifications. I’m confused. Why should I givashit? Is he going to ask me about mine? What would be a group noun for corporate toadies? Well, a group of frogs is an army, so … a troop? No, a croak! A croak of corporate toadies. Sounds about right.
And then I hear this: “So, you see, for most of my career I have held senior positions at some of the City’s largest financial institutions. I don’t really need this job, I don’t need to work for a living.” There’s a pause. He interprets my silence as confusion about what it means to Not Need To Work For A Living, and helpfully explains, enunciating slightly to make sure it gets through my thick skull, “I don’t need the money, I could retire if I wanted to. I took this job because I like it.” The last time I cringed so much was when my mother told a dirty joke at her 70th birthday party. I worried then whether it could’ve been an early sign of dementia. Turned out it had been a sign of too many glasses of bubbles.
Vagina smiles. I don’t know what to say, so I stare at the camera, nod, mumble something about this being the best way. He registers my reaction as awe, appears satisfied.
You wouldn’t brag about your wealth to the Joneses. Because: the Joneses are more or less in the same boat and have approximately the same amount of dosh as you, give or take. It would be anticlimactic and weird. Like announcing to your next door neighbour “Zoopla says my house is worth a million!” Duh, so is mine.
The only time anyone would be moved to say something like this is when there’s a material disparity in the wealth of the parties involved. And — more importantly — the perceived disparity must be in the braggart’s favour.
If you’re right, pointing this out to a new colleague you’ve just met makes you a twat.
But what if you’re wrong?
The thing about living in the current age of Big Brother and massive digital footprint: nobody has any real privacy. It takes only a few keystrokes and five or so minutes to find out information that most people would rather keep private. Here’s how:
- Type their name into the LinkedIn search.
- Look through the list of past employers and any other interests. Have they every been self employed? A director of anything at all, present or past? Trustee of a charity?
- A quick Companies House search and… bingo! Here’s their home address.
- Type the address into Zoopla, and it’ll tell you what their house is worth.
- Take Zoopla’s mid-range number then divide it by 0.33.
What you get is a pretty good approximation of their total net worth.
How much was my new friend Vagina worth? A little more than me, but not by much, and I’m more than 10 years his junior. Instead of impressing me or rousing my envy he had made himself ridiculous.
What to do?
Anything but what he did. Because: that shit is as attractive as a venereal disease, and there is a non-zero chance of you making yourself look like an ignoranus.
- With sociopathic tendencies, zero class and a chip on his shoulder.
- He said he could retire if he wanted to, hence I assume no mortgage. It is an approximation, but the level of confidence should be fairly reasonable.
- Ignoranus [noun] someone who is both stupid and an asshole.