Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I either won or lost the game, depending on your view of things

This morning, I was reminded of this story by a young man (we'll call him S) with whom I attended Analyst Training 2 years ago. He had a wicked sense of humor and was stuck with shouldering the dumbest group in the class. This endeared him to me immediately, as I too am wickedly hilarious and was shouldering the burden of a German playboy, a gentleman from the Johannesburg office who had a penchant for leaving the room to refill on free cookies every 10 minutes, and a Southern girl who twirled her hair so much I thought it might fall out.

For those of you who haven't experienced the sheer pleasure, Analyst Camp is alot like Band Camp, except with exceptional catering, private rooms, and the myth that you are being evaluated. Some people just live in their apartments and attend class during the day, but my company actually sent us to a lodge in the middle of nowhere. It heightens the beer goggle effect, I believe.

On the first day, they tried to cajole us into believing that the classroom portion might be fun.

"Ve going to play, two truuth and Liiie," Sventlana, the Russian Director and our terrible instructor went on. I shot S a look and he burst out laughing.

"Eeets ice break," she continued, and I died a little inside. I hated this game, even more so when people were being evaluated because it converted the usual nonsense (e.g. "I have a red car, I have a blue car, I have a green bicycle! Just try and guess!), into failed attempts to impress others ("I climbed mount kiliminjaro on my hands, I run a hybrid orphanage-school in rural India, Warren Buffett is my godfather!") . But I went along with it and wrote mine down like everyone else, waiting patiently until at last, my turn came.

"Hi. Okay:," I stuttered. "1) I left home at 13, 2) I used to have blonde hair, 3) I was a clown travelling with the circus."

My fellow students immediately started deliberating which item, as a team, they would designate as my lie (Yes, we were already "working as teams"). I saw the table next to mine, write down their answer, then feverishly scratch it out and replace it with another. When time was called, one of the tables was forced to write down an answer which I could tell they hadn't agreed on. Were these people serious? They actually think that, not only might I have been a clown, but that I was a travelling clown? Who has now decided to go into financial services? I could feel the laughter boiling up inside of me.

Every team picked #2.

"So, vich vun it eez?" Svetlana cooed.

I laughed so hard I cried. "Are you guys serious? You think I was a clown?!?!" I challenged.

"Well," my Analyst -camp fling from the London office spoke up, "your being blonde just seems utterly silly!" The room nodded in agreement.

First impressions are funny like that.