Big Four – Chapter 1

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you had.”

That was the first line from the book Great Gatsby by Mr. Fitzgerald and ever since high school, it echoed in my head from time to time. I don’t remember exactly how the story goes, but I do remember that Gatsby as hardworking and optimistic as he was never achieved his dream. In the end, he had lost everything he had built up.

As much as I feel like I am in the same position, I honestly am not, because I don’t have much to lose. That was my 8th job interview of the month out of the possibly 500 applications sent out this year. I remembered to dress to impress, reviewed my own cover letter and resume, and even practiced answering questions about myself. I was confident to get in to this small accounting firm that was rapidly growing and desperately needing people. But after three weeks without any follow-up, I slumped down as my friend ordered me another beer.

“Another Rickard’s Red here please”, Dave yelled at the guy behind the counter.

“I was so sure to get this job, but who was I kidding? No job experience. No GPA. No one for  reference. I have nothing to show them how capable I am. I could potentially be the smartest guy in accounting avoiding all the tax and they just let me off,” accidentally increasing my volume as the bartender slammed the beer on the table giving an intense stare making sure I wasn’t drunk. A few stares pointed to my direction.

“You’re drunk, Frank,” Kevin responded as he moved the beer to the side, “and you just need to keep applying. It took me 6 months before I found mine and I was applying to oversea firms.”

“Yea, well you have job experience and you’re in a field that’s in demand everywhere. I’m in a field where job experience and GPA gets you into anything. I just want a job that gets me in through the door and helps pay down my student loans.”

The table went silent as the laughter and talking surrounding us became intensified.

“I’m going to go out and check my parking meter,” I said as I got off my chair, put on my jacket and exited the downtown bar. I needed vent out somewhere other than to my friends. The cold winter breeze brushed against me once I reached the parking lot.

“Hey kid, heard you wanted an accounting job.” I quickly turned around. Surely this unfamiliar voice isn’t referring to me is it? A tall black man with a tuque, black gloves, and black long-coat stared back at me from the entrance of the bar. “What are you? Deaf? You wanted an accounting job right?”

“Ye-Yes,” I answered without thinking. He was intimidating but I’ve been in this scenario before as a guy coming from Scarborough. You can never show that you are intimidated.

“Alright, let’s start the interview,” and he began to walk to the side dialing a number. “Ay, Damian, I got someone for you. Come out.”

Within a few seconds, a man comes out of the bar with dyed blonde highlights. He was clearly imitating the Korean pop star, Jae Joong, from his getup. He reached into his blazer pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

“This the guy?” The black man gave a faint nod stood with hands in his pocket. Damian reached into another pocket pulling out a lighter and lit his smoke. “Hey, name’s Damian. I’m interested in doing a start-up and I need an accountant. It’s going to be minimum wage, but bonuses if you can get my shit done right. You follow?”

“Yea, that sounds cool”, sounding as stoic as possible, “what kind of work are you looking for precisely?” I can feel some excitement as if by some pre-Christmas miracle, my destiny slowly unfolds.

He huffed in some smoke and blew it back out, “I need someone who’s good at taxes, payroll, bookkeeping, and law. I ain’t paying shit for overtime either.”

“Yea, that’s simple enough.

He gave a chuckle, “Good, it’s a lifetime contract. Oh I need someone to do my laundry and making sure I don’t have any twinkles on my ass. Still in?”

His last words bounced inside my head as if trying to register it multiple times just in case I made the wrong move. What was he trying to say? Laundry? Twinkles? Why would you hire an accountant to do your laundry? In that split moment, I had finally realized it. He was referring to money laundering. So does that mean twinkles were…authorities?

Accounting was always fascinating in that it combined the transparency of financial numbers with the elegance of the legal system. But that was not what interested me most. What interested me most was the application of the legal loopholes used by accountants everywhere to protect the wealth of the rich. These were the kinds of accountants that made more money than even investment bankers. Ethics was part of every accounting course taught in the university I studied at. Professors would always emphasize doing what is best for the general public and stakeholders. But what good is ethics when it can’t even put food on the table.

“I’m in. And don’t worry, I can almost assure you, those twinkles will be on someone else’s ass.”

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