It was love from the first sight. Or so I thought.
Being a middle-aged man struggling to control belly expansion and bouts of misanthropy for years, I was well aware of the fact that the days when ladies looked at, not through me, were long over.
Yet there I was, at the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, being stared at by a beautiful young lady. Not only that. After putting my glasses on promptly, I realized that my sudden admirer was no less than Kelly Evans, the anchor of CNBC show ‘Closing Bell’.
Was it possible that she read my blog and recognized my publicly unknown face somehow?
It seemed that too much of the dreams were coming true for me, and too fast, too.
For years, passing by the Stock Exchange traders in their signature blue or black jacket uniforms and worn down shoes (an attribute of the profession requiring all-day standing) who smoked or basked into the sun on Wall Street near their famous Greek Revival building, I’ve been intrigued by their trade and hidden power. How did they get their jobs? What tantalizing secrets and enthralling stories they could spill over? How much money they really make?
Some mornings, on my way to work, I watched dressed up people lining up in front of the Wall Street 11 façade to pose for pictures before the opening bell. Huge signs on the colonnade behind them announced what company was going with the initial public offering that day. Sometimes, there was free coffee for the crowd, served by senior managers of the celebrating firm, or models hugging happy traders, or product samples in the designated area, from motorcycles to bourbon in bottles and barrels.
Unfortunately, a public access to the Stock Exchange was closed many years ago, so I had no chance to get inside of the main castle of the world economy and catch its vibe.
That was, before the day when my boss’s puppy swallowed a tennis ball.
“The damn puppy decided to eat the tennis ball we gave to it as a toy.” The boss complained. “My wife just called and said that the puppy tore the ball apart, swallowed the pieces and seems to be dying. I have to take the damn beast to the veterinary, pronto. So, you take my invitation from our vendor to celebrate their three year anniversary of going public. Be by the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange by three o’clock“!
There was a light reception, and a brief welcome speech from the Stock Exchange spoke person. Each guest received a souvenir medal with the Stock Exchange image embedded on one side, and a bull fighting a bear on the other. At 3.45 pm, the celebrating crowd proceeded to the elevators.
Finally, we were on the floor.
I was so excited, I forgot to put my glasses on, and then, while taking them from the case, dropped and almost stepped on them.
I expected to see the traders running, shouting some enigmatic numbers and gesticulating hectically using their secret sign language, yet the floor was idle and quiet almost like an academic library. Of course, there were iconic posts belonging to the big name banks and financial firms, filled with computer screens displaying tables and charts, but the traders mostly stood still staring at their tablets – or sat in their tiny, restaurant-like booths, chatting lazily. They reminded me Verizon representatives in our local wireless shop, also wandering randomly across the hall with tablets in their hands.
The only purposed part in the huge hall seemed to be our party, proceeding to the open space in front of the elevated balcony from where the guests of honor were to ring the bell.
It was impossible to get lost on the floor, but I managed to achieve that, looking for a good spot to make a historical selfie.
My hands were trembling, so I couldn’t get a good shot. A compassionate trader made a picture of me on my phone and showed me the ropes separating guests from the working people.
Our crowd was already settled in, waiting. The space was so tight, I couldn’t squeeze into a good spot from where I would see an entire balcony.
Then, I noticed an opening on the left, by the rope end, and rushed there.
It was a very good spot, right against Post 9 with CNBC crew taking a break from a broadcast in it.
I waited for a while, admiring the floor’s elaborate ceiling, before getting an awkward feeling that somebody was staring at me.
I looked around, then back.
A young lady sitting at the CNBC anchor table made a funny face at me.
I fixed a metal badge with my boss’s name on it, preparing to be exposed as a fraudulent guest and thrown from the Stock Exchange with shame.
Yet the lady followed up with quite a friendly smile, looking me straight at the eyes, as if reassuring that my secret was safe with her.
What was going on?
Confused, I looked left, than right. There was nobody else near me eye-contacting the enchantress, everybody was staring at the balcony in anticipation of the closing bell ceremony.
“Are you looking at me?” I asked with the barely detectable gesture pointing at my rumbling stomach, after realizing that my flirter was Kelly Evans.
The CNBC anchor fixed her hair with a light stroke of her hand, blinked and stared at me again, somewhat, dare I say, demandingly.
Was it my recent haircut or a new shirt from Costco?
I was surprised how not surprised I was by the young lady’s attention.
But then, that couldn’t be happening, really.
“The girl should be stoned,” I assured myself. “God knows what kind of recreational stuff they may consume to stay in sharp. No wonder they get caught on the camera cursing or arguing all the time.”
Or she could be just sleeping with her eyes open. I read about this phenomena in a book about World War Two soldiers surviving in the middle of the long battles. This could be a professional thing for TV anchors, too.
Anyway, it was probably not polite to ignore the girl, so I smiled at Kelly shyly.
She beamed, smiling back.
“Oh, my god! What would I tell my wife? Will I tell my wife anything? Something?”
Money was an utmost aphrodisiac, I remembered. Perhaps, being at the place where two hundred billion dollars were exchanged daily, I was catching some kind of the money disease complication?
“Scratch that!” I frowned at my sudden vis-a-vis.
Kelly started making faces, one after another, with alarming speed.
“Poor girl,” I thought, with empathy. “Making this amazing career. Working long hours. No boyfriend, at least known to the media. Only all these traders and TV people around all day long. Millions watching her, but nobody she could really see. Maybe she craves for an attention of a real person from the real street?”
We re-established eye contact.
I smiled again. Then regretted that smile and looked down, with a serious face.
“I must be not in a bad shape, after all!” I realized suddenly, then drew my belly and chuckled.
Kelly was all joy, winking at me forcefully.
The crowd under the balcony roared.
No. This madness should stop. Sorry, girl. Can’t do!
I made a dour face, leaned back and hit my head against something.
The closing ring bell rang. People on the balcony and on the floor started to applaud.
I stared at the object that hit my head – a metal rim of the elevated TV camera, with an operator sitting right above me.
As it turned out, I was standing in the shadow of the camera podium, right under the lenses.
Kelly was looking straight at the camera I was under, I realized, all the time, smiling at it and probably doing some facial exercise during transmission breaks.
She didn’t see me at all. Didn’t even realized that I existed.
“The puppy is alright, resting after a procedure.” My boss said next day. “How did your Stock Exchange visit go?”
“It was nice, but a bit disappointing.” I sighed. “Did you know that almost all trades are actually executed within less than a second in a huge secret computers center somewhere in New Jersey? Only selected few big ones are processed manually by the brokers on Wall Street. So, all this Stock Exchange bravado is just a big show where traders are, essentially, actors.”
“Yeah,” my boss shook his head. “Isn’t it ironic? Real life and business always take place somewhere else, not at the places fairy tales talk about and tourist crowds flow into. Somewhere quiet and boring, like Mahwah, New Jersey.”