“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard.” That’s the opening quote from a hedge-funder in Max Abelson’s artful report on bankers dealing with their disappointing bonuses this year on what is, as Gabe Sherman recently wrote in New York, a very altered Wall Street. The hedge-funder in question is talking about how he deals with traffic jams, but the declared lack of impulse control also helps explain why the hell these men would allow Abelson to keep his recorder running while they complain about $350,000 income. They have to know on some level this will not look good for them — this is hardly the first article to rest upon getting well-off people to whine about not being wealthy enough — but somehow, the chance is difficult to resist.
The genre has evolved slightly, though: There’s a slight self-awareness, a preemptive strike against the lack of empathy any Wall Street whining about compensation will be greeted with in the culture at large.
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
For the less imaginative among us, there are plenty of other concrete examples served up. We also see a Wall Street head hunter turning those hunting skills upon a supermarket circular for a good price on his Wheat Chex (“Wow, did I waste a lot of money”), another guy who will only rent out his summer home for one month instead of four and has to keep living in an apartment without a dishwasher, and a 27-year-old trader who was forced to turn down a Mardi Gras trip with a friend who was scheduled to judge a wet-T-shirt contest. The ultimate privation.