If you work in a bank, you might think you know your colleagues. After all, you probably spend upwards of 10 hours a day with them. In fact, you don't. And you will find this out if you ever have occasion to look through the drawers in their desk (or pedestal as it's more commonly known).
I've looked through a lot of pedestals in my time. I'm not some kind of weirdo: I'm the nice colleague who packs your stuff into a box when you get laid off. Many people are laid off in banking and most of them don't have time to go through their desks before they're sent home. Even if they do, they don't usually want to gather everything up in front of everyone. It's common practice for a nice guy like me to do it for them.
When you work in finance, your pedestal is your life and your pedestal drawer is your personal space. You're always at your desk watching the markets or finishing off a pitch, and so you stuff as much as you can into that drawer: snacks, small change, protein shakes, Panadol. Whatever you need to get by.
In 12 years I've packed a lot of boxes and I've seen all sorts of unexpected things. Some are funny. Some not. I've always worn gloves, just in case.
You learn a lot. One departed colleague was super corporate and serious at work, but his desk drawer revealed a different man. He had fake glasses with mustache, large nose and thick eyebrows. He also had an open envelope filled with photos of him at various themed parties, wearing the nose and glasses. Colleagues got wind of it and he became a laughing stock for weeks.
In another drawer, I came across a receipt for a Ferrari from 2006. Why would someone keep that?
In another, belonging to an overweight ex-colleague, I found a large stash of healthy snacks seemingly given to him by his wife. They were uneaten and had gone out date months before. I packed them into his box all the same.
Sometimes there's a dark side to desk-clearing. I've found a lot of medication - more often than not anti-depressants. You get a snapshot into someone who was under a lot of pressure, either at work or at home, or both. You wonder what will happen now that the bank's pulled the plug.
People also leave silly things behind. An MD left £50k in his drawer (he had it returned). It's easy to forget what you've stuffed in there - a colleague was looking for some spare change for a charity event and he found a watch worth a few grand that he'd put in his drawer years before and completely forgotten about. One time, my MD called me to fish his house keys out from his drawer. When I looked for him I found a sheet with everyone's comp numbers. It said I was one of the mostly highly remunerated in the team, so I quickly put it back again.
The other thing you find in banking drawers are mouse droppings. All those uneaten healthy snacks are popular with rodents who come out in their droves and eat whatever they can at night. Most people either don't know or don't care - it seems they're too busy popping their anti-depressants or looking at the receipt for their Ferrari to mind.
Graham Gardner is the pseudonym of a VP in an investment bank.
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