This is the third segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.
I hurried through the revolving doors of a tall, steel-and-glass office tower in Boston's Financial District and checked my watch. Good, ten minutes early. But already, they were waiting for me. These financial types are never late, especially when they're angling for more business from your firm.
The majestic Victorian brownstones on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. (2006). If I ever move to Boston, I think I would want to live on this lovely, tree-lined boulevard.
Fortunately, this morning would be relatively relaxed: the only thing on the docket was a tour of the trading floor. We took the elevator up to the sixth floor and they led me to a catwalk which overlooked the trading floor on the fifth. The square footage and setup were impressive. There were rows upon rows of computers with a caffeine-driven, headset-wearing trader seated at each one. At the far end of the floor, the 10am sunshine flooded through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Still, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed, especially with the apparent lack of activity on this day. In my mind, I had secretly hoped to catch a glimpse of the type of open outcry, frantic activity one might see in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or the New York Board of Trade.
A view of the Boston skyline from City Hall Plaza. (2006).
My "tour guide," who was a national sales manager of some sort, went into a spiel on how many trillions of dollars they trade, their state-of-the-art systems, their trading floors in London and Tokyo, and their talented people.
But to be truthful, I wasn't really paying that close of attention. Because at the very moment my guide was explaining the broad range of transition management services they provided (or something like that), I was imagining if the blonde, wisp of a girl two rows of computers deep on the floor would cover my back if I tackled the tall, linebacker of a man next to her, all the while making hand signals and shouting:
"COCOA! BUY COCOA! 3000 CONTRACTS! COCOA!! SOY! SOY, SOY, SOY! SHORT SOY!! SHORT ORANGE JUICE!! SHORT PORK BELLIES!"
Now that would be fun.
My guide finished his spiel.
"Do you have any questions, Felix?"
I did a double-take, snapped back into reality and replied:
"Thanks for the overview. Tell me about your competitive advantage." Nice save, huh? (A tip: if you ever find yourself in a business situation where you haven't been paying attention, always ask about competitive advantage.)
"I'm glad you asked me that. Let's head down to the floor and we'll give you a demonstration of our trading software."
As we walked down the stairs and passed by the blonde, wisp of a girl and the tall, linebacker of a man, for a brief moment I seriously contemplated making "the tackle." But in the end, professionalism won out and I did nothing.
Sometimes I hate being a professional.
Boston's Old City Hall. (2006). On the ground floor there's now an expensive restaurant.
The gold-domed Massachusetts State House, Boston, Massachusetts. (2006). Sitting atop Beacon Hill, the State House is the second stop along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red brick path that winds its way through sixteen important historic sites of revolutionary Boston. I got lazy and only walked maybe half the length of the trail.
Harvard rowing crews on the Charles River at sunset, with a view of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the background. (2006). I took this photo from the Harvard Bridge, which connects Boston and Cambridge.