accounting

I get by with a little help from my friends

Paula Addul

Paula's reaction when her accountant showed her the bill from her plastic surgery!

I’m positively giddy . . . school girl giddy.  Guess why?  No, Paula isn’t returning to American Idol (I wish!).  And nope, Kate and Jon haven’t reconciled.  But, almost as exciting . . . I’ve hired an accountant!

Okay, so you may not get that funny tickle in your tummy or need to use the restroom, but this is a special milestone for me and our blossoming company, Windy City Publishers.

Surprisingly enough, I have convinced, yet, another friend to join our little family.  Doris and I go back, way back, to my first few years in Chicago.  We bonded when, as senior accountants for a troubled hotel company, we single-handily saved them from financial ruin (at least that’s how I remembered it).

Doris

Doris is a no-nonsense gal who actually enjoys accounting and is proficient at it.  She’s no drama queen, keeps her nose to the grindstone and stays out of trouble (or she’s just really good at not getting caught).  Just like me.  Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

I had been telling Dawn and Kristyn that I had become too busy to work the numbers, but in reality it was literally (figuratively?) boring me to death and squelching my creative instinct.  Not to mention, I have a small bald spot on the side of my head where I have pulled out the hairs – one by one – while looking at long columns of numbers.
 
Dawn and Kristyn initially looked skeptical when I mentioned Doris could “cook our books” (this is my own phrase that comes from a combination of my catering and accounting background.  It has nothing to do with illegal or unethical activity). 

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Jon and Kate going over the divorce settlement with their accountant. Not happy campers!

But, the good news is that I am an excellent sales person.  “We” decided that WCP needed a professional and they jumped on board quickly because, apparently, it is important to them that our bills and employees get paid on time.
 
When Doris first arrived at our Global World Wide International Offices in Palatine, Illinois, I welcomed her with a warm hug and a raspberry martini.

“It’s 9:00 in the morning,” she said, not blinking  (FYI – you can always tell a real accountant by their steely stare, their passion for butterscotch and their penchant for Lou Reed).

“Is it?”  I winced as I dumped the drink down the drain.  “I hadn’t noticed.”

“We should get to work.”  She carefully arranged her coat then pulled out a portable adding machine.  “Where should I set up?”

“Right this way, ma’am.” I said saluting her.  This was going to be just like old times – Doris working the numbers and me, supervising and keeping it real.

I showed Doris the books and, while she looked at the numbers, I filed one nail to a sharp point.  Idea – no need for toothpicks, hmmm.  “Look, Doris, built-in tooth cleaner.”

She looked up.
 
“Impressive.”  She put her head down but quickly looked up again.  “Have you paid Craig this year?”

“Nope.”

“Kristyn?”

“Uh uh.”

“Dawn?”

“I give her lunch.”

“What’s this?”  Doris pointed to a line item labeled “Swiss Bank Account.”

I Googled Famous Accounts and this is what came up.  Seriously - there are none.

I Googled "Famous Accountants" and this is what came up. Seriously - there are none.

“Hmmm, that’s weird.”  I scratched my chin.  “That should be our savings account.  Kristyn probably did that.  Sometimes when she gets bored she gets into the system and messes with it.”

“What about this expense?   ‘Dale’s Escort Service and Spa’? For $850?”

“Oh, yeah . . . that’s personal.  That’s a mistake, an honest mistake.”  I poked my sharp nail into a pencil and then balanced it perfectly on an upright finger.  “Hey, can you do this?”

Doris peered over her glasses at my finger.  I thought I saw a glimpse of envy in her steely stare. 

“What about this, ‘Money owed to @#$%^&*’.”

“Ah.  That’s money I owe Dawn.  I just blanked on how to spell her name.”
 
“Have you begun to do your 1099’s?”  Doris was like a machine, typing furiously and moving the mouse like no one’s business.
 
“My what?”

“Your 1099’s?  It’s what you need to give to your employees by January 31st.  Next week?”

“I’m working on it, but . . . “  I sighed a long sigh as I drilled my nails on the desk.  “I think I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Can you fill them out?”
 
“I’m assuming you have the forms?”

“You have assumed incorrectly.  I do not.”

“Well, it’s too late to get them from the IRS for free – they’ll never get here in time.  You’ll have to buy them.”  She clicked away.  “You can get them at Office Max.  $25.00.  Next year, order them in advance and you can get them free.”

“No biggie.  We have plenty of money.  Look at our bank account.”

She clicked away again.  “You haven’t balanced your checkbook in three months.  You have $38.67 in your account.”

“That does not sound good.”  I pulled out another hair from my bald spot.  “I’ll just go out back to the money tree,” I joked half-heartedly.

Doris clicked and typed and a few minutes later she announced she had done all she could do.  She promised to return and, as collateral, I held her birth certificate until she did so.  I walked her to the door and thanked her profusely.

“I don’t know how I have gotten along without you, Doris.”  I patted her on the back as I handed her a plate of leftover enchiladas and a butterscotch candy.  “Thanks, I appreciate your hard work.

She had tears in her eyes as she took the gifts. “No problem.” 

She walked out the door but, just before I closed it, turned and said. “Hey, if that idea for the tooth-cleaner ever pans out . . .”

“Sure, Doris,” I replied.  “You’re in for a cut.”

It’s not easy being an idea person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no accounting for taste

It always surprises people when I tell them that I have an accounting degree.  I’m sure this is because I don’t act like an accountant or dress like one or talk like one.  I’m not like all, you know, um . . . put your net worth income in hedge fundsOh wait, I think that’s finance – but you get the drift.

When I first mentioned to my partners, Dawn and Kristyn, that my background was accounting, they were suspect then curious.

Kristyn and Dawn at their Mothers Against

Kristyn and Dawn at their meeting for Mothers Against Mother Accountants (M.A.M.A) Frankly, it bothers me that they look so pleased.

“Really?  asked Dawn.  “Did you graduate?”
 
“I sure did.  When I was thirty-two,” I told her proudly.

“From an accredited school?” Kristyn pressed.

“Yep, Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University.”

“And you have a diploma?”

“Somewhere,”  I replied.

Honesty is my best policy

But in all honesty (and I pride myself in being honest – to a fault), I’m not really a good accountant. If I were to interview myself, I would find me charming and witty and a good cook, but when it comes to the numbers, there are issues.  This dates back to my diagnosis of having contracted a viral infection called Fibrosis in Bottom Brain Involving Numbers & Graphs (F.I.B.B.I.N.G.) when I was a small child. 

Because my parents were never interested in my well-being they did nothing to treat it and it has affected my ability to, well basically, count.  And tell time and a number of other digit issues that I share only with my therapists.

I don’t want to jump back on the “blame your parents” bandwagon - again!  I am an adult now have accepted and embraced the fact that they were to blame but there’s nothing I can do about it.  Sure, I can tease them with not caring for them when they are old and kid them about leaving them in dirty diapers for days, but I digress, I was talking about how they royally screwed me with the whole disease thing.
 

This photo has not been doctored!  This is proof that I graduated from something and my green gown is a dead-giveaway that it's MSU!

This photo has not been doctored! This is proof that I graduated from something and my green gown is a dead-giveaway that it's MSU!

So, needless to say, I did graduate, (no thanks to them) but I limped across the finish line.  The horror story that I will share with you haunts me to this day and I have many a reoccurring dream that puts me right back in the situation – with the exception that I am only wearing a towel.

Marketing, shmarketing . . booring!

Marketing classes always threw me for a loop.  The vague terms for the airy-fairy concepts were so different than the vague terms for the accounting concepts and I found the subject tested my patience and understanding.  I studied many hours, often late into the night with my good friend, Karen, trying to master the ambiguous ideas.
 
The last final of my college career was my Marketing one.  It was also on Friday, the last day of finals and at 3:00, the last time-slot for a final – the last of the last of the last.  Karen had been over the night before until the wee hours and when she left, we were exhausted but confident we could hold on to the “A’s” we currently had going into the test.  (At this point I should explain that I what I lack in certain areas, I make up for with enthusiasm and many many hours of rote learning)

What’s that about the early bird and the worm?

I decided to show up an hour early to the test and sit outside the auditorium where the exam was being administered.  I didn’t want anything goofy to happen and I sat, fully prepared, on the bench beside the exit doors and waited patiently for the current exam to finish. 

Eventually, students began filtering out; their faces flush with excitement at having the last of their tests behind them.  I recognized many of them from the business school and from possibly other classes we shared, but when a girl that I had actually done a marketing project with walked out of the doors and gave me a funny look, a feeling of panic hit me like a ton of bricks.
 
I raced into the auditorium and flew down the aisles, past Karen, who called out in a loud whisper “Are you finished?” and over to the teaching assistants at the base of the stage.  I breathlessly explained my situation, stating I had actually been in the building, right outside the doors for almost an hour.  I told them I thought the exam started at 3:00, when  it fact it was apparent it had started at 1:00.  

They looked at me like I had two heads and one cigarette.   There was nothing they could do they said, and I saw them sneak a glance at each other with raised eyes.  They certainly weren’t going to wait another two hours while I took the exam, especially when other students had finished and could have shared questions from the test. 

The best they could do was had me an empty answer sheet and say good-luck.  I had fifteen minutes, which was just enough time to color in every ‘c’ answer throughout the entire exam.

Do not believe this!  (I know from experience)

The rumor that “c” answers are correct more often than not, is simply not true.  I failed the test and squeeked by my marketing class with a C-.  I did not graduate with high honors as I expected I would but, I did still manage to graduate and that’s a good thing.
 
Now, of course, it doesn’t really matter.  I didn’t miss out on any jobs because of that marketing grade that I know of.  And actually, the first job I was hired for as an accountant, was by an ex-football player who liked the fact that I had worked food service at a previous Super Bowl.
 

In my heart, I will always be a "spartan"

In my heart, I will always be a "spartan"

I was totally devastated when I missed that final.   I had restarted my college career as a mother and a “non-traditional student”, paying for the whole thing myself and working two jobs.   At the time, it seemed like an unjust ending to a Cinderella story and it put a damper on the graduation party, though the midget stripper did cheer me up.  (Yes, you read that right)

I feel differently now – actually, just the opposite.  Matter of fact, it makes for a great story.