LATE IN THE afternoon, 400 miles from Bar Harbor and at the end of a two-week vacation, we hit the outer loop of the beltway. Another hour and we are home.
Home is a foot-high stack of mail: two copies each of Time and Newsweek (we have to cancel one subscription; it is like getting two copies of the same magazine), 20 or so pieces of what is accurately called junk mail, a few packages of late-arriving presents for Baby Max and a half dozen honest-to-goodness letters.
There is a cantaloupe in the refrigerator doing its best to turn into a coconut and two tablespoons of milk in a gallon container. Lisa, who has been house sitting, drops by with a cold; Mike and Baby Ari, from up the street, come in and entertain us for awhile.
Our company leaves, and before we can decide who will go to the store and who will change the baby, Mike's wife, Toni, calls to invite us for pot luck. We are saved. Monday
Monday is not a work day; it is vacation, requested and granted a month ago. I awaken at 8 and dive into a John Le Carre novel. It does not brighten my post-vacation gloom but it does add a conspiratorial edge to the the bilious mood of my stomach.
Linda and I hide under the covers for two or three hours pretending that we are in Maine, and that there is an ocean outside the bedroom. Le Carre is our third; we have a menage a trois . Le Carre will not have to mow the yard or go to the Safeway. But then Linda and I will not be shot at or tailed.
The phone rings and it is Biff, my oldest and best friend, who would not have missed seeing Baby Max until now except he has been in McCook, Neb., as a temporary GS-9, testing groundwater. I invite him over for lunch, which is burgers, beans and beer.
Biff leaves for a date, I go for a haircut, Linda goes for the groceries. Tuesday
I skip breakfast and head for the office. Connecticut Avenue has more cars than all of northern Maine. I am ready; 50 minutes to do a 20-minute trip. I marvel at the traffic; we forget so quickly. The office looks like home, the elevator is empty (an express!) and there is fresh coffee brewing in the workroom.
My desk, which had been cleared of all debris before the vacation, is awash with mail. Fully half of it is professional junk mail: "The only truly informative guide to our changing investment environment, subscribe today;" "Best buy in office supplies" . . . and approximately 75 different continuing professional education course offerings. The State of Maryland requires that CPAs take 40 credits of continuing education each year. I can study almost anything in the field between now and Dec. 31, but the courses are frequently disappointing. Although it is possible for the state to legislate attendance, it cannot as easily legislate quality.
I scan my mail, looking for wheat among the chaff, and check my calendar to see what is merely urgent. I find a letter from the IRS telling me that a corporate audit begun in May has resulted in "no change." I immediately write a formal letter to the corporation's board of directors, reporting on the positive resolution of what had been a tense situation.
Things begin to heat up as the sun rises; there are projects to be finished, and other projects to begin. I start to plan an upcoming audit when the boss walks in waiting to know if I will interview an applicant for a junior accountant position in an hour. Wednesday
Loretta, our marvelously competent bookkeeper, arrives with a cake. The office quickly divides between those on a diet and those who are not; the cake calls to me like sirens on the shore. I dive into my work and the cake slowly disappears.
Controller of a prominent and well-endowed not-for-profit research organization calls to see if a requested study has been completed. These folks have two different investment advisors handling a million and a half or so each. The requested study is to determine criteria required to judge whose performance is better. The question is harder than it first appears. I spend the morning finishing it up.
Just as I am done with the portfolio performance question, the managing partner of a downtown law firm calls to discuss an analysis of various retirement plans. The analysis requires no further analysis, and the paperwork rolls into the afternoon.
The day is nearly over and I realize that I have accomplished nothing of what I had planned, and much of what I had not. Half a dozen items go into my briefcase for the ride home.
The boss is over for dinner and we have turkey and white wine. Everybody is on a diet, except Linda, who is eating for two. I unwind with some of the lighter homework, and finish up the evening with Le Carre. Linda is busy with Baby Max. Thursday
The managing partner of the downtown law firm calls back with questions on the analysis and yesterday's project becomes another project for today. Next week, the partners in his firm will be discussing the analysis, and I subconciously allocate time for more questions as I begin to research those on hand.
It is a day devoted to law firm clients and their particular problems. I finish up a letter to another law firm about the possibility of individual partnership. The reason for this little charade is, of course, tax benefits. The government is rapidly closing in on this loophole, but the benefits are sufficiently great so that people are still trying to slip through before the gate swings shut. The letter is promptly sent out by messenger.
As dusk settles in I take a quick drive into town to pick up some estate tax documents from a recently widowed client. We enjoy a few moments of chatting. There are some situations in which a messenger service will not do. c Friday
Anything that is difficult is always a little easier on Friday. I arrive early and spend the morning tidying up odds and ends. A letter to the not-for-profit research people goes out; a note is added to a tax client's file. Like dominoes, the little jobs seem to clear up one another. The hardest of the morning tasks is a phone call to the job applicant interviewed on Tuesday, a decision not to hire. There is a demand for bright young people in accounting, and, between graduating classes, good raw "juniors" are hard to find. This fellow is bright, but somehow wrong.
My lunch and drinking buddy from the bank downstairs calls. We decide on a special lunch at Ambrosia, a Greek restaurant on Rockville Pike, with a quick stopoff at the IRS office in Wheaton Plaza. Minutes later we are ensconced in his Volvo, wheeling up to Wheaton. The receptionist at the IRS is charming (Friday? Or is this normal?) and a very important tax return complete with a check for more than twice my annual salary is delivered officially to the hands of the IRS.
When I arrive back at the office, I am greeted by one of our publishing clients, this one a publisher of scientific journals. He is late in bringing in the information for his four-month financial statements. (His board meets three times a year; hence four-month statements, something of an oddity in financial circles.) He needs his statements in four days (two of which are Saturday and Sunday), and I tell him we will do what we can.
Much as I would like to get to work on this information, another client's corporate tax return takes precedence. Here the due date is not one of desire but of law, and federal, D.C. and Virginia returns are involved. The corporation is composed of a husband-and-wife professional team. Although multistate, theirs is not a large operation, and yet there are more than 40 pages of tax forms involved. After reviewing the returns one final time, I ponder the awesome filing requirements which our various governments impose.
A half hour before closing time, I am finally into the late-arriving financial data. I hurry to review the figures before they are to be entered into the computer. I discuss various adjustments with our bookkeeper, who has presorted the information.
Finally I am home. Home to a son with pinkeye, and a wife with a mild cold. Carol, an old and dear friend who is an up-and-comer with one of the railroads, arrives for dinner, which is chicken, and we all unwind from our day. Max and Linda head up to bed while Carol and I clean up. We sample the sherry and chat in the candlelight, until finally Carol must go. I read LeCarre and stay up too late. Saturday
Having stayed up too late, I get up too late and mildly curse myself for wasting the morning. I check on Linda, who is in with Max; both are still sick, both mildly so. I am in charge of breakfast. Coffee for me, tea for Linda and a curried egg omelet to share. Max has his usual at his mother's breast.
After breakfast, Linda decides she would like to get out for a while. She has a slightly desperate look in her eye, and I quickly agree. Brand new mothers are known for excessive emotional responses; my sweet wife is no exception.
Max sleeps while I read professional journals; there is much to do as a generalist to stay abreast of events in the field. The age of specialization is probably due to the sheer abundance of information required to be absorbed by the generalist. Linda comes home with a little blush from the cool air, and then it is my turn to go out.
I am taking the lawn mower to be fixed. The fellow at the shop is happy to see me, commenting that this is not a busy time in his business.
I stop on my way home to see a friend who is a numismatist, to discuss coins, precious metals and life in general. He subscribes to the "coming disaster" school of thought, and the conversation is a lively one. After an hour or so, I realize that I am going to be late for a dinner engagement and run for home.
Dinner is delightful. Good friends, two old and one new, and all the excitement of "out on the town" with the added fillip of pioneer baby. We spend an hour or two munching through the salad bar at Fiddlers until we must reluctantly say our goodbyes.
We arrive home at 8 and Max and Linda are ready for bed. I decide to finish off my present relationship with Le Carre and am done too soon. Some books are so good that I try to delay finishing them to stretch out the pleasure. This is true of some days as well.