Life in the Big Four, Part III: First Client

I returned from training late on a Friday night, and was scheduled to fly out to my first client on Sunday night (I hadn't seen the office yet).

A senior (call him Matt) and I were headed out to a chemical plant to do Sarbanes-Oxley controls testing. Matt had arranged all of the details. Because of the newness of this stuff, neither he nor anyone at the company had any idea exactly what to do.

We were going to be flying out to the plant. This had initially surprised me, because I was under the impression that most chemical plants should be located away from major cities. Tonight, I was about to learn a couple of lessons:
1. Not all airports are in major cities, and
2. The airports that aren't typically cannot accommodate jets.

The flight was supposed to be at 9:30 p.m. that Sunday night. I met Matt (for the first time) at the gate around 9 p.m., only to find out that our flight was delayed.

Another lesson: late night flights in the summer are dicey at best.

At around midnight, Matt wanted a Coke, and wandered off to find a place in the airport that was still open. About ten minutes later, they started boarding the plane. In this case, boarding meant walking down some stairs onto a tarmac, walking across in the pouring rain, and back up some stairs......... into a propeller plane that looked about 50 years old.

Hell, I didn't even know major airlines still had these things in their fleets.

I greeted my pilot (who appeared younger than I was, which was 22 years old), and sat down.

Funny (not "haha funny") enough, the woman sitting next to me was on her second flight. Our prop-plane took off into the thunderstorm, and the real fun was about to begin.

I had had the foresight to beg the flight attendant for four airplane bottles of Maker's Mark (I had slipped her a $20 to be expensed later). This dull slowness in my brain would come in handy at the moment (although not later).

We take off. To this day (and I'm a pretty good airline passenger), this was my worst flight of all time.

Summary:

The woman next to me is grabbing my arm and digging her nails in. Normally, this would be incredibly arousing, but I'm trying not to vomit.

The two girls behind us are screaming. One is shouting "I'M SORRY JESUS, I'M SOOOORRRRRRYYYYY!!!!"

I'm trying not to vomit, but it's from the whiskey, not the plane.

One of the flight attendants is crying.

Ok, that last one I made up.

We clear the mountains and are circling this rural airport. The pilot comes on the intercom and claims, "OK, we're going to give this landing one shot. If we can't, we're turning around and headed back."

The girl behind me starts wailing.

I buzz the flight attendant for some more whiskey. She ignores me.

The woman next me to starts chatting nervously about the vacation she's returning home from. I wish that she would shut the hell up. I'm 21 years old, on my first client of all time. I want whiskey, not some nervous babbling nonsense about the Caribbean.

Our pilot puts the plane down safely. It is hailing.

I'm glad. Maybe the pilot can make it to his prom next week.

I arrive at the airport. I'm drunk, but safe. Happy. I've never been so happy to be on a shitty landing strip in the middle of a farm.

There's one rental car desk. The guy looks pissed off.

UH OH.

Where the hell is MATT? I bet you, dear reader, had forgotten about Matt. It's OK. I had, too. I was drunk, I had an excuse.

If you recall, the rental car was in Matt's name. If you recall further, Matt had wandered off to get a Coke. Matt had missed the flight.

I was on my own.

Fortunately, the 17-year-old at the counter was more than happy to rent me the car, given that he wanted to get the hell home.

Unfortunately, I had consumed a large quantity of whiskey on the flight.

The compromise, today, is still not entirely believable to me. I was rented Matt's car, but had to sleep for four hours on the bench at this airport (which was roughly the size of a large home). When the four hours was up, I drove to the hotel and slept for two hours.

Matt had left me a message: I had to cover for him at the 8 a.m. meeting.

I tried, kids. Unfortunately, I went to the wrong building.

Better luck next time.

* This is the third in a series of reminiscences about life in the Big Four accounting firms. The author has asked to remain anonymous.

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