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He’s a transponster!

Andrew Miller | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Until about five years ago I had no idea what my father did.

I knew he was an accountant by profession. I knew he was a CPA. I knew he worked for one of the Big Four accounting firms. And I knew that his title was “forensic accountant.” But I didn’t know what that meant. If people asked me I just evaded the question.

Such evasion got me into trouble, though, when upon saying, “He’s a forensic accountant,” the inquisitor replied with, “So does that mean he goes to crime scenes and counts the dead bodies?” Hardy har, inquisitor. But it’s not like I had a better answer so I just let him walk away in his glory.

I went on a quest after this encounter to discover the nature of my father’s employment. For reasons beyond my sheer ignorance, I was growing weary of making fun of my dad for not doing very much work when I knew he clearly did a lot. I didn’t know what it was he was doing, but I knew that my jokes were cruel.

So what does my dad do? I didn’t know. But I vowed to find out to make myself a better son and a better person.

I tried to cull my memories of him talking about his days at the office:

“Today, this idiot intern walked into my room while I was with a client! Can you believe it? Idiot!”

“So I was in a meeting today and I made a reference saying that this deal we’re talking about is putting us between Scylla and Charybdis. Everyone in the room looked at me like I had two heads. Idiots!”

“I was on the plane coming home and I was assigned seat 2B. I turned to the flight attendant and told her they put me in the Shakespeare seat. She didn’t get it. Idiot!”

My dad certainly must deal with idiots. But these anecdotes certainly didn’t answer my question about what he actually does for a living.

I decided I would have to think back to the few times I had visited his office while a little child. One day in particular stuck in my mind; I think I was about eight at the time. I remember walking through a series of security doors, meeting his executive assistant, sitting in his big comfy chair, and looking out the window onto the streets of D.C. for a few hours. Then we went to the florist and picked up a bouquet for my mom’s birthday. But this wasn’t sufficient insight into the essence of his employment.

The next step to solve my mystery was going to be a big one: I was actually going to ask my dad what he does. It seems like such an importunate question. I’ve been his son as long as he’s been my dad. I should know what he does. I should know what a forensic accountant does. Thinking this way made me afraid of embarrassing myself in front of the entire family. And there’s no way I was about to make myself look like one of the idiots that my dad always talked about in front of my sisters and me. Our family motto is, in fact, “How Could You Not Know That?” But this fear could not last forever. I could only go so long believing that my question would be answered without further effort, believing that all my problems would be solved magically.

One day, in my junior year of high school, months after I began my initial quest, on a drive from my house to somewhere inconsequential, when it was just me and my dad in the car, I turned to him and said:

“Dad, and I say this with total deference and respect, can you tell me what you do?”

And he told me.

Now, I’m not going to tell you what it is a forensic accountant does because that would ruin the surprise. The point of my article is not to illuminate the world of the financial service sector of accountancy to you. Nor is my point to tell you about a great moment in personal development when my dad and I came to a better understanding of each other. Come to think of it, I may not have that strong of a point. But that point, as weak as it may turn out to be, is that you should all know what your mom and/or dad do for a living. It’s insulting to them otherwise. They’re busting they’re butts to be your parent and you can’t even turn to a stranger and say, “I’m proud that my parent does so and so?” What kind of a child are you? You make me sick!

Well, you don’t actually make me sick. You just need to come to the place that I came to that one day my junior year. I sucked it up and asked my dad what he did because I didn’t know. And I should have known. And I do now. And I feel good about it. And I’m a better person. And I’m a better son.

Oh, and by the way – the title of this article is a reference to the Friends episode where Chandler and Joey face off against Monica and Rachel in a trivia challenge for the apartment. When Ross asks Rachel what Chandler does for a living Rachel says the above. Chandler’s an accountant on the show. It’s a clever reference.


Andrew Miller is a senior English major. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.