Word count, start of day -- 2,115
I saw her from halfway across the room and stopped short. I saw bright orange hair stand out against her black blouse like a campfire on a starless night. I covered by pretending to glance at the pad of paper in my hands, slowly flipping from one blank page to another. Annie had her arms flung wide on the desktop, elbows crooked, analyzing some piece of paper or journal page or other document. Totally oblivious to my stare and seemingly to anything else going on around her. Either she was asleep or single mindedly focused on her job.
I moseyed towards her office door, taking in the view with every step. Maybe it was just the context, the fact that she was the one of the few women of child bearing age in this entire compound of buildings. She was not only the prettiest girl on the grounds, she was the only pretty girl on the grounds. In a different setting, would she be as cute? As I approached, she looked up and smiled, a welcoming gesture. No doubt. She’d be cute in any context, compared to any woman. I felt my wedding ring tighten as I walked towards Annie. Calm down, Brian. Be a professional.
“Annie,” I said, extending my right hand towards her. “It’s good to see you again.” A true statement, that.
She stood and we shook hands. I found the guest chair and asked, “Did I interrupt anything?”
Annie grabbed a sticky label from a pink pad and marked the place she was at in the computerized forms before closing the packet and moving it to the side of the desk. “Just reconciling the receivables.”
She smiled. “Finding that is your job, right?”
I chuckled. She then added, “Gotcha. No, this is just standard monthly work. I am going to recommend writing some off.”
I nodded. She eyed me carefully. “Is that the sort of thing I need to run by you?” she asked plainly.
I shook my head. “No, not at all. The accounting is your job, auditing your accounting is my job.”
“But if I knew in advance what you would approve, wouldn’t it just make sense to do that?”
This was in truth an insightful query. “I certainly can advise you in a sense, and we do that on complicated or audit-related questions.
But ever since Andersen blew up, anything that looks like consulting makes us skittish?”
She nodded, but I didn’t think she quite bought it, or caught all of the implications. “So what should I do about possible write-offs?”
“Write a memo and file it somewhere, send it to Carrie Conroy, or have Carrie approve it, something like that.”
“But I can’t talk to the auditors about it.”
“Okay, maybe I exaggerated in coming on too strong about receivables. Those are probably all right. It’s just that we are not supposed
to be auditing our own work.” I pointed at and said, “I am supposed to audit your work. The key word is objectivity.”
“That makes sense,” she said, brushing out her hair with her left hand. “But that’s not why you’re here today.”
“No, I just wanted to check in with Carrie and yourself, and let you know I am going to interview the staff on their duties and your internal control structure, things like that.”
A distant look came over her eyes, then passed. “What?” I asked her.
I shook my head. “Sorry, it looked like you were going to ask me something.”
She twisted a piece of her hair. The lock was barely long enough to manipulate, but she repeated the gesture. “I was just wondering if it would do me some good to join you on some of that, or meet with you about that. My job involves the overall accounting, but there are questions about who does what and what document goes where that it would do me some good to know.” Then she grinned, a twinkle in her eye. “Or is that against audit rules, too?”
I chuckled. “Of course not. That is fine. Do you want to run it by Carrie? I would not want to upset any of the employees here, I don’t know the dynamics of the office.”
She nodded, then let that pondering look reappear for an instant. “Why don’t you ask her? Coming from you, it might seem like a more important request, as opposed to me just trying put off my reconciliations.”
Well, are you trying to put off your reconciliations?”
“Sure,” she said, surprising me. “But that’s not all I want to do.”
I stood. “I’ll check in with your boss and run it by her.”
“Great,” she said, flashing that winning smile again.
Brian was back in less than ten minutes, with Carrie Conroy. Uh, oh. Maybe I’ve been busted.
“So you want to join Brian on some of his journeys today?” she asked. I couldn’t tell from her tone whether she was pleased or not.
She nodded. “I think it’s a good idea, but do you need to speak to everyone? Maybe you two can figure out which sessions would be best for Annie to attend.”
Brian agreed. We set up a schedule and off and on spent the day together.
Included was a tour of the facilities, courtesy of my boss, Carrie Conroy. We spent over an hour on the grounds, and I got to see parts of the facility that I had not seen before. I had worked on the care side of similar places before, and the layout was pretty typical. I was even able to demonstrate some of this knowledge. Maybe I even impressed Brian. And Carrie. Maybe I impressed Carrie and Brian.
The Canterbury Nursing Facility was part of a family of eleven retirement communities operated by the firm in four Mid-Atlantic states. This facility was almost thirty years old, and like most included sections for Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Care. Overall, we had 850 residents – not patients, but residents – ad a waiting list of over 200 more. Sadly, spots in the facility opened up more quickly than we would hope. People move off the waiting list much quicker than we would prefer. Getting into the facility costs approximately $120,000, then monthly maintenance fees are charged in varying amounts based on patient needs.
Some people would find it a depressing place to work. I know that some facilities of this type are dark and dingy, but Canterbury facilities seemed to be light, airy, and cheery. I like this job because I feel like even though I am on the accounting side of the business, it is a business that I think is worthwhile.
By the end of the, I felt like I had a much better feel for the place and the job, and how the work flowed through the office. I thanked him for his help.
“You bet. Glad it helped. When I draw up the flowcharts for the processes, I’ll make sure you get a chance to look at them, or give you a copy for your records.”
I nodded. I wasn’t familiar with what he was talking about, but I think I knew what he meant. “Anything to help me understand this place.”
He had settled into the chair across from my desk, and looked like he was relaxing. For an accountant, he had a decent personality. Hell, for an accountant any personality is a decent personality.
“You like the job?” he asked.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if the relaxed bit was a put-on or if this was still part of his learning process about the company, or if he was just interested in speaking with me. I answered that I did like my job, not making eye contact with him. Instead, I straightened up my desk and tried to make sure he noticed my pictures. Especially the ones of my husband and three-year old daughter. I had never been comfortable wearing my wedding ring, so I have become skilled at letting men know I’m not single. Brian was married, but I have learned the hard way that you can’t depend on that fact to keep a man from hitting on you.
“Where were you before coming here?”
Good. An opening. “I stayed home after my daughter was born.” I grabbed the frame and showed him the photo of Erin, taken during the past summer.
“She’s a dream. I’ve missed her since coming back to work.”
I nodded. Men don’t understand.
Brian continued. “I quit my job around the time my daughter was born. I didn’t get a full time job again until she was two.”
Wow. That was a surprise. “That’s great.”
“Well,” Brian said. “I’ve taken up enough of your time for one day. It’s about time for me to head on.” He rose to leave.
I stood and shook his hand. “I had a productive day today. Didn’t get much reconciled, but still it was productive.”
“Good. Glad to help.”
“See you next month.”
“I’ll let you know the exact date once I get it scheduled.”
“Take care.” He departed and I returned to me seat, and a wave of regret came over me. I realized that I hadn’t had that good a conversation with anybody in far too long. The ladies at the office were kind, but we were two generations apart. It’s hard enough connecting with Dennis, and he’s only one generation older.