The Analyst

An onshore oil rig #vignettes

“Oil Prices Slip on Surprise Inventory Build”—that's what the headline says.

I don't know how this stuff works, and I don't care to know. I prefer to imagine someone who recently finished counting one by one the millions of barrels in reserve. This guy has had only eight hours of sleep over the last three days. And those few hours were had on the floor underneath his desk. He's gone three days without seeing his family. Three days without shaving. Three days without a shower. Thank goodness he keeps a spare toothbrush and spray-on deodorant in the top drawer of his desk.

But this man—this analyst—he's smiling as he reviews his report. Here it is, he tells himself, all my hard work. This is why I get paid the big bucks. All those hours, all that time spent accounting for every single barrel of oil in the whole wide world—all that work is here on the few pages that comprise this report.

Before the analyst can hit Send on his email, there's a knock on his door. The door creaks open to reveal Jeff, the top-of-his-class Ivy League intern.

“Excuse me, sir,” Jeff says. Jeff is looking at the floor, avoiding eye contact.

The analyst sighs and lifts his hands from his keyboard and mouse. He crosses his arms as he plops against the back of his chair. “What is it, Jeff?”

“Well,” Jeff says and then takes a deep breath, “there's some surprise inventory.”

The analyst's eyebrow raises. “Surprise inventory? Oil doesn't just magically appear, you know. It doesn't grow on trees.”

“Most of it's drilled in the desert,” Jeff says.

So he has been paying attention.

“We forgot that we stashed some barrels in New Jersey,” Jeff says.

“New Jersey? Why would we do that?”

“I didn't know where else to put them.”

The analyst sighs. “It can't be that much, right?”

“It's not a little.”

“How much are we talking?”

“I don't know, sir. You'll need to count them.”

The analyst stares at Jeff.

“The boss says you should cancel your dinner plans with your family,” Jeff tells the analyst. “Actually, you should clear your calendar for the next couple days.”

The analyst sighs again and looks to the ceiling.

“I'll book you a flight for New Jersey,” Jeff says. The analyst nods and leans forward and plops his elbows on the table and rests his head in his hands.

“Are you o—”

“Just book the flight,” the analyst barks at Jeff.

Yes, sir,” Jeff says and turns to leave.

“Not New Jersey,” Jeff hears as he's stepping into the hallway. “Not New Jersey again.”