Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Danger in the Workplace

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I remember a couple years ago, I was auditing a law firm down in Battery Park in Manhattan. I usually stayed late because I was the senior on the audit and there was a lot of work to accomplish in a short amount of time.

At night, our company had a policy of allowing us to take a limo home on the company tab if we stayed past 8:30 pm. I was usually leaving around 11:00 pm or midnight, so I usually took this service, but there was one night where I couldn't find a single car available. I decided to take a cab and just charge the expense through. As I was packing up to leave, I asked the janitor where the best place was to hail a cab. I had made friends with the janitor because we were always working late on the same floor. I learned he was from Chechnya, that he really wasn't a janitor, he was a chemical engineer, but he was working as a janitor until he found a real job in his field.

Anyway, the janitor asked me why I needed to take a cab this late. Wasn't my limo coming for me?

I told him, "No, they're all booked. It's Chinese New Year."

He said, "If you're going to hail a cab, cross the street to do it. You don't want to walk outside the building here at night. You could die."

What? Die? Was it that dangerous of an area at night?

He explained that actually, one of the lawyers who worked in the firm jumped out the window to commit suicide a few nights ago. He landed on a woman walking on the sidewalk outside the law firm. He killed himself, and he also killed the woman he landed on.

"Someone could jump on you, it's too risky. Cross the street and hail the cab from the next block over. You will live."

I couldn't believe it. I mean, that poor woman. Just walking along, minding her own business, when some suicidal lawyer falls out of the sky and takes her with him to the grave. I bet she never imagined that her life would end like that.

The scary thing was, in the past three months, there had been two other suicides at the firm. I don't know why those lawyers chose to jump and end their lives instead of simply resigning from their jobs, but I was very thankful the janitor warned me about it.

I crossed the street and hailed a cab to take me home. But as a rule, I never walked outside the perimeter of that lawyers' office after dark again. Just in case.

photo source


Recovering D said...

Ah Chic I love your blog because of awesome posts such as this.

Inshallah when I become a lawyer I'll buy a "Watch out for Falling Lawyers" sign. Anyways I was wondering could I put you on my blog roll?

Bengali Chick said...

That's so horrible, but at the same time I'm not surprised! I'll make a mental note of this for whenever I walk past a lawfirm late at night!

... said...

Oh my God, how awful and bizarre. I am itching to ask you the name of that law firm, just to make sure my husband and I never work there. Although, NY legal mkt is notorious for being high stress and snooty, and I am so glad I'm not going there. (Sorry ABCD, I know that's your market!)

Welcome back, by the way :)

Chic Mommy said...

Sure you can ABCD, it's so sweet of you to ask.

so sad for the lawyers, but I used to hear stories of the same thing happening to accountants and investment banker too. I used to live in an apartment building that was mostly young professionals and came home one night to see a guy under a sheet infront of the building. cops were all over the place. He obviously jumped out the window, but the cops were trying to rule out foul play. Stress can make some people do crazy things.
I think it's much better to just quit the job than end your life over it.

ITADDICT said...

Did you check out Block Island?

Chikki said...

Geezus! Both scary and hilarious.

Unknown said...

hmm, as a lawyer, I'm not quite sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I had a fleeting moment of sympathy for the poor slob who jumped. But that faded fast.

Glad to see you back.

August Sunshine said...

Wow, how unfortunate that woman was to have walked into that spot. And the lawyer . . . it seems hard to understand why he would kill himself over stress at work, but I feel like I really can't understand at all why anyone is driven to suicide. (Can't understand meaning not equipped to understand.) Who knows what I would do if I were in his shoes. He must've been really messed up.

One of my law school classmates committed suicide during our first year. I didn't know him, but it was the first time I felt sympathy for someone who may have suffered from depression to the point of suicide. I guess I always figured people who killed themselves were responsible for their own actions, and didn’t deserve any particular sympathy. And, of course, there was a little bit of religious brainwashing in that I always thought suicide was supposed to be the worst sin, one that would never be forgiven, etc.

Law firms, and similar environments, should take their employees’ mental health seriously. The employees themselves should take their mental health seriously as well. But I’m just guessing here, I don’t know which solutions are actually realistic and which aren’t.

Ameet said...

This post is funny and sad at the same time. Funny because of the way the janitor generalized things. Sad because some people just don't know when to quit. There are many high-stress jobs out there that suck you into a self-defeating vicious cycle. It's ok to do them but you can't lose sight of the big picture. There's more to life than lawsuits and deals.