Conceptually the idea of of one’s word being one’s bond in this sort of scenario did not go over my head. Without accountability and integrity, apparently, this whole thing would fall apart. At twenty-two in April of 1985, though, did I know or didn’t I? Did the words and accompanying concepts of integrity and honor truly mean anything to me? I was a free spirit. Most of the people I came into contact with up until that point ran the range from scholars to lifelong students (which I came dangerously close to becoming much later), bosses co-workers, family and friends.
(I should point out my naivete at worldly things again at this point and cannot stress enough how at numerous times throughout the course of my life my sibs and I were referred to – by friends of my parents – as, “the lambs among the wolves.”)
The people in this new environment were dyed-in-the-wool professionals, I thought, even the sweaty ones. Hell, I was a sweaty mess most of my life, too. Standing among them – hand delivering an order or waiting for the proper endorsements on a fill – did not fill my head with thoughts of the level of honor, integrity and one’s word being their bond. Rather, my head was filled getting the task at hand done as quickly and as efficiently as I possibly could. And not having to deal with the tempers, personalities or the nuance of getting to know many individuals on the floor. At first. There wasn’t any time. Time was money and money, time.
I’m sure to have been one of those professionals – at the same time – their heads were also not filled with thoughts of the same things but rather on how to squeeze a tick out of the other participants around them to make the price that they would endorse look better when compared to the market price on the huge wall boards inside the trading venue. Trade your trade, quote your price, use voice and hand signal leverage that might drive the market lower (for a buy order) and the opposite for a sell – so that when the order got back to the phone clerk and his or her phone and into the customer’s ear – the wall board would bear the markings of a successful trade financially. Buy or sell.
And then of course the layers of understanding that went with all the honor and integrity and words being bonds made my head swim. The depth of the distinction between that shaky sweaty mess over there on that side of the pit and that calm, cool, collected fellow standing over there. What was goin on in their heads. How they talked the talk! Men’s locker room language, in some cases, the basest levels of comment, opinion, cat-calling, trash talking that went on was different, funny and not helping me understand market mechanics at that young age. But it was exciting as all get out! And through it all, the one word, “sold” – whether one were a buyer or a seller – was the one single utterance tethering everyone to life in the pits, how they got along, the universal language and the word that sealed any deal. “Sold,” was accepted and tacit insofar as the principals set forth for trading futures contracts in trading pits on the floor by the membership. Crazy! Speak it. You’re on the hook.
Whether for a customer order or yourself.
Not liquid markets or stagnant markets also came into my purview at this time. When big sweaty over there had a chance to breathe and prim and proper over there took out a nail clipper and clipped his fingernails. As I found out, even at those times, when a hundred individuals were standing around apparently doing nothing – their synapses were still firing in neutral, idling and waiting for an order to come from some phone clerk into the pit to be filled at the market price. Therefore that current price and the aggregate bids and offers of colleagues surrounding, too, was something on the tips of their tongues during these slower market scenarios. At those times one needed to find sellers for their buys and would have to bid up the market to find sellers to sell to them and conversely the same would be true to find buyers if one were a seller. The seller must meet the buyer below the market price because that’s where they would be.
In their heads.
As market participants.
The concept of a deck of orders waiting to be filled at specific prices as the market rose and fell precluded much room to play the market. Wisely. (I could not fathom how this could ever be accomplished what with everything I was learning up to this point.) Along the history of the exchange a rule was made having to do with personal speculative trading while being an agent for another professional be they an individual, a commission house or a commercial with interests in grain futures. The ruling, loosely stated, said you must fill customer orders first before attending to your own speculative interests in trading the present market’s price. This practice was called, “dual trading.”
I’d think to myself whenever this subject came up in those early days, “How do you tell a local trading for himself from a commission house or commercials broker?”
I could not come up with an answer.
Because at any given moment any number of the two hundred and fifty traders in the pit could be, Big Sweaty, Mr. Calm, Cool and Collected or The Cat Caller / Trash Talker trying to keep everyone on their toes.
The last time I had even remotely seen an assembly of human beings that resembled that in any way all in the same place at the same time was a Chicago Bulls Game.
I had previously worked as an usher and ticket taker in Chicago for a company called, Andy Frain, Inc.
Word Count: 1012 Post # 1238