Bet Against Your Bartender? Bad Investment


One of my four jobs is at a bar oft populated by university students. I’ve enjoyed many an evening amiably discussing current events, but it is not rare for debate to devolve into emotional ranting. Friday night featured such a scene:

A girl wandered over to the bar. “Things were getting heated over there.”

“Oh, what are you arguing about?”

She began a tipsy rambling, and I deduced that she and her friend were having some sort of discussion with some gentlemen — regulars of the bar, very successful mathematicians — about the Goldman Sachs case.

I know a little about this case. These girls thought they knew more because they are stus and I am a bartender.

(Stus are the bartenders’ nicknames for some students. Not all students are stus, but all stus are students. The stus are the obnoxious ones, the ones who think they are smart by definition of being students.)

The friend joined the discussion and insisted to me that the case was about Goldman Sachs guaranteeing returns. I disagreed. She rolled her eyes, already weary of my ignorance.

They tried to explain how mortgages and equity work while again insisting that the case came about because Goldman Sachs guaranteed that equity would rise. The very little I know about the case is that the lawsuit has something to do with fraud and misrepresentation, with betting against the very investments they were pushing, and with the ethics falling second to profiting off ignorance.

The actual charges have more to do with whether the company acted unlawfully when it persuaded clients to purchase an investment product that the company knew was a poor investment, when that same company, at the same time, was actually betting against the investment succeeding.

She decided that she knew more than I and asked, “Well, are you following the case?”

I nodded, my Mona Lisa smile taut.

She said, “Well, then you should know what it’s about. It was on the news today. So, sorry.” Then she rolled her eyes. Again. It is difficult for her, existing in a world full of misinformed miscreants.

I neglected to ask her for her source of news, or why she made the very conscious choice to be so self-righteous. As a bartender, I have learned it is more entertaining and less stressful to observe rather than to engage.

Her friend said, apologetically, “We shouldn’t discuss politics in bars. We’re global studies majors, so we should know better. But we still love this bar!” As if I was embarrassed by their intelligence, rather than embarrassed for their ill-researched ranting.

Then I remembered that I, too, once thought I was smarter than everyone else, before I graduated from college and realized we all know more and less than everyone else.

I wanted to let these girls know they weren’t dealing with a complete idiot, but instead I decided that anyone worth telling doesn’t need for me to tell her. So I smiled hugely and said, “Have a WONDERFUL night.”

The girl who still loves the bar smiled back, and her friend rolled her eyes again and walked away with a huff, so disappointed in the little that humanity has to offer.

When it comes to the spotty ethics of some investment bankers, I couldn’t agree more.

Morgan Balavage is a 24-year-old Redding native and University of California Santa Barbara graduate attempting to navigate her way through the “real” world as fearlessly as possible.

Morgan Balavage

is a Redding native and University of California Santa Barbara graduate attempting to navigate her way through the “real” world as fearlessly as possible.

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