Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fat Thumb Mistake

Last week the stock market tumbled almost a thousand points ; by some accounts the blame should fall on somebody’s fat thumb accidentally striking the wrong key, if you can believe that. If that’s true then our financial survival depends on a bunch of bleating sheep ready to bolt at the next clap of thunder; not exactly sound business practices, a solid foundation which leads the public to believe in a more stable economy.

This evening over dinner my daughter mentioned how one of the local radio stations held a rather informal “confession of past sins” for their listening audience. Callers were to lift some heavy burden they felt responsible for, some misdeed which might compare with the “fat thumb” stock market mishap. Sorry I missed that radio show; it might have been fun.

As many dumb things as I’ve done over the course of my life I had to wonder; were any of them even close to destroying the economy with one errant key stroke. The answer would have to be, “No”, not even close.

There was one time when working as a police officer, assigned to evening rush hour traffic, that could have been messy; but, out of sheer luck nothing happened, so I’m hesitant to bring it up. This was back in the mid 70’s at the corner of Bagby and Walker where a considerable number of folks exited downtown via the North Freeway.
My orchestration of cars and pedestrians through the intersection was interrupted, only momentarily; but with so many cars and pedestrians counting on my skills a moment of distraction might have been enough to ruin many folks ride home that day.

A most attractive woman was crossing the street and she caught my eye, stunning to behold. To say she was attractive would be a disservice to the memory of those thirty or so seconds; she ranked right up with the likes of Grace Kelly or Catherine Deneuve, perfection with a dress.

Many of you might recall the movie “10” with Bo Derek; no matter, you get the idea. On a scale of 1 – 10, much like an Olympic event, a crude value system was thrown over an entire sex as a means of conveying appreciation for eye candy. Truth be known, Bo Derek didn’t match up with my own standard for a perfect 10; very nice, just not a 10.

To earn the highest mark, in my limited opinion, a woman has to be transformed beyond beautiful; she has to be a lady with “presence” that could be compared with royalty. Grace Kelly had “presence”; but what has this to do with that moment forty years ago when I was directing traffic? I’ll tell you now; try imagining Grace Kelly as the woman crossing the street during rush hour as time stopped long enough to take her in.

While mesmerized by the beautiful lady I forgot my purpose for being in the intersection and accidentally directed both the westbound traffic and the northbound traffic to move at the same time; not a good thing as I felt my arms move in tandem. In a panic, immediately I held them up as stop signs.

To my surprise nobody followed the insane instructions; they were all spellbound by the same magnificent view. I did catch a smile on one of the drivers who’d seen my folly as he shook his finger at me, his smile growing as we both realized what had happened; or rather, what hadn’t happened. I’d gotten away with it; no lives or property had been damaged or destroyed, and all because I couldn’t keep my mind on task.

I’m sure other “moments” could easily have been recorded; but that one surfaced as I thought about some poor sucker sitting at a desk in Wall Street, his boss handing him a pink slip for costing investors millions upon millions of dollars. I’m sure the huge loss had nothing to do with the US economy being in the toilet, Greece being at the edge of bankruptcy or anything like that; much easier to blame this on a typographical error.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


MK said...

Don't sweat it TF, she stopped all the traffic, that's all that matters. :)

Donna said...

You know, I think I remember you directing traffic. Not on that particular day but I worked downtown at that time and crossed Walker and Bagby every day (in my car). Are you sure it wasn't me that you saw?? LOL

T. F. Stern said...

MK, Yep, got away with one.

Donna, Here's that delayed wink.


Perri Nelson said...

I don't believe the "fat thumb theory" in the first place. It would take a really really fat thumb to hit the "B" key instead of the "M" key on the keyboard when they're separated by the "N" key.
As for the "bleating sheep ready to bolt" idea... automated trading programs can be just like that. They're intended to stop or slow losses, but they have a tendency to exaggerate market swings.
I know that a lot of people lost money during that inverse spike. But it's a pretty good bet that someone made a lot of money at the same time.
I think I'll keep my stories of fat-fingered mistakes to myself though. Yours is likely much more entertaining anyway.

David said...

"If that’s true then our financial survival depends on a bunch of bleating sheep ready to bolt at the next clap of thunder..."

I think you give the financial marketeers too much credit, here. ;-)

As to "the Vision In a Dress That Stopped Traffic" well, there's too little beauty in the world. Traffic should stop to admire it.

T. F. Stern said...

Perri, the beauty of the stock market is how winners and loser tend to even out; just a matter of which side to be on at the right time.

David, gotta stop to smell the roses or all we end up with is work.