I had to keep listening hard because everyone was in

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I had to keep listening, hard, because everyone was in a hurry. Corey had drilled into me that when people were in a rush, you needed to slow them down, because if they gave you an incorrect instruction in haste, they would try to blame it on you. If someone said, “Buy me a thousand Microsoft June 30 call options,” I would say, “All right, you want to buy a thousand Microsoft June 30 call options, is that right?” Then they would have to say, “Yes, that’s right,” and then, and only then, would I execute the trade. Between 8:20 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. , time vanished. I had never in my life done anything that stretched me to that capacity. And at the end of the day, I hadn’t made a single mistake. I was as exhilarated as if I’d sprinted across the finish line at a marathon. ——— Just before 4:10 P.M. on Thursday, August 14, 2003, a ferociously hot day in New York City, the overhead lights on the Goldman Sachs trading floor flickered. A moment later, they flickered again— the only evidence that a massive power blackout had taken down much of the northeastern United States. At no point did our terminals go off; the Goldman backup generator had kicked in seamlessly. A minute or two later, we were able to see, on CNBC (which broadcast constantly on monitors around the trading floor) and on Bloomberg (on our terminals), what had happened. Both news outlets immediately interrupted their usual scrolling ticker of headlines with a frozen headline in red type reading, “ POWER OUT IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE NORTHEAST…AWAITING REPORTS FROM FEMA… It was a spooky moment. September 11, 2001, was less than two years in the past; the United States had just invaded Iraq that spring; and we were on the fiftieth floor of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Manhattan. Oddly, it was the end of the summer internship program: I was mentoring a number of the interns who were spending time at my desk. They looked scared. I told them to get out of there. People were rushing for the elevators. Some ended up taking the stairs because they were nervous about what was going on. The timing of the event couldn’t have been stranger. For one thing, it happened to be one of those relatively rare days when Corey was out of the office: I was the sole person on the entire six- hundred-person trading floor responsible for trading the futures contracts. For another, the futures markets were about to close temporarily, as they did every day between 4:15 and 4:30 P.M. , for bookkeeping purposes on the Mercantile Exchange. When people want to react quickly in the markets, they don’t trade individual stocks or bonds—they buy or sell futures contracts, because these are the most liquid, transparent things you can trade. Between 4:15 and 4:30, investors were going to be forced to take a time-out. The market was closed.
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