Having personal conversations at work, in the days before mobile phones existed, could be perilous. Usually, you had to duck into an unoccupied desk space or wait until everyone was at lunch. But I worked on a trading floor – each desk crammed next to another, with everyone eating lunch there, too. Perilous didn’t begin to cover it.
In addition, phones rang constantly, people shouted across the room or at each other, and market information was broadcast over the Tannoy while overhead TVs blared CNBC and Bloomberg News. Private conversations had to wait.
Except the thing with love, especially fiery new love, is that it doesn’t wait. One day, early in my newlywed life, I got to work at 6.30am, as usual, fuming about an argument from the night before that my husband and I had failed to resolve. When he called me later that morning to “check in” (his code for “just making sure you agree I was right all along”), I lost it.
A massive row ensued that lasted for, literally, hours. I had to conduct this angry marathon from under my desk, the only place I could find that had a semblance of privacy. Beneath my workstation, I curled in a foetal position, shrieking and sobbing, before coming up to take calls from clients, get prices from traders, confirm and complete trades, file the “tickets”, and then get back to marital war. I was new to the trading floor and new to marriage, and I definitely jeopardised both that day.
But, as is often the case, there were silver linings: that row proved to be a bonding experience for me and the two (very English) guys who sat on either side of me. Appalled and petrified at the volcano of unfettered emotion erupting around their feet, they handled it the only way they knew: by pretending everything was fine. They ducked under my desk to get me when my clients called, offered me cups of tea (and Diet Coke) from time to time, and absolutely did not acknowledge that personal issues were being aired in front of them.
Neither was married and I think that day extended their singledom by some margin, but their supportive efforts in my time of need were truly touching.
Over the following years, that day was never again mentioned between us, but I know it marked us all for ever. I met one of them in 2019, after one of my comedy shows, and he opened with: “You’re still married! Ha! Good stuff.” I hear him.
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