The economists smoked too much. Once done, their smoke trails followed behind, lingering in the stairwell, tracking their presence. They were always in heated discussion, these economists. And it would stem from having just fervently read aloud some text – where they would emphasize words like monopoly and time value – or from a once meaningful class discussion gone awry. When this happened their argument expletives would reverberate against the walls of my office as they challenged each other’s theories about who was a greater genius- Marx, Hayek, themselves- this was important business, but it was also loud, and frequently unsettling, and I would get up and make a big to do about closing my door- saying EXCUSE ME, well maybe it was more- excuse me– but I would clear my throat and all of that- but these economists, they gave no notice of my presence.
The economists wore funny shirts, ones that required me to look at them just a little too long when we passed in the hallways. It was awkward for us both- me staring at their chests, them suffering through the social niceties exchanged in such situations- the hellos and good mornings and all that. Their shirts said things like: “Keynesian economics is so demanding,” and, “I like your ideas, however…” and, “Hayek is my homeboy,” and my personal favorite- “Maybe Hayek is right and you’re wrong.” I loved the irony of these economists, going out of their way to find and buy these shirts, then becoming disgruntled by the attention it gave them, the obvious discomfort from my passing chuckle.
The economists never ate. They would sometimes have food brought in, but it would be for other people. Mostly for non-economists in suits, to whom they spoke to for hours on end. I’d watch our economists through the enormous glass window that let people like me see how hard they were working, immersed in their presentations and their books, and their heavy stares. They would prepare for hours, sometimes days, for these events, and when they were over, you could find them again, smoking just outside the stairwells, this time quiet because they had used all their words, now only able to offer the world cigarette butts, thick plumes of smoke.
Occasionally the economists would have personal problems. And they would burst from their offices on their cell phones, trying to get a doctor’s appointment or talk to their insurance companies or explain to their mothers why they hadn’t called. They would roam and pace our hallways, their voices growing faint and loud and faint and loud, providing added annoyance to the situation. Their fuses were short, and their frustrations quick when stuck in a circular call center cycle, which usually ended in enragement and further expletives to no one and everyone in particular.
The economists seemed sad. I wondered where they would go at night, like my childhood version of grade school teachers- I never considered they would exist beyond this space, allowed only to teach, research, posit, and repeat. Maybe they were alloted some sad snack machine sandwich, to be eaten alone and quickly, but they were mostly kept in isolation from the rest of society until needed again.
I saw once this economist wander away from the others. He stopped, aimlessly near our shared hallway statue. It was one of those Greek types, with a carefully placed leaf and the man-god’s face looking away, one arm dangling unhumanly by his side, the other above his forehead, either sheilding his eyes from some eternal shock or forcing a hardened state of relaxation. This one economist, he even went so far as to lean against it, forcing a sad juxtaposition, getting the form all wrong, with the exception of that limp dangly arm. They both stared together towards nothing, everything.
I remained steady towards my task so as not to appear concerned, but i was very.