Friday, July 20, 2007

Story of the Week -- July 16-20


It's 6am and I'm standing in the middle of an empty trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. And that's just weird. I have nothing to do, either. I mean, I am supposed to be setting up a live shot for the morning show, but I already did that, so I'm just standing around trying not to touch anything and I dont know start another Great Depression or something.

And all because of a number. That's why I'm here. I'm here because, psychologically, we're obsessed with numbers with lots of zeros, and no threes or sixes. I'll explain.

Last Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial average gained 283 points, to close at 13,861.73, a new record. Friday, the Dow closed at 13,907.25, another new record. Monday, it closed at 13,950 (say it with me now...) another new record. And what was the story? "Well, we're almost at 14,000. We're flirting with 14,000. OOh boy, here comes the next set of 3 zeros!"

Then came Tuesday, when we hit 14,000 sometime in the middle of the day, and there was no party, no ball dropping, no fireworks. Nothing. And then it went back below 14,000. Then back above. Then back below. And the people at my esteemed network went nuts. "If it closes above, it's a huge story! We need lots of live shots from the floor." And that's when they asked me if I could be on Wall Street in time for a 6 am update on Wednesday. Which would mean a 3:30 am wake up.

So I began mentally preparing myself for Wednesday morning, working with an anchor who barely knows me, doing things I've mostly never done before, in a setting that is intimidating to say the least. And they set it up for me, made all of the preliminary arrangements, told me where to be and when. And then it was 3:30, and the Dow was at 13,970 or something and I said "hey, do they still want all this if we don't hit 14,000?" Good question.

The answer? No. When the market closed at 4, the Dow was at 13, 971. And I was off the hook.

And lucky me, I only have to get up at 4:30. And I'm excited, because maybe we'll hit 14,000 while I'm actually there, and I'll get to hear all the cheers and see the inane excitement first hand.

Um...nope. Dow dropped 53, and I went home.

Fast forward to 4pm Thursday, the closing bell rings and the Dow is at 13,999. So close! And as the numbers settle, us business dorks are staring at the ticker like it's an odometer waiting for those nines to rollover. And then they do! And we close at 14,000.41. We close over 14,000 for the first time, and in dramatic, pallindromic fashion. Amazing.

The phone call I get on my way home is inevitable. Wheels in motion, 3:30 wake up. Be on Wall Street by 5:45. Updates at 6, 6:30, 7, etc. For what? 3 zeros. Big story.

As a baseball fan, I understand the numbers obsession. The 3,000th hit is bigger than the 2,999th. Because they are benchmarks. On the other hand, the 756th home run is a bigger deal because it breaks a record. So why didn't we do extra stuff last Thursday, when the Dow broke a record and went up almost 300 points? Where was the 3 am wake up call then?

No, instead, the big story comes, and it's me, getting a crash course in, I don't know, organized chaos or something, making sure my anchor gets seen around the world, so that everyone can watch us get all excited over a few zeros on the big board.

The real kick in the head, of course, is that the minute the market opened, the Dow went down 50 points and 14,000 was gone. So what's the moral of the story?

I don't know.

Dow Schmow. I'm tired.

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