September 23, 2020

Auditors, Let’s Talk About the Worst Audit Room You’ve Ever Seen

Hey, at least it had a lightbulb.

Earlier this week, someone posted an Open Item about eating in the audit room. But what about audit rooms in general? Let's face it: none of us look forward to working that closely together for an extended period of time.

One busy season, the firm sent me to live out of a suitcase in a small town south-central Michigan. If you think Detroit is the worst thing that ever happened to this Godforsaken state, you’ve obviously never visited Jackson.  Jackson is the NASCAR and meth capital of the Midwest – famous for its prison and its roadside truck stops, one of which was featured on an ABC 20/20 special on human trafficking. Legend has it that cops found a human head in the freezer at the local diner. I didn't plan to send any postcards home from this Dateline episode of a town.

The “audit room” was a supply closet with a single lightbulb, a card table, and an extension cord that wove from the assistant analyst’s cube, down the hall, through the cafeteria, and into the closet, where I’d set up my laptop between two cases of Big Roll toilet paper and a carton of neon post-it notes. Remember the smoky room in which Tommy shot Spider in the 1991 Scorcese classic Goodfellas? It was like that minus the shooting.

The clients kept ducking in and out of the audit room to grab pens and reams of paper. By early Tuesday afternoon, the biweekly basketball tournament started in the room next-door to my supply closet. The basketball hoop, as I quickly learned, leaned against the other side of my supply closet’s wall. The wall bumped and thumped all afternoon. Not even headphones could drown out the vibrations.

The client had a real ledger – like, one of those hard-cover paper journals that you buy for 85 cents from ye olde corner drug store with the pre-lined columns for debits and credits because the CFO didn’t trust “them computers.” When I asked for the complete list of journal entries, they of course couldn’t get them in Excel but in some “internet explorer read only” file that we had to convert using IDEA and witchcraft. Or else I could use Jim’s black book of pencil-scribbled entries.

So there I was, sitting at a card table between two cases of toilet paper in the middle of a supply closet in Jackson “NASCAR” Michigan with an actual pencil-written book of journal entries, listening to Analyst 1 and Analyst 2 play street ball on the other side of the supply closet’s wall. I thought to myself, “Well, shit! Auditing doesn’t look like it did on those recruiting brochures.” The laughing auditors, the high-powered career, the glamorous travel, the audit room with windows…

When I asked for support, the analyst rolled a cart four boxes full of paper into my supply closet. “Um, we don’t sort this stuff, so… here ya go…”

I was sitting on the tile floor of a supply closet, digging through four boxes of papers for support for the samples I’d selected for testing, listening to Jim lose in the basketball contest in the room next door, and missing the hell out of home. When a person tells you that she actually misses the sweet blight of Detroit, you know it’s bad.

I’ve been on some awful clients before, like the inventory at the carbonic powder plant when I spent the day covered in a fine black dust, but this one? This client may have been the actual worst.

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