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Mad Max Rides Again

November 20, 2012

by Mariko Gordon

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Mariko Gordon

I always thought that it would be an exploding toilet on the floor above our LAN room that would be the reason to trigger our disaster recovery plan. After all, our fabulous office, built in 1902, has many considerable charms, but antique plumbing is not among them.

Since 2002, when we moved in, we've lived through earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, heat waves and a city-wide power outage that conveniently happened after 4 p.m. on a Friday. But In all that time, we never had a problem worthy of activating the plan.

Until now.

This time, our entire block, despite being surrounded by festive illumination, remained stubbornly dark for five days. A minor inconvenience in the context of the destruction in the New York City metro area, even if it was during earnings season and the market reopened on the last day of what is historically a gruesome month for the indices.

Some who were stranded in Florida drove 19 hours in order to be back and pitch in; others had no power and camped out with friends and family; still others violated building codes by taking in small armies of relatives and friends. On the upper west side we had no issues, so the team set up shop in my kitchen and living room, where we were fully functional.

Pizza and ice cream were freely available, wifi was working and we got amazing amounts of work done, and quite a few laughs in as well. I wouldn't recommend anyone choose enduring disasters as a team bonding exercise, but they certainly do double as such. Team Daruma made heroic efforts on behalf of our clients, for which I am profoundly grateful.

But the reports coming in from those living in SoPo (South of Power) or in Queens were shocking.

The line between normalcy and craziness is very thinly drawn, and while there's always been a gulf between the haves and have-nots in this vast metropolis, the chasm between those with power and gas and those without is resulting in behavior straight out of the apocalyptic movie Mad Max. Indeed, when I came back from four days of research conferences on Thursday there was a long line at the marine terminal gas station in La Guardia, one that required not one, but three cop cars with which to maintain order.

Thinking about the conferences and about the difference between the hurricane-ravaged and the hurricane-spared parts of New York made me realize how we as investors face a similar chasm.

First, you have to picture these conferences. Not only do companies make canned presentations to large crowds, management also spends a lot of time meeting with investors one-on-one or in small groups. Small, numbered cocktail tables are separated from each other by screens, and investors swap tables at twenty minute intervals.