Last week, John Holton posted a Just Jot January entry titled: “Everything Stops For T-Accounts.” I started to leave a lengthy comment, but it was going to be one of those I-shoulda-wrote-a-blog-post comments, so I told him I’d be back. John probably debited ‘inspiration’ and credited ‘comment’ or perhaps the other way round. You see, I had a close encounter with T-accounts, but thankfully, there was no permanent damage.
When my undergraduate advisor suggested demanded that I pursue a graduate degree in Business instead of Chemistry, I thought my life was on cruise-control. The Pitt MBA program was a 12-month, 3-trimester deal. I would start school in September and graduate the following August – easy-peasy. The operative words in the previous sentence are “I thought.”
8 of the 15 courses one had to complete at Pitt were specified by the school. 2 courses in Managerial Accounting, 2 in Finance, 2 in Economics, Statistics, and The Psychology of Business. Managerial Accounting was the worst course I ever took. I had thought that Scientific German would forever hold that record, but I could skate through German with a ‘D’ – I had to get a ‘B’ in all my business courses.
During the first week, the instructor gave us a bunch of accounting entries. Just random things like ‘Inventory – $6,500,125.82’ and we had to line them up on a Balance Sheet. This guy made us turn our homework in an hour ahead of class. He would then pick several examples, copy them on to overhead transparencies (the things we used before PowerPoint) and he would display them to discuss in class.
The day after that assigment, he displayed my Balance Sheet. The image was met with giggles from the 65% of my classmates who had been undergraduate accounting majors and stunned silence for those of us who earned degrees in science and math. The professor called on me, while pointing to the bottom line of my sheet:
“Mr. Antion. Can you explain this?”
“These numbers do not agree. This balance sheet DOES NOT BALANCE.”
“It’s pretty close. I mean it’s about 97%.”
Giggles, snickers, chortles and guffaws (Pam will understand).
“Mr. Antion, what was your undergraduate field of study?”
“If you were conducting a chemical operation, and a reaction generated only 97% of what you expected, would that be satisfactory?”
“That would be amazing! Chemical reactions seldom yield anywhere near those results.”
“Mr. Antion, see me after class.”
When class was over, I was told that I would be attending “Remedial Accounting,” a five-week pass-fail course in the basics of accounting. I was informed that I would have to pass that course, in order to pass Managerial Accounting.
I showed-up for Remedial Accounting, determined to learn that stuff. The graduate student instructor had us draw a bunch of big ‘Ts’ on our paper, and he began to explain T-Accounts.
I did not get it.
Not at all.
I asked a question. I asked another question. I asked a lot of questions, because I needed to understand this. After my umpteenth question, the instructor said:
“Mr. Antion, see me after class.”
I waited while the instructor handled questions from a few other students. We were all in Remedial Accounting, but somehow, I felt more deserving of remedial accounting than the others. When it was just me and the instructor, he looked at me and said:
“Don’t come back to this class.”
“Huh? What? I have to.”
“No, please don’t come back.”
“But I have to pass this class in order to pass Managerial Accounting.”
“You are going to pass. I will give you a passing grade, but please don’t come back!”
To this day, the sight of a T-account makes my head spin and my stomach start turning. I fully understand the concept. I have written many, many accounting systems and reports in my career, but I don’t get it. I don’t get the obsessive way in which accountants work to not only put things where they belong, but to put some other thing somewhere else to balance the first thing. It’s like the whole world of business is going to collapse it those accounts don’t balance.
But hey, I passed!
This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. And, given the time of the year, it’s also part of Just-Jot-January. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.