Pass Fail or Not – #1LinerWeds

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?”

“Explain what?”

More giggles.

“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?”

“Chemistry.”

“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.

71 thoughts on “Pass Fail or Not – #1LinerWeds

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  1. Yikes. I confess that I have no clue what a T-account is, except I now know that it is somehow related to accounting. (As an undergraduate I majored in French language and literature and later got a Masters in Russian Area Studies.) It is amazing that you survived the trauma of the academic world. :) I am intrigued and amused by the different kinds of mindsets and predispositions that are prevalent in different professions. Occasionally I will mentally try on different professions and know that I would never make it as an accountant–I rarely balance my checkbook and have a blind faith in Turbotax when it spits out my results.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you , Mike. Money in / money out is as close as I come to finance. The Mrs. balance the checkbook, but I think it’s black magic. I also rely on the good folks at TurboTax to take care of the taxes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 😱😫As a Creative I could barely get through your post. Too many teachers, directives and things lined up in a designated place. OMG! If that drove you, my very organized friend, ‘in a wall’ ( as my hubby’s ex stepchild said a million years ago) , then it would surely render me non functional. My secon oldest son is like you. So glad you proved success was not dependent on that class. Great photos!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl. The professor had written the book, and was absolutely driven to make us understand the importance of accounting, the way he meant it to be. I got B’s in those two classes, but I struggled. Throughout my career, I knew enough about accounting to be dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a similar story to tell in which I got in a fight in class with an accounting prof when he refused to define the words debit and credit. I was an English major and you always define your terms first before going forward so that you communicate clearly. This useless prof didn’t even know how to define what he was teaching, let alone how to deal with a smart young woman who was calling him out on it. Bad situation all around.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Ha! My algebra is your accounting! I feel your pain and still don’t get it. Then again, who needs a T drawn on a piece of paper with debits and credits, or a bunch of X’s and y’s that are supposed to equal something. We have our jobs and our critters and you have an editor. Life is good!

    What the heck is Scientific German? I’ve never heard of it.

    Nice photos, Dan. As always, have a wonderful Wednesday and give MuMu and extra brush for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Accounting is the algebra of business – I like that.

      Scientific German was a two-semester course on learning how to read (and learning the specialized vocabulary) Scientific Journals that were still being written in German. No one foresaw Google Translate in 1973 – two semesters of Scientific German were required to graduate with a BS in Chemistry from WVU.

      I was up in Boston. Drove home in crappy weather to clear 5″ of snow, plow out Maddie’s rest areas and brush MuMu – can you believe, nobody brushed her since I left on Monday morning – that’s her story.

      Like

  5. LOL – reminds me of the verse from Garden of Allah by Don Henley – “Because there are no facts, there is no truth; Just data to be manipulated; I can get you any result you like; What’s it worth to you?” Happy Wednesday, Dan!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. On each side of the vertical bar of the ‘T’ is written a debit (of something) and a credit (of something else). I wish I could give you a good example, but the best I can do is – if you sell something, you reduce inventory and you increase cash. Which is the debit and which in the credit? Who knows? If we continue this discussion, I will trade my coffee for a beer.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. T Account, Scientific German, Remedial Accounting…..way above my pay grade!!

    Beautiful photos of winter sky with its unique cloud formations and muted colors. Maddie does look toasty warm and quite content with the height of her head rest…. otherwise known as your armrest! But it seems that you use the armrest for a head rest quite a bit yourself Dan! Lol. Maddie has trained you well.

    Sure hope MuMu got her brushing before you had to brave the cold and leave for work.

    Happy Hump Day!!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank Ginger. I am not quite the lazy slug that Maddie can be, but I try sometimes. I was away for a couple of days. According to MuMu, no one brushed her while I was gone. The Editor has a big pile of cat hair, but MuMu says it isn’t hers. I came home to deal with about 6″ of snow. Maddie’s rest areas are all operational.

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  7. Great story, Dan. From one who needed tutoring in chemistry and never embraced math (read that as terrified), I thank the Lord it was you and not me. Then there are those who would be terrified to be in charge of preschoolers. Bottom line, I’m so glad you passed!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t envy your your task, although you do make it sound like fun. Still, I’m sure there are some terrifying moments (or at least some that would scare me). If you want real fear, my brother taught middle school for about 30 years. That’s truly scary. I was never so happy to be tossed out on my ear as I was from that class.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan–this was so great. Old job I had, I was asked to do the spread sheet for the day. I said, ‘It’s ball park.” I never had to do that again. 97% is wonderful!!! I would have applauded you in class. Yeah, not a clue, either….but you passed!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Lois. I would have accepted your spreadsheet with a smile. How many things in life are really better than 97% ? Certainly not the weather forecast. We were supposed to get “Less than 1 inch of snow over night” so I stayed in Boston, where I had been since Monday. My wife texted me at 5:00 with “We have about 5″ of snow” :(

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  9. hehehehe! I’m so sorry Dan, but thank you, thank you, thank you for making me laugh this morning … even if it caused me to collapse into a major coughing fit. I’m sick, I’m really sick, but this made my day 🤣

    …. you do know I’m a CPA, right? 🤣🤣🤣🤣

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh my goodness, Joanne. I did not know you are a CPA, or if I did, I forgot. I’m glad you can laugh about this. I was never so scared in my entire educational career. This was a required course, and I had to get a B in it. I was struggling so hard. Meanwhile, I was breezing through Operations Research and Statistics.

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  10. Laughing my brains out here! My mother was an accountant, and I grew up with Principles of Accounting drummed into my head. A bit painful, for a numeric dyslexic, but at least I knew the numbers were SUPPOSED to balance. Since I later worked in accounting, that was a good grounding. Oh, and guess what? Mom won a company award for productivity by suggesting that allowing a slight margin of error was preferable to the expense of paying for time spent hunting down minor imbalances. So your 97% would probably have passed in her company!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I knew I liked your mom! I was yelled at for suggesting that we not bother chasing down what surely was a rounding error. But my boss was our CFO and he would have nothing to do with it. “Fix it” was his order to me. And, the “it” I was fixing was a trivial amount of money – even by my standards.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan – gosh I can empathise … but I didn’t start at the chemistry level … I was pretty hopeless and how on earth I ever became a Chartered Secretary I’ll never know – but I DID NOT have someone pass me to get rid of me! … but it was suggested I did basic bookkeeping first – probably a very good thing … I did get through in the allocated 4 years after work course.

    But oh gosh am I glad those days are away … and I too do not fully understand (that’s an oxymoron I guess?!) T accounts – though to get one of my maths exams … I used them as a base – and must have got a point or two extra for those workings. I should never have passed (only one of 11 in South Africa to do so that year?!) … then I never really used it! Such is life … loved reading the stories here – you certainly have generated an interesting post … cheers and good luck with that arctic blast … take care – Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Hillary. It’s amazing what we can do when we have to. I survived those two accounting courses, maintained my B average and promptly forgot most of what I had to know for the exams after they were over. But, I’ve worked for 42 years writing information systems (including accounting systems) and they all work.

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  12. “It’s like the whole world of business is going to collapse it those accounts don’t balance.” Well, yeah… that’s kind of the first thing they teach you when you first take accounting… And yes, it’ll drive you nuts. I lost track of the number of times I had to generate entries just to make both sides balance, especially when I worked at a bank, where the books HAD to balance EVERY NIGHT or you couldn’t go home. (The accountants were particularly adept at making sure this never actually happened.) Part of the problem is that there are IRS and SEC regulations that make it pretty clear that the books had to balance.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve taken more than one creative shortcut to getting things to balance in my systems career, John. Rounding errors, particularly when foreign currencies are involved, are real – they are math, and they can’t always be made to balance, unless there’s a “stuff that doesn’t balance” account.

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  13. T-accounts sure. That is where we use up one box of tea bags and buy two so we never run out. That’s what you are talking about right ? Rather than have a remedial accounting course perhaps we could have an accountant remediation course. You know where you learn to say without the slightest cringe “don’t sweat the small stuff” and the final test “It’s all small stuff.” I am not sure which I admire most the 97% answer or the “don’t come back to this class.” Always ask lots of questions and make sure 97% are in context. My problem lies in that 3% when someone is clueless enough to ask “Do you have any questions?” It is cold as all stay in this morning and surprisingly very sunny. brrrr

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John. I had a friend who said “don’t sweat petty things and don’t pet sweaty things.” I think it’s a good operating mantra.

      Sunny and cold here, and the mercury, if they’re still allowed to use that in thermometers, is heading below zero tonight. Not too far below, but below.

      All I know is that even if 97% of the beers on tap are IPAs, Cheryl will send a Corona out to find her lime.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Haha! Made me laugh. I have zero memory of how in the world I got through the six hours of accounting I needed for my undergrad. These were two classes that started with full seats and by the final maybe five or six of us were left.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Oh those sunsets are beautiful! Hope that you are still okay with this extreme weather!! I was going to ask what T-accounts were … but I changed my mind (chuckle). Am surprised your instructor was sooo lenient, but then, that decision probably saved his sanity!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d explain them (T-accounts) if I could, Maybe you should be thankful that I can’t. We woke up to -6°f (-21°c) but it’s above zero now. It will be in the 40s this weekend. Very strange winter. I think that instructor just couldn’t deal with the degree to which I was off the path.

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  16. Interesting account of your studious adventures Dan. I had concerns with each of these subjects and stayed clear of them as much as I could, including chemistry. Some things did not compute. Nice images too. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I quit accounting in my senior year in high school. The teacher thought that I would take it. You should have seen his face when he came in and I walked out. He had already seen an easy A in me. The truth was that I never understood that course. People told me how easy it was. Like how it was assured A in their transcripts. But I just never got it. So I took all the sciences and mathematics and languages and Geography. 7 subjects. I had As in 5 of them and B+ in Geography and one of the languages which is spoken locally. I had thought I would get A in Geography but I realized those days that I’m very useless with directions. I failed map work and I know that’s why I got a B. Map work was 25% of the first paper.
    Anyway, I love the answer you gave your teacher about the 97% result. In engineering 97% accuracy would be a miracle. In engineer and mathematics we just go with estimates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s good to find a kindred spirit, Peter. Accounting is artificially precise. I can admire and be impressed with a machine operation that gets within 1/10000 of an inch of tolerance. That’s real precision. Balancing one account with others, it’s just not the same to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Just goes to show you everyone’s different. You’re extremely well-educated, but T accounts are not your thing. I get it.
    I really like Shelley’s comment — I prefer both Don Henley and manipulating data to MY desired outcome.
    Unfortunately, my job involves numbers. Even though I told them I’m crappy at numbers, I still do the numbers. And it is balancing. It’s add and add and add, then add and add and add, and if one sum doesn’t match the other sum, there is trouble afoot. Of course this happens to everyone and if the numbers don’t match, anyone would have to re-work the columns to find out why. The difference is, literally, the difference, heh, most people don’t spend the whole time wondering if they inverted numbers. Oy. I’m the only one that does those numbers, and at the end, one of my bosses does even more numbers before giving it back to me to adjust the numbers WITH A FORMULA and percentages. It’s hell. LOL It’s the only thing I don’t like about my job. It must be done, and so I do it.
    German what now? Wow. That’s somethin. I wonder if they still do that. Should I have told Moo to take German?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First off, they do not still do the German thing. In fact, freshmen chemistry majors in 1973 didn’t have to take it. Unfortunately, even though I transferred in in 73, I was part of the 1972 freshman class.

      I do ok with numbers, and I’m excellent with formulas. I’m usually pretty good at finding errors. It’s the sign of a good attitude that you work hard to do well the parts of your job you don’t like. It’s necessary. I do that, but i grumble s little inside.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, good. Thank you. As I read you somewhere else earlier today, I cheerlead myself. I tell myself I’ve done it before, I can do it again. It’s especially effective when they are smaller columns :) “Ah, Joey, you’ve done much bigger, you can do this, no big deal!”

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I majored in accounting the first time I went to college. T-accounts were, of course, part of what I learned. I did fine in my accounting classes [bs and a couple of Cs] until I got to Stocks and Bonds. I, naturally fell apart. The second time around going to college I majored in Sociology/Social Work. Got As in all major classes. Ended up working for a major hospital as a financial patient representative.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved my job. I worked mostly with Medicare patients. They were so afraid something would happen to them if they didn’t pay their bill right away. Medicare, of course, would drag their feet so I devised a system for those people so they wouldn’t pay until all insurance paid. As a consequence, I got gifts every once in a while from these people. I felt appreciated and needed. It was a great feeling.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m sorry, but I had to laugh. You took me back to all of my accounting classes in college and throughout my career. Having spent my entire career analyzing business financials for companies we lent $$’s to….balancing is critical….I was just reviewing a corp balance sheet for a friend who owns a small corporation and my first comment was….your balance sheet doesn’t balance….ok….let me see all your entries and figure this out. The good news for me, analyzing financials was only a portion of my job ( I am equal right brain/left brain….can’t stay with either side…always need a mix of both). Having said all that, I get it and I so remember T-accounts done by hand…now it’s pretty automated thanks to people like you!!!

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