The Meltdown
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – So I'm on the phone with this vendor, and all of a sudden he starts screaming at me. Not a little bit of screaming, either. A lot. This guy is quite an important person to our corporation, and we're disagreeing about the price of our next transaction, which is also a very big deal. Like if it goes south, everybody will be extremely disappointed. In me.

A phrase comes to mind--Don Vito to his son, the next Godfather. "Michael," says Brando through his chubby cheeks, "this is the life we have chosen for ourselves." But have we really? Who needs it?

In my mind's eye, I can see the guy, whose name is Hinkle. He is standing up behind his desk, his body cantilevered forward over his saggy-baggy little waistline. His elbow is perpendicular to his body, and the receiver of the telephone is slammed up against his mouth. His face is red. His mouth is open. The veins and ligaments in his head and neck are busting out all over. His hair, what remains, is vertical; not as a matter of course, but because it is standing on end. "If this deal falls apart, you can blame yourself! Personally! You! You're a thug!" he is screaming. A thug? Me? Well!

There is a difference between screaming and yelling. Screaming is worse. People say things when they're screaming that they can't take back later. Business is all about taking things back, about forgetting things that were said. We may be coming to the point here where that can't be done. Which would be terrible.

What if the deal truly doesn't happen? That would be an atrocity, let's face it. We would survive, of course. But we'd have to set up a new deal with somebody else, which is not easy. Part of our reputation is linked to our relationship with this enterprise. It would mean a lot of work all the way around. I could be blamed and...get in trouble. The idea that a person can be my age and still get into trouble makes me feel a little sick.

A tiny knot of fear and resentment has lodged itself in my craw and is rolling around in there. Hinkle is still blaring at me. This is getting obnoxious. And yet...I listen. I do not speak.

But out of the stew of shock and fear and resentment, and also a growing boredom with this tedious flatulence, something noisy is being born within me, small, spinning, bright red with a glowing golden center, pulsing, getting larger every second in the pit of my gut. I had been sitting, but I realize abruptly that somewhere along the line I got to my feet. I am now standing, my feet planted squarely on the floor. I can feel my hand clutching the plastic implement, which is now hot. My knuckles are growing white and cold. The blood is pounding in my head. I can't take this anymore. I won't!

I've never liked Hinkle. Perhaps I thought I did, but I didn't. The guy is a fool. His business position is ridiculous. The stuff he wants in this deal is outrageous. Somewhere along the line he started playing hardball. Now it's my turn.

And from the depths of the irrational, unruly child that lives within us all, most particularly within the breast of your average executive, that monster at last is born, fully formed, bright, hot, and shining. One that consumes all it touches, blinding in its purity and beauty. It explodes out of me like a great bolt of light--and it feels so good! So good!

Yes, I am screaming back at Hinkle. I have no idea what I'm saying, but I'm giving myself over to it completely. Hey! It's amazingly fun! I'm venting the entire contents of my spleen at another grown person, and it! The blood vessels in my forehead are playing a drumbeat on the inside of my skull. My hands and legs are trembling. My mouth is way open, and this incredible blast of noise is coming from me. And there's something else too, something down there, bubbling, yearning to rise to the surface. What is that? Could it possibly Yes! I am screaming and it is wonderful! Hear me roar! Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Finally I am spent. We two enraged behemoths stand in our respective offices, heaving at each other. There is a great silence. Then:

"Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater," says Hinkle. I find this conforms to my sentiments entirely.

"No," say I. "Just listen to us."

"We should get together and iron out the final nits and nats on this thing," says Hinkle.

"Breakfast?" I inquire, as if inviting him to a garden party. So tomorrow we're getting together to dot the t's and cross the i's. There could be a little brimstone in the air still, but I don't think things will get too violent. I guess we've both had enough of that. And I can't imagine he'd really want to mess with my bad self again in the very near future.

I am one mean mother.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at