The new CEO

Today I remembered—for no reason I can think of—a man whose name I now cannot recall, but who once gave me an atom of hope for the business world. I met him—it must have been in the early 2000s—while I worked for a software house that had recently split from the large insurer of which it had been the IT department. It split, I think, because it hadn’t been a very good IT department. One after the other bean counter did a stint as CEO (see this story) and we seemed to be in trouble. The newest CEO—this man I’ve now remembered—took over and made a speech. At his first all-hands meeting in the cafeteria, he turned up with his leg in a cast and told us a story about once flying with five of his colleagues in a six-seater Cessna, when one of the other guys developed a problem.

“I have to shit, he announced,” the new CEO remembered. “Now.”

The people in the cafeteria looked at one another in surprise.

“The pilot told the guy that there was nowhere to shit,” the new CEO said. “He called over his shoulder, at the top of his voice, Are you out of your fucking mind? We’re at four thousand meters. You can shit later.

But the guy insisted. “I’m gonna shit on all of you,” he warned.

The new CEO smiled to himself.

“The pilot said, If you shit in this plane, I’ll crash it into the fucking ground, I swear.

The new CEO hobbled forward on his crutches and leaned on them.

“You know what happened?” he asked. “I had to empty my briefcase so that this guy could shit in it.”

There was uncertain laughter in the cafeteria.

“I’ve seen it all,” the new CEO said. “I’ve seen a man walking across the tarmac, carrying my briefcase, full of shit.”

The new CEO edged another step forward.

“We were never very close after that,” he added.

After a short pause, he looked us over and concluded his speech. “We’re at four thousand meters, people,” he said. “You can shit later.”

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  1. I also remember that speech. I still think of that story, every time I get on a Cessna or other small plane for that matter. His name now also eludes me.