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Illustration by Benedetto Cristofani for Fortune
Commentary

Why Wall Street Loves It When I Sell Stocks

Mar 23, 2016

I was in my office last week, ­minding my own business, when CaroleAnne popped up in my doorway with a perturbed expression. “You have a visitor,” she said. “Does he or she have an appointment?” I asked. “No,” she replied with a bit of crust. “But he is quite insistent that he must see you. He’s in the large conference room right now, waiting.”

“Really?” This was unusual. People seldom appear unannounced, and never are they insistent enough to get past Charon in the lobby and make it all the way upstairs.

Well, I thought, in any event it’s a nice respite from what I was doing at that precise moment—which was pretty much nothing. “Send him in,” I said. I slipped on my suit jacket and straightened my tie. I thought I might want to have my game face on. The costume helps with that.

The gentleman who crossed my transom a moment later was an imposing sight. Large, very large. On the cusp of obese, but not quite there yet, because the vast tower of him under all that avoirdupois appeared to be solid muscle. Sandy hair. Some exploded veins in his nose that spoke of good times past and future. Pin-striped suit, with a gravy stain on the lapel. Three-hundred-dollar tie, badly knotted. “May I sit?” he asked. I motioned him to my guest chair, which he was almost too big to occupy with comfort. He wedged himself in.

“I’m sorry to drop in on you like this,” he began. I said nothing. Sometimes that’s best. “But I’m being rude,” he continued. “I’m Wall Street.” He shoved a mighty paw out at me. I shook it. Of course I did. Where would we be without him? He got down to business: “I’ve come here today because the situation is grave, and we need your cooperation to set it right. The markets are roiled. Insanely volatile. Something must be done.”

I was confused, I can tell you. Of course I’ve been bummed about the wild swings in stock prices lately. But what could I—one rather small investor in the vast ocean of money floating the indexes—do about it? I asked him just that. “You can get out of the market,” he said, his eyes boring into mine with a wretched intensity.

The truth is, I was kind of expecting something like this. Even I, trying to give myself a break, could recognize the clear pattern: I’m a jinx.

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He phrased it more strongly. “You’re a poisonous vampire, sucking the life out of the equity market,” he said somewhat apologetically. He took out a cigar, thought better of it, and put it back in his breast pocket. “Let’s look at the record. In the mid-1980s you bought a bunch of General Electric (ge). It was at $78. Last week it closed at $29. Why don’t you just take your losses so it can go up again?”

Wall Street pulled himself together and continued. “Tesla (tsla) has been a wonderful stock, and you tried to ruin it!” I was wondering when he would get to that. It was pretty shameful. “On Dec. 31 you bought 100 shares at $240 bucks each. Right away—bang! zoom!—into a giant slalom it went! By Feb. 10 it was below $144! Thank the gods you panicked and sold that day. It’s rallied a bit, so at least there’s hope.”

He appeared to be either on the verge of tears or prepared to punch me in the face. Once again I held my tongue. What he was saying was patently the truth. “And look what you’re doing to oil!” he bleated. “When you bought Exxon Mobil (xom) in January 2014, its shares were trading at $100. Now look at it—down 20%. For God’s sake, man! You’ve brought down the entire energy sector! Get out! You’re Typhoid Mary! Get out! Get out now!” At this point he was frothing at the mouth.

That’s when CaroleAnne stepped in. She’s good that way. Cordial but firm. I heard Wall Street’s anguished cries as she escorted him out. He may be gone, but his point is still valid. And he didn’t even mention what I’ve done to Apple (aapl) and ­Disney (dis). I’m not a monster, okay? I have a heart. I’m selling. Best of luck to the rest of you. Now you have a chance.

Follow Stanley Bing at stanleybing.com and on Twitter at @thebingblog.

A version of this article appears in the March 15, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline "A Visit From Wall Street."

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