Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Threshold Phrases: Useful Warning Device?

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I realized that I've pretty much acquired a threshold phrase, something you say when you've had enough and if you're going to have to deal with much more stupidity, everyone in the general vicinity is going to get it.

Bill Cosby's wife has a threshold phrase, which he describes in one of my favorite Cosby routines, "The Same Thing Happens Every Night":

In the past I often quoted a comedian whose name I can't remember, who said that she was "up to here," ostensibly also holding her hand up to someplace on her body (I usually would signal somewhere around my eyes). "When I'm full, you're in trouble." Or something like that. 

Now it seems like I've developed my own saying. Like many things, it just happened organically, and over the last few months, there have been a few events where it's the only thing I wanted to say. I'd give myself points for creativity, but my phrase unfortunately involves both swears and breaking a Commandment, so I'm not exactly proud. I just thought I'd let you know, in case you happened to be near me if it pops out of my mouth.

My threshold phrase first came up this fall during tournament season. At South Centrals, I started getting sick. I developed a bad cough, so I started taking the Dayquil/Nyquil combination. By Day 3, being a Hackety Ann really started working my nerves, so a mess of tiny things that irritated me became a large pile of nonsense, and if anyone did anything remotely off, I just wanted to snap, "I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD!" and then tell said person how to get it together.

For the record, I didn't really have many problems at South Centrals, so how I came up with this phrase is beyond me. It could've been dealing with things for the tournament that was to come. It could've been a side effect of Dayquil, one of which is possible "excitability," but taking the Lord's name in vain doesn't appear on that list. And speaking of taking the Lord's name in vain, if you consider this action to be lightly throwing His name around, but I reserve this phrase for times of utmost gravitas, am I really breaking a commandment? [Don't answer that.]

I did make it through the tournament without tearing anyone's head off, and then it was on to Indianapolis, where, because my cold wasn't getting better,  I continued with my Dayquil/Nyquil treatment program. In fact, at North Centrals, you could tell which laptop on the dais was mine just by locating the ever-present bottles of diet Coke and Dayquil, both of which I chugged at regular intervals. By this point, I'd long given up using the little plastic cup that came with the cold medicine and figured that self-dosing was a better way to quench the cough.

I'm not going to lie: Heading up a tournament can be a little stressful. Even though North Centrals was pretty organized, problems still cropped up. By the end of Day 2, I was on my 4th printer; I'd had to painstakingly go through paperwork to figure out why an error occurred; and I had had to make some tough staffing decisions. Around 2 AM when I opened up my laptop to finish populating some spreadsheets for the last day's paperwork, I was about out of patience. 

Then I checked my e-mail and had one from the Head Ref of my next tournament. The tournament that was a month away. This e-mail was a response I was cc:'d on that was asking about staffing in terms of a marketing task that had to happen (later I found out this hadn't happened well at North Centrals, which was mostly my fault, but on the other hand, I didn't know I was supposed to do said task in the first place. Still, I'm sure the marketing person was pretty much at a similar threshold point with me).

Anyway, the Head Ref innocently responded that he and I would be working on assignments early in the week and we would have them finalized by the beginning of the next week.

When I read that, I lost it. And I lost it in either the best or worst way possible: By replying to said Head Ref. Early in the next week?! As in day after the tournament?! I was still traveling! I was heading up to the Region to visit the family and wouldn't get back to Boston until extremely late on Wednesday! Not to mention that I was still sick--and had probably contaminated two entire officiating staffs--and all I wanted to do was sleep and not start almost every sentence with, "I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD," illustrated with examples--to apparently prove that I may have been delirious at that point. 

After hitting "send," I shut it down for the night. I was at the point where the spreadsheet cells were swimming in front of my eyes, and I could no longer put numbers in alphabetical order [standard practice: It's kind of like arranging numbers by the Dewey Decimal system, since usually officials say them digit by digit instead of whole number form]. Better to get a little bit of sleep and crank out the paperwork in the morning than to stay up and do it incorrectly.

Come morning, my inbox held a directive:
Deep breath.

Finish the day strong.

We'll make this happen without any major freakouts.

I took the deep breath. And instantly felt better, which was good because right then I was discovering that I would be getting printer #5, so the zen moment helped. But not to the point where I didn't also offhandedly comment to my current Head Ref that I'd like to start every sentence with my threshold phrase. To which he replied that he knew exactly what I meant. Still, we did finish the day strong. And I didn't need to freak out--especially at anyone in particular, so it was a win-win.

One might think this is something I just would use in a roller derby sense, but at Champs, I didn't feel I got to that point. Sure, I had some massive issues with our scoreboard setup, but that was the one big problem of the weekend. One that I probably showed way too much frustration about, but at least I didn't have many other problems that piled onto that to make me want to swear (to fucking God. In all caps). [It may also have helped that Champs has 5 fewer bouts than a Regional and only 2 bouts on the last day vs. 5, so there's not as much to do on Day 3.]

And it's not stress + sickness either, because I've hit my threshold point at the voting polls, and I've been perfectly healthy for both elections I've worked. I've started Election Judging in my town, and while I love this gig, the long day (6:30 AM to ~8:30 PM, depending on how quickly you can close up shop) and the different personalities have a way of quickly breaking me down so that by the end of the night, I can no longer deal with small talk and being in close proximity to a lot of people (I work alone, you know); I can no longer deal with elderly people who may cling to doing a position they can no longer focus on by 6 PM; and I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD, I can't deal with the desire to overstep boundaries in what we can and cannot do in the hour before the polls close if it's not busy.

Last night, after a long day working a poorly attended special election, I explained my threshold phrase to the Boy, mostly as a PSA, which I'm also now telling you. I consider myself a fairly patient person (I can probably get some references, if you'd like), but I'm now aware that even I have a breaking point, and everyone probably needs to be in on what that point is. At least it's one that identifies itself so that we can all prepare for what might happen in case I actually blow.

Your, for the time being, mellow pal,

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