I love this expression. I believe I heard it first on a West Wing episode when Leo Mc Garry, the White House Chief of Staff played majestically by the late, great John Spencer, had to simmer some senator down never to boil over again.
That’s the point of it. To alert someone to your strength when they’re behaving badly.
A friend of mine recently had cause to do this where she works. A colleague was acting way out of line so she quietly, but firmly, declared herself. It’s key to do it eye to eye, but with class and grace. The other person has little choice but to reel themselves in since you’re all calm and poised while they’re unhinging like a lunatic.
My friend was a bit apprehensive afterwards fearing possible recriminations, but I know that elbow did the appropriate trick to smooth out those wacky wrinkles in her what should be, a safe work place.
I did it with a fellow writer who was acting rude, inconsiderate and just a tad too grand. My pal Mazzilli said, “Bianchi, maybe you shouldn’t have done that. She’s an editor who you work with…what if she gets pissed?”
“What if she does? Sometimes you need to say to the world…I deserve respect and expect it, it doesn’t matter from whom, whether it be the butcher, the baker or the hot shot editor.”
Her response? A dignified apology on the heels of better behavior.
My pal Peter in Florida just had his water turned off because the check failed to arrive on time. He’s never been late, has great credit with the water company yet one day he came home to no water.
When he called, they put him on hold without apologizing for making such a rash error…seems they just didn’t care one way or the other that he had to wash-up at a neighbors. He lives in this lovely town by the way, not the Ozarks, so let’s do the math.
What’s the water company’s problem? Did it have a bad day? Low and behold, our rusty though trusty postal service sent back his check sliced in half like ham pleading mea culpa unlike the water people, so now at least he can prove he was telling the truth, hence, no late fees to pay.
My reaction…toss them an elbow so they never do it again. Get a manager on the phone…be outraged at the temerity to arbitrarily shut off someone’s water without as much as a warning. This is America Florida Water, not Beirut. Another fact we should always remember…how fortunate we are to have clean, running water, but that’s another essay, isn’t it?
I feel standing up for oneself in all walks of life is mandatory, as long as it’s laced with tact and civility.
Like Leo said on The West Wing, “Toss that elbow once, and you never have to do it again.”
Thank-you Aaron Sorkin.
PS I loved John Spencer
December 20, 1946 – December 16, 2005