Tossing An Elbow

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.”

Hear Hear!

Thank-you Aaron Sorkin.

PS   I loved John Spencer


December 20, 1946 – December 16, 2005



About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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18 Responses to Tossing An Elbow

  1. micklively says:

    We all forget ourselves from time to time. I like your advice. A friendly but firm nudge back towards the straight and narrow can make everyone’s day better.
    Good piece Susannah: I do so like the way you write.


  2. Joe Owens says:

    I loved Leo also. I thought he was one of the key characters on the West Wing. I found myself curiously offended when he appeared as anything less than the “in charge” Leo McGarry from the West Wing in any other movies, such as “The Rock” with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage. By the way, thanks for the guest post, it was much appreciated.


    • I loved the West Wing and still watch it since I have them all. John Spencer was such a great actor and he and Martin Sheen were so great together. Do you know when Aaron Sorkin wrote the pilot, Martin Sheen wasn’t supposed to be in it so much. It was going to be more about the staff, but it was so well received that he became a regular right off the top.

      West Wing Rules. I even have a hat and T-shirt…lol


  3. katecrimmins says:

    Yep, you should always call people on their behavior. Sometimes they don’t realize how intense they are and sometimes they are just a douchebag.


  4. Elle Knowles says:

    Oops! I’ve gotten a few of those things back in the mail – the most recent was my husbands 1099. The elbow thing? Yes! But sometimes we see it in hindsight.


  5. Excellent post. We do need, at times, to stand up for ourselves, to toss that elbow. I loved West Wing, and John Spencer was one of my favorite characters. Aaron Sorkin’s writing is crisp and active, I enjoy his shows. I am sorry you were criticized, and I applaud that you were able to get things set right. I look forward to reading your blog daily, it is a highlight of my day, so glad we met.


  6. MJ says:

    You’re so right, Susannah. The key thing to a successful elbow tossing is maintaining impeccably good form, yet making the offender feel the steel. Good people can exercise “bad judgement” on occasion—to put it tactfully—but I think most will respond with a measure of remorse, if only because it’s in their own best interests to do so. What’s really hard, though, is having to confront the ones I call “tar babies”…the pathological liars, the conscience-less, the chronically devious. Toss THEM an elbow, and get covered in muck! Yet the issue can’t be swept under the rug, so you have to remain engaged. I’m so glad the editor apologized to you, because dealing with “bad judgement” in the creative community can not only be a minefield, but often feels like a betrayal as well.


  7. MJ says:

    You are nothing if not an inspiration, Susannah. I’m “avid” because I’m presently preparing to elbow a thief of my creative property. And oh, how I wish I were the many-elbowed goddess Kali! I’m even madder than on that day when the van driver rammed my little car. But I have to be in impeccably good form when I take this culprit on, because my “tar baby” radar is really blipping.


  8. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, my sweetie’s grandma Loretta gave this bit of advice inside her Christmas card one year, “Remember to have your water tested once a year.” It was such a random thing to write, and she included it in each of her grandchildren’s cards. We loved it.


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