Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I am a "Calming Agent"

Anyone who's known me for any length of time (generally five minutes will do) would not use "calm" as the first word to describe me. Perhaps as the second word, when preceeded by "not" or "never". Generally people describe me as the "skinny hyper chick" or the "tall talkative one" or "For the love of God - don't give her coffee!!!!"

Calm, cool, collected ... not usually words used to describe me!

Years ago when I was working with "A Coworker So Annoying" (injoke, I'll explain over a beer sometime) I realized I have a way of dealing with people in a panic. The annoying coworker ("ACSA") would rant and rave and freak out over things beyond her or my control and expect everyone in her orbit (the world did revolve around her) to stop and panic too. Interestingly, the more wound up ACSA would get the calmer I would get. Her voice would hit octaves so high as to be nearly inaudible and mine would drop. She'd start talking at 78rpm and running around in circles and I'd descend to super slow mo. This drove ACSA nuts, which I'll admit was an encouragement to continue!

I left the job and haven't seen ACSA since but I've often used that method of dealing with people. My first year running Flower Bowl, a 47 team ultimate tournament, I had the eight captains of the elite womens teams yelling at me on Sunday morning because their playoffs went straight to semis and they wanted quarter finals. Sexism! Unfair treatment! They demanded the right to play more games!

I went into ACSA-management mode. Eight team pools are easy to manipulate so I erased the schedule on the white board and started to rewrite it to give them quarter finals. As soon as I did this the Seattle captain realized that if they didn't play quarter finals she could get home in time to do laundry and clean the house. The Portland captain thought about her seven hour drive home and decided this was a great idea, convinced the Calgary captain, etc. While this discussion was going on I sat at the white board, pen in one hand and eraser in the other, and waited for them to make up their minds. My mother was helping out at the tournament and stood by totally agog at my composure - her daughter, who'd fly into a screaming rage when she couldn't find her house keys, was dealing with this insane coven of elite captains as if it were a book club discussion on a particularly dull story from "Chicken Soup for The Tournament Director's Soul".

It all worked out in the end, everyone was happy with the schedule (they went for the semis/finals no quarters option), and I moved on to the next crisis.

My tournament director days are long behind me but apparently I still have this skill. Before races or open water swims, when club mates are having panic attacks I tend to go into calm mode. Luckily they're much nicer to deal with than ACSA or offended elite ultimat team captains. The more wound up they get the more I tend to go the opposite way. This helps to calm down my friends but it also helps me out - really a win-win situation for all involved. (Funny that I can calm myself down for someone else's benefit where if I was on my own I'd quite likely be in a state that would give ACSA a run for her money!)

This all comes up as this evening Marni, a club member with some serious open water issues*, expressed her happiness that I will be doing the Oliver Half as I'm her "calming agent." Colleen immediately piped up that, no, I was her calming agent. I had no idea I had that effect, or that I was that in demand!

Okay, here I have to admit that the other part of being a calming agent for a triathlete is to be able to say, with absolute conviction, that the person will do fantastically well in their race. As Marni and Colleen are both kick @$$ athletes this is very easy to do. So it isn't all skill.

I'm looking forward to this weekend for the race itself, for the visit with my sister & nephews and for the experience of participating with my good friends from my club. The fact that I can help out a couple of my friends and get a reward from doing it is just the icing on the cake.

Alison - Agent of Calm

* Marni is my hero - she had such intense fear of water but took up the sport of triathlon, got herself into pools and lakes and completed tri's with open water swims. I think that's pretty darned cool!

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