What a day. Eight hours of uninspired work, facing toward getting two blog posts in the can, backing up my computer, finding a way to retrieve my product keys for Spore, and eventually upgrading to my copy of Windows 7 Ultimate that FINALLY came in after four months of waiting. I’ve got a very long day tomorrow, filled with new work, old work, awkward gaps, carpet replacement which I’m not home for, an interview and a meeting. The next thirty-six hours are going to be huge. I need a nap.
You’ve had this kind of day. I know you have. The term we use for this is spending the day “Behind the 8-Ball.”
Like Inside Baseball, full court press and other sporting euphemisms, telling someone you’re behind the 8-ball is only useful if they get the idea, or know what it means. Not everyone plays pool, but I’ll try my hand at explaining this one, because the over-use of the phrase in the wrong situations bother me.
The last ball you sink, no matter which set you’re going after, is the 8-Ball. Naturally, you’re aiming to put everything in order, get all of the balls into their pockets and, if you’ve really got finesse, let your opponent do the same, so there are no obstructions on the table when you’re trying to knock that black orb down. Just you, your cue, and the target.
Being behind the 8-Ball doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lined up. It can either mean that you’re down to the Eight itself, but there’s an obstruction between the cue and the Eight – or it can mean that the 8-Ball itself is between your cue and the last ball you have to sink before you can attack the Eight itself.
In this instance, it means there’s literally a ball, whether its yours or your opponent’s, right in the path the cue-ball has to take to strike the target and get it into the pocket. This leaves you with a really tough choice. Either you shoot around the interference, which is very risky, or try to jump the cue over the middle ball – which is even worse because it’s a tough skill to develop, and even when you’re good, you might have an imperfect cue and scratch the table – which is tantamount to forfeit.
So what do you do, when you’ve got an obstruction behind the 8-Ball? You either take the tough leap of faith and jump the ball, or go around and risk losing the shot which, depending on the situation your opponent is in, could either mean more work for them, or give them a clear shot at their final goal as well.
The term itself is usually applied to having a lot of work to do before you can even look at completion. That bit works. It bothers me, though, to hear “We’re really behind the 8-Ball here” mostly because it implies that we’re the obstruction, not the problem or the solution. I never tell anyone “You’re behind the 8-Ball” because I feel like I’m slighting them.
Someone told me this afternoon, when I described my day and the coming week, that I was behind the 8-Ball. Made me want to spit. Thankfully, having explained the term, this person looked so shocked that I don’t expect to hear them use it again.
Small victories. Only way to get yourself out from behind the 8-Ball.