are you in a disaster or just a debacle?
But I’ve been thinking about this common conversation that Ray and I have.
We’ve been talking about what elevates a situation to fit its descriptive word. Example: “Did you hear what’s going on between Jenny and Mark? It’s a complete disaster.”
Or, “How was the party last night?” “A total fiasco.”
One common argument that ensues between Ray and me is that he’ll try and classify the event before the night is over. I think that a twenty-four hour cooling off period is necessary before the correct adjective can be assigned, because situations change as time passes.
So, we’ve got a scale here to try and figure out how high on the charts a situation can become. I’ll start from the lowest.
Thing. Nothing has happened yet, but you know that there’s the potential. “Are we sure we want to let Robert and Stephanie take the same car? You know they have that whole thing, right?”
Situation. A situation is probably the least traumatic. There’s something going on, but it’s not too specific, and there will probably be a need for someone to intervene to work things out, but it’s too unclear at this moment if it’s going to elevate to a problem. “Let’s just take a breath before this situation becomes too heated.” There’s still room to cool off before anyone gets hurt.
Problem. Clearly things have gone on too far, and now there’s a problem. There are parties involved and there are things that need to be done to repair the situation. This is usually sparked by the phrase, “What the hell is your problem?” Followed by, “My problem? You wanna know what my problem is? What the hell is your problem?” Then, “Oh, now I have a problem? I think you’re the one with the problem!” If arguing with Chuy or me, the next response is, “You’re the problem.”
Issue. Someone clearly has a bone to pick with someone else. Or a group of people. But this word is used when you really don’t want to get involved and you want people to know that you’re in the know, but you’re keeping your distance. “What’s wrong with Patty? Issues, man. That’s all I’m saying.”
Mess. Clearly things have been going very wrong if you’ve landed in a mess. People are gossiping, feelings have been hurt, damage has been done. A mess is right in the middle to where you’re not sure what will be the outcome. “Oh, man. This whole registering for the car thing is a total mess. I’m not sure if I should go ahead and get my car insurance now and hold off on the rest until I’m not going to be flying anymore because I can’t give up my driver’s license, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to have six weeks without a photo id.” No one else generally cares about any mess you might be in.
Scene. This is also past tense, here, used as a reminder to not let other situations get out of control. “Can we just order so we don’t repeat that little scene you made last week at the Italian place?” This word should be used when you’re assigning blame for someone else’s asshole behavior. They’re the ones that make a scene. Not you.
Crazy. Used for parties where there are more people there that you don’t know than you do. Since you can’t share stories of the party because you don’t know anyone’s name, you can only describe all antics involved as “crazy.” Makes you look like you were too involved in the party scenes/incidents/problems to be tied down to one specific incident. “You missed a crazy party last week.”
Incident. This is used for a situation that you really don’t ever want to repeat again. “May I remind you of the Seat Belt Incident? Order more ketchup.” Incident has a touch of comedy to it, so you can elevate small situations to Incidents.
Drama. “What’s going on between Molly and Theo?” “Oh. My. God. So much drama.” A good way of saying that too many things have passed for you to relate the entire story. Drama cannot be called until hysterical tears have been shed.
Debacle. A sticky situation that is still ongoing through hurt feelings or misunderstandings. It must be long and involved. “I don’t want to get involved in the whole ‘Who deserved to win’ debacle.” The donkey-sucking debate has moved into a debacle, and now people only hesitantly mention that week anymore.
Fiasco. I used to think this was the highest word you could assign, but Eric had a good point that “fiasco” has a comedic quality to it. “You never hear the news discussing the ‘Storm Fiasco’ or the ‘Fiasco in the Southland.’” He has a good point there. Parties become fiascos. You pretty much have to add the word “total” to “fiasco” for maximum benefit.
Hell. This is when the situation is affecting you personally. Large situations you have no control over, like traffic, weather, and frat parties. “It was hell.”
Heinous. When things are so bad you don’t even have a real word to describe it. Unfortunately, this is usually paired with the word “dude.” Example: “Oh, man. Did you hear about Gary’s car? Dude. Heinous.” This word is usually followed by a moment of silence out of respect for those involved.
Train Wreck. A situation that’s so heinous that you’re actually getting enjoyment out of it. Usually this is happening to someone you don’t like, so you feel a bit superior about it. You’re not going to get involved at all, but you’re going to make sure you know every single detail as you grin like a Cheshire Cat. Always said in a sing-song voice: “Oh, man. Did you hear about Suze? Train Wreck!”
Disaster. Anything that has become a disaster is just not good. It’s not good for anyone involved. People are probably giving up at this point, causing further damage. “We tried to get everyone to agree on the same weekend for the vacation, but that turned out to be a huge disaster.”
Chaos. You don’t know how you got to where you are. You don’t know what you did to get there. You aren’t sure why you’re involved. You don’t know which one of them is mad at you and you’re not sure why. You have no idea where the next blow is coming from. “This whole thing has turned into utter chaos, and I think I just need some time away from all of you.” Usually followed by a secluded drunken weekend.
Fucked. The end of the line. There’s no way that anyone is going to come out of this smelling good. People now hate other people and will hate them forever. This word is usually used when you’re trying to gain sympathy from the new friend you’ve made to make up for the ones you lost from this whole thing. “Yeah. So, it got totally FUCKED, and now I don’t have anyone to go to this awards ceremony with me anymore. Are you busy?”
If the situation has elevated just past its word, but not quite at the level of the next word, use the following qualifiers: Total, Complete, Utter, So, Incredible, Huge, Fucking, Stupid, Insane, Great, or Hella.
Hopefully these tips will help you describe the next disturbance in your life. It helps when you’re information central. I still say you can’t qualify the situation until you’ve established some distance and time. The other night we were having a party where everyone was just sitting around talking, and Ray was upset that the party wasn’t rocking enough. He declared the party a fiasco, when nothing had been broken, and it wasn’t like people were having a shitty time. He decided to lower the status to a debacle, but I still say that party never got worse than a situation. The “Lame Situation.”