It’s not like I didn’t know all the words already, and it’s not like I had never used them before. They just hadn’t become part of my normal vocabulary.
But the environment at that first job was pretty salty. Maybe it’s because we were he-man hairy-chested UNIX C++ programmers, rather than the (comparatively) girly-man Windows .NET programmers I’ve worked with since; I don’t know.
Our offices on the outskirts of Terre Haute must have been powered by a team of hamsters running furiously inside little wire wheels, because we had brief power cuts or surges at least once a month. You’d think that a company that made and sold software would have heard of uninterruptible power supplies! Yet every time the power blipped our servers went down and screens went dark – and a resonant angry chorus of f-bombs rose from every corner of the building.
It had rubbed off on me by the time I left that company. I didn’t realize that not every work environment was as salty as that one until one afternoon when the power went out in my new employer’s office. Mine was the only f-bomb to be dropped, and at considerable volume. A fellow in an office at the end of the hall came to check on me, worried that I wasn’t all right.
My routine speech had also become peppered with lesser offensive words. My wife could not abide such talk, so I worked hard to put it away. After a few months of diligent attention, my speech was clean except when stressed or angry.
There was a lot of stress when my marriage ended, with predictable effect on my speech. And I knew that bit by bit that language was becoming routine again. I didn’t understand how much until the other day when my youngest son told me that he thinks I swear habitually. This is not how I want my sons to think of me!
So I got a big glass jar, placed it on the kitchen counter, called for my sons, and told them that I was going to clean up my act. With every foul word, I would take $5 from my allowance and place it in the jar. I give myself a small allowance every paycheck to spend freely; most of it goes to lunches out with friends. When it’s gone, I’m done until the next paycheck. This helps me stick to my budget without me feeling like I’m living on the austerity plan. It’s not a lot of money; it won’t take very many slip-ups before I’m out of cash. So this really hurts!
But then I told the boys that when I had gone 30 days swear-free, we would have fun together with the jar’s funds. I see a trip to the arcade in our future. So I’m using both a stick and a carrot to overcome this problem. Not bad, if I do say so myself!
So far, so good. After 2½ weeks, I’ve dropped $45 into the swear jar. (Putting the Christmas lights in the picture window cost me $10 all by itself.) I’m thinking twice when I open my mouth, and bit by bit it’s getting better.
As much as I’m looking forward to 30 days clean and an outing with my sons, I’m also motivated to put this behind me because I’m out of spending cash until my next paycheck. Any more slip-ups and I have to borrow against next paycheck’s allowance! I’ll be turning my friends away at lunch so often they’ll think I don’t like them anymore.
Here’s a story about stress and how my youngest son helped me see something important.