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Swift: An 'x-plan' could be an x-scape from life

Tammy Swift, columnist

A Facebook friend recently shared a link to a blog that brought a whole new meaning to the term, "x factor."

The author, Bert Fulks, wrote a lovely post about a ritual his family practices called the "x plan." (Read it at

It works like this: If one of his children finds themselves in a dicey or uncomfortable situation — say, a party in which they feel pressured to do drugs — they text an 'x' to a parent or sibling. This tiny distress signal prompts a family member to throw out a rescue call in which they call the "x-er," and tell them they need to leave the party to attend to something important at home.

The arrangement allows the adolescent or teen to leave a risky situation without having to make elaborate excuses or participate in something that feels ill-advised, illegal or just plain stupid.

At the same time, the parents agree that they won't interrogate the child about the circumstances that prompted the "x plan," unless, of course, someone involved is in danger.

Once Fulks' kids knew they wouldn't get in trouble if they wound up somewhere they weren't supposed to be, they were much more likely to "x" for help.

Talk about a clean "x-it."

I had to chuckle to myself when I read it. I'd used the x-plan a few times in the workplace. Many jobs ago, I made a deal with a co-worker that if we were cornered by someone who was pathologically chatty, we would unobtrusively email an "x" to the other person so they could barge in and pretend like someone was on hold or waiting for us at the front desk.

The x-or-cism was the only thing that worked when you were dealing with that unfortunate brand of Chatty McChattersons who did not recognize the usual flight responses (backing toward the door, muttering, "Well, I'd better get back to work," or jumping out the nearest window) that meant the listener wanted the conversation to end.

But this blog made me think of something else. Why should the x-plan be reserved for teenagers? Wouldn't it be handy to have an x-plan for every age and area of life?

I started to imagine all the other mishaps that I could have avoided with an x-plan.

Like all those times I've been cornered by people who can't stop talking about their children/physical ailments/Christmas village collection/gluten-free diet.

Or that blind date where the guy ate steak with his hands and kept calling the waitress "babe."

Or that "friend" who invited me out for coffee and then tried to get me to sell Metabolife.

Or that weird job in college which took place in a dirty basement and was almost certainly an illegal telemarketing operation.

Or that job interview in which I started crying. Or that Rambo aerobics class.

Or that long-ago "team-building" workshop in which we were supposed to practice "trust falls" with our co-workers. Or junior high gym entirely. Or 2013 altogether.

All it would have taken was a texted "x" — or perhaps a Morse code "x" in the days before that technology was possible — and I could have escaped so much pain, wasted time and suffering. Some nice friend or family member would have swooped in to save me, then praised me for asking for help when I needed it most.

No x-planation necessary.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at