Funny how some customs start. Octrave began with a rant Olivia delivered to her friend Kris, who laughed so sincerely that Olivia wrote it up for her blog. It tumbled then into local popularity, was test-driven in Berkeley, and soon spread up and down the west coast. From those points, Internet and geographical, it ballooned into a tradition.

But it started on an evening walk. Olivia had had a trying day, and she ventilated about it to her best friend. Kris and Olivia had been walking and talking for decades and the best reason their friendship thrived was their mutual respect.

They are dissimilar women. Kris is short, blonde, buxom, and into people. She majored in Sociology. She is not an intellectual or an athlete. She is one of the nicest people Olivia ever met, but it’s a sincere niceness, so it doesn’t repel Olivia the way smarminess does. Kris hasn’t married or had kids. She’s always employed but she doesn’t describe any job as her career.

Olivia is tall, dark, slim, introverted. She took a degree in English because she could never stop reading and writing. She’s been married three times, has two children, works at least full time, and is critical about everything.

The two women talk on the phone every day (even now, when telephoning is almost as dead as videotapes). They try to take a walk together at least once a week. They have agreed to allow any sort of talk on those walks.

The walk environment means Kris can be judgmental. She has strict ideas about manners and the importance of education and sports, but she’s usually too polite to voice them the way she feels them. With Olivia she can be draconian, at least for her.

Olivia has always excelled at indignation. She has a quick mind, a powerful vocabulary, and a very expressive mien; she often scares or intimidates her interlocutors without meaning to. But when she walks with her BFF she can say it all. She can let it rip and not be held accountable for it. She can obtain relief.

So on that fateful walk, after releasing into the evening air her disdain for her work colleagues and her contempt for her fellow commuters, Olivia had a brainstorm.

“I have a proposal,” she announced. “You know the seventh inning stretch in baseball? I always liked that idea. Well, I think we need a verbal stretch. All of us. Every day.”

“When’s the seventh inning?” Kris asked. She was half a step behind Olivia and took her right arm as they walked.

“Oh mid-afternoon.” Olivia pondered for a few paces. “How’s this? From 3:07 to 3:15 p.m., every work day, everyone can say whatever they want, and not be held accountable for their words …”

She stopped walking and faced Kris as she spoke. “Really. Anything. You can be politically incorrect, make racist statements, engage in unfair verbal attacks. Anything goes. For eight minutes in the middle of the afternoon. Then it’s over. You reassume the mantle of civilization. And feel so much better.”

“Kind of like temporary Tourettes?”

Olivia laughed harder at that. “Exactly. I mean, we’re of course not supposed to make jokes about Tourette Syndrome, right? That would be senseless and inconsiderate and rude. But it will be allowed, from 3:07 to 3:15.”

“So what are we going to call it: Temp-Tourette?”

“That’s pretty good,” Olivia responded. “Maybe.” She paced forward for a few seconds. “Wait a minute. I don’t know why I specified 3:07 to 3:15. I mean, I wanted mid-afternoon because that feels like the seventh inning in a normal work day, but I don’t know how I came up with eight minutes. Maybe that’s too long. No … I like 8. It gives everyone time to stand up and shout. And it’s a lucky number; it’s the only one that ends in an upstroke. It’s factorable. It’s an octave. Oh! Oct-rave. Octrave.”

And so it went. Within six weeks, small businesses were adopting the Octrave break. It started like a guerilla action in bigger companies, where HR departments were so universally unsuccessful at shutting it down that they recognized inevitability and went with “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Even sole proprietors, working out of home offices, engaged in Octrave or said they did.

Octrave parties were thrown on weekends and holidays. Octrave-included tours were organized for travel. Octraves joined humor as the only practical response to worsening world, national, state, and local conditions.

It’s entirely possible that Olivia is correct in her assessment that the human species is headed for extinction, that we’ve passed the tipping point as irreversibly as polar ice melt. But philosophers and psychologists are starting to agree that, if there’s any hope for the survival of human personality, it may be owing to the initiation of the Octrave.

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