It was the last day for the Virginia Senate committee to vote out its bills for the year, and Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr. (D-Fairfax) had had it with amendments.
Slapping his hand on the committee's long, curving table, he shouted at Sen. Frank W. Nolen (D-Augusta), "You've got this bill really, really screwed up!"
For Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), the breaking point came a day or two earlier, during a subcommittee meeting.
"Somebody do something," he yelled to his colleagues, "even if it's wrong."
The Virginia General Assembly hit the midpoint of the legislative session this week with a nerve-snapping, head-spinning crush of legislation that seemed to defeat even those most determined to keep up.
"Today is Wednesday," said one Democrat from Norfolk, looking at an index card listing meetings to be held on Wednesday.
"Today is Thursday," corrected his seatmate in the House chamber.
Rarely has the General Assembly had to consider so much legislation in so little time. Generally, Virginia legislators meet for a short session -- 46 days this year -- to consider bills left over from the year before.
But in an election year, they cannot carry over bills. And, because of a legal dispute over redistricting, some delegates have been running for election every year since 1981.
Richard C. Cranwell (D-Roanoke), described the crunch this way to one speaker who was allowed only one minute to address a bill: "Between now and Monday we will consider more legislation than the U.S. Congress will in a whole year."
The avalanche of amendments and measures meant that the legislators had to rely even more heavily than usual on how measures had fared in committee or the recommendations of fellow legislators in making up their minds.
On one minor vote, Del. Floyd C. Bagley (D-Prince William) reached over and lifted the arm of his seatmate, Del. Gladys Keating (D-Fairfax), in assent as she discussed a different bill with the delegate on her other side.
"See how she trusts me?" Bagley asked.
Hearing his name on a roll call just as he stepped into a committee room, Sen. William T. Parker (D-Chesapeake) called out a resounding "No," only to hear his seatmate, with whom he almost never agrees, vote the same way right after him.
"Oh God," said Parker, sitting down, "I voted the wrong way."
Although there has been little time for social breaks, legislators have participated in clog-dancing and disco contests and attended a reception hosted by vending machine dealers, where they collected Twinkies and candy bars from machines that required no money.
Senate Majority Leader Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton) left carrying corn chips, candy bars and a plastic bag of M&Ms to munch on the next day, jokingly describing it as "graft from the vending lobby."
To dispose of all the bills except the budget by the Friday deadline, legislators on major committees shed their jackets and worked in shirtsleeves until as late as midnight. By turn, they were testy, teasing, sleepy and giddy.
In one night committee meeting, House Majority Leader Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk) asked Del. Gwendalyn F. Cody (R-Annandale), who had waited two hours to present a bill dealing with premarital agreements, whether she was interested in it because she was "dating anyone kind of steady."
"You're already taken, Mr. Moss," Cody shot back, winning applause from the audience.
Del. Clifton A. Woodrum (D-Roanoke) encouraged Cody later to continue to push for her bill, despite the laughs and criticism it drew from committee.
"People here are starting to get real, real testy, and we're under a lot of pressure," he said, apologetically. "I was here at eight in the morning and here it is almost 11 o'clock . . . . "
"If somebody zings you," he told Cody, "zing back."
The House Courts of Justice Committee that considered Cody's bill was one of the most pressed, acting on an average of one bill every three minutes Wednesday night. The committee took up about 190 bills between Monday and Friday, in sessions that sometimes stretched to nine hours.
In the stampede of meetings, finding committee hearings sometimes was as hard for legislators and lobbyists as deciding which one to attend.
A group interested in a voter registration bill, for example, learned to their dismay that while they sat patiently waiting in a room in the state Capitol, committee members were considering the measure at the General Assembly office building. Although they ran across the Capitol courtyard in desperate haste, some found the committee only after a couple of votes had taken place.
In the midst of filling trash cans with rejected bills, the legislators approved some major legislation. Among other highlights, the House passed a mandatory seat-belt law and a House committee passed a bill that would require minors who want abortions to obtain the approval of a parent or a judge. A bill to raise the beer drinking age passed both chambers, but the House tacked on an amendment that may prevent it from taking effect.
Given the general hubbub, Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (D-Arlington) was somewhat mystified to find himself with time to visit his fourth-floor office Wednesday morning.
"I can't figure out why I'm not supposed to be anywhere right now, but I'm not," he said from the corner of a crowded elevator.