I live in San Francisco, which is (1) an amazing city, and (2) crazy far — geographically and culturally – from where I grew up in rural New Hampshire. First, picture the towns from the movie Footloose and the play Our Town; pretend they got married and had a baby (getting married before having the baby is very important — even for fictional towns). Now pretend you’re driving around that town in a mid-2000s green Subaru outback while wearing Birkenstocks AND wool socks AND cargo shorts. Voila! You now have a pretty decent working knowledge of the first 19 years of my life.
So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that someone else had recently moved from my old home town to my new hometown. I found out about the move through some facebook stalking (naturally), and I debated for a couple of weeks whether or not to reach out.
You see this person and I have, at best, a very tenuous connection. He is the much younger brother of an old friend of mine’s llong ago ex-girlfriend.
“What?” you say.
“Exactly!” I respond.
Way back when I was like 17 — which was, I’m sad to report, more than 10 years ago – I possessed a driver’s license AND access to a car. For those of you that took calculus, you know the first derivative of that equation equals friends. One of those friends, Ant, had new/first girlfriend named Chris. Ant wanted to spend lots of time with Chris, and, I can only presume, that she wanted to spend lots of time with him. To facilitate said hang outs, Ant, Chris, and our other friends would pile into my mother’s Jeep Cherokee and drive off into the night to do godknowswhat. Full Disclosure: Godknowswhat was usually one of the following: nothing, loitering, or sitting in a restaurant and sharing one basket of fries between six people for approximately 11 hours.
Chris’ mother had other ideas. She was basically the Tyrion Lannister of this whole situation. “Sure,” she’d say. “Have a great time.”
But she didn’t really mean it!
“Oh Chris! I need you to watch your little brother tonight, but you don’t mind just taking him with you, do you? ” she sneered, “He loves hanging out with you.” Ok, so the sneer was really just implied. But she should have sneered! Had she actually sneered, it would have been a really sneery sneer. Like a Peter Campbell from Mad Men sneer. Also, I mostly made up that bit of dialogue. I have no earthly idea how it was that Chris had lil bro in tow, but I do remember that he was there.
Ant obviously had to agree to this situation. If he protested, he would give Mother actual evidence proving that all he really wanted was to get handsy with her daughter.
“Damn,” we’d think, outsmarted at every turn. At this rate Ant was NEVER going to get laid.
I don’t really remember if I ever actually said anything to this little brother. I do remember not being pleased at his presence. He was like 12, which was basically like a baby.
Anyway fast forward 12 or so years, and this baby has moved to San Francisco. So you understand my reluctance at sending him a message. Not because I still think he’s a baby, but because I don’t think I was all that nice to him.
I hemmed and I hawed, but finally I resolved that I should send him a message. Yes, we had a more a détente than a friendship back then, but that was a long time ago.
So I sent him a really nice message. It went something like, “Hey Michael: Isn’t this super random. Blah Blah Blah. Hope you’re settling in well. Let’s get coffee sometime.”
And then I waited. For fifteen days, I waited.
In the spirit of kindness and generosity, I reached out to him. I was willing to take time out of my very busy life to share my wit and wisdom with him. Why? Because I’m like a really good person, obviously. And he just waved me off.
Well the joke’s on you buddy, ‘cause I’m keeping all of my knowledge to myself now. Oh what’s that? You just woke up in a gutter, bleeding from the head? Don’t call me. I’m busy imparting my pearls of wisdom to people who didn’t ignore my facebook messages.
Then I happened to hop onto facebook and reread that message I sent him. As you’ll recall it began “Hey Michael…,” but there’s a problem because his name isn’t Michael. His name is Jeff. I got his name wrong. On Facebook.
If you’ve ever seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon, you may recall Bugs Bunny on occasion would lay a rake on the ground in front of Elmer Fudd who, upon stepping onto the mouth of the rake, would get hit in the face with the handle. That’s basically me.
Most people get to live in blissful ignorance of the fact that they’re ignorant assholes. Not me. God granted me just enough awareness, so that I’d eventually find out what a jerk I am. It would have been nice if he gave me just a little more, so that I could avoid some of these situations entirely, but as they say “Shit in one hand, wish in the other, and see which fills up first.”
Post script: I sent another incredibly message, this one incredibly apologetic. Michael, err I mean Jeff graciously laughed and said he meant to reply sooner, but life was hectic, and that we should get coffee soon.