Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Animal House Office and the Nature of Friendship

For some reason I've been thinking a lot about the nature of friendship lately. I'm not even sure why.  Maybe it's because the older I get the more important it is to me. Maybe it's because I'm becoming aware of how rare it is. I am 54 years old and I know a lot of people, I have a boatload of acquaintances, but fewer friends, and even fewer close friends. Why is that?

Part of it is time, or more precisely, the lack of time. It takes time to build solid friendships. My best friend is a guy I grew up with. We were inseparable from roughly age 15 until 25. Then we got busy with our lives which started to travel on different paths so we don't spend a lot of time with each other now. But he's still my best friend. So, time isn't the only thing.

When I think about it, my wife is clearly my real best friend. But she doesn't count because she sorta HAS to like me. It's all a part of the "love and cherish" thing. The biggest reason that Pam and I are such good friends is because of the wealth of shared experiences. You have children with someone, raise them together, spend literally days in a car with someone for 28 years, then you either end up violent enemies or the best of friends. Luckily for me, after all of that, we're still pals.

Three of my best friends are the guys I work with. We're business partners. We see each other every day and have for the better part of 25 years. Our office is like a laboratory for human dysfunction. It's the Cooperstown of verbal invective, the place where mutual respect and decorum go to die. When strangers come and experience the glee with which we constantly toss around insults and put downs, they try their best not to look shocked. From snarky remarks about each others' personal appearance, to open ridicule of each others' intelligence, no subject is off limits. Make an honest mistake 17 years ago at a company meeting in Vancouver B.C., and you can be certain that it will be thrown in your face at any time at the slightest provocation. Miss a short putt on the 18th green to cost your team the match, well you might as well turn in your man card for six months. The trash-talking, non-stop smack down zone that is our office is the middle-aged version of being smacked on the ass by a wet towel in the locker room in high school. If you make a huge sale, you're the luckiest, most over-paid hack in the history of commerce. If you fall into a slump it's because you're a lazy, whining, soft democrat welfare queen looking for a handout. There exists nowhere on this planet a work environment with less concern for positive affirmation and self-esteem than my office. To many of you reading this I'm sure it sounds positively brutish. Some of you might even be tempted to notify OSHA to report this horrifying behavior. And, what does this have to do with friendship anyway?

Here's the thing. It's the not the job of friends to be rubber stamps for every stupid idea that comes into your head. Friendship is about having the freedom and standing to tell each other the truth. For all of the abuse we heap on each other, I know in my heart that everyone of the guys at my office have my back. Who do I want in my fox hole, who do I want in my corner in a fight? The smiley-faced back slapper who is constantly telling me how great I am...or the guy who knows every mistake I've ever made and can and will recite them back to me at a moments' notice and despite that, would run through a wall for me? No, if there's a crisis at 2 o'clock in the morning, I'm not calling Mr. happy face..I'm calling Doug Greenwood, Bland Weaver, or Lynwood Atkinson.

Oh, and by the way...on the off chance that either of you guys actually read this're still a bunch of pathetic morons.