Recently I was trying to explain a concept to a friend which was that I find people desperately confusing and in return they were trying to convince me that really wasn't the case and that people were generally quite straightforward if you knew how to handle them. Now I have to say that he is one of the loveliest people that you could meet and if you were to give him a tight squeeze I'd suspect that liquid hospitality would ooze from his pores, or chocolate... one of the two. His points were utterly compelling at the time though the fact that I'm struggling to remember any of them now suggests I wasn't entirely won over or perhaps didn't have a frame of reference to put them into. For a small example of what I mean by that as a child back in the days of only three TV channels I remember being deathly afraid of the phone ringing when I was the only person around in case I:
a) Had to talk to a stranger,
b) Entirely failed to answer whatever query they might have and
c) Disappoint them in the process by failing somehow to meet their expectations.
As a 6-year old I obviously didn't have these things written down on a piece of paper nor could I have articulated them in any meaningful way but that was my perception of my personal limitations at the time and that's stayed with me for many years. Even at work now I'm loathe to answer phone calls that don't present with caller ID, a trait which quite probably sets pound signs whirring in the eyes of psychologists everywhere.
So it was in someway deeply ironic that I managed to significantly piss off that same friend yesterday.
Without going into the ins and outs of it, though I'm sure some of you would love that because you're a bit sick that way, and because as I'm the writer I get the chance to put my excuse in first, I was feeling under some stress due to an upcoming event and was arguably expressing thoughts and expectations which under normal circumstances I'd have have been more circumspect about expressing or would hopefully have had the wisdom to shut the hell up about.
Now I already knew that said friend had some things going on in the background including some significant life frustrations but with the monocular vision that normally seems to be the special preserve of small children in toy shops I was overcome by the need to communicate my thoughts and expectations in an entirely heartfelt, and unfortunately completely unthinking way.
Let's just say it didn't go well.
I hesitate to use the words "let rip" but I will say that my friend was able to put across quite clearly and concisely that on this occasion I'd crossed the line between communicating clearly and being a complete arse. In fact I suspect I was probably so far the other side of the line a decent pair of binoculars would have been required to even spot it.
At that point a familiar and overwhelming sinking feeling came over me like a priest from the middle ages being confronted with convincing proof that the Sun didn't actually go around the earth as my friend ably shone a light on the dark recesses of my self-centeredness. I say dark recesses but if we're talking scale and prominence I actually mean something more like a statue, monument or maybe the whole of Hadrian's Wall.
I can agree that people are fascinating, complex and wonderful and that everyone has their own story going on in the background which you may never find out unless you take the time to ask and find out or, like me, rub them up the wrong way though while my method works sometimes I wouldn't recommend it as a long-term strategy. I would recommend that you choose your friends wisely though it seems to be that in my experience, a bit like cats, they choose you.
Happily we're now back on what I might call normal talking terms so I think we've both learned something from the experience, though I'm not entirely sure what that is yet, and perhaps I may come back and tell you in five or ten years time when I've worked it out.
If you want a good friend I wouldn't ask me, but I can recommend someone.
And I still find people confusing.