Tag Archives: friend

He says he’s not narcoleptic

My friend Hayo gets so tired, he’s always falling asleep everywhere. He swears it’s not narcolepsy or anything that serious, and I’m inclined to believe him. Mostly because I’ve only ever seen narcoleptics on TV, and so I’m guessing that my entire outlook on the narcoleptic community is nothing more than a mash-up of people dozing off face-first into their bowls of soup, just over-the-top depictions of people trying to go about their normal lives, playing horseshoes, carrying a giant tray of eggplant parmesan, hang-gliding, always falling asleep at that perfect moment of comic implausibility.


But he falls asleep on the train, always on the train. I’ve never had that problem. My body has a hard enough time letting its guard down to fall asleep when I’m alone in my bed at night. But on a crowded car? Full of strangers?

“Hayo, where are you? I thought we were supposed to hang out after work?” I used to leave voicemails on his phone after waiting for a half an hour or so by myself at the bar where we were supposed to meet up. “Rob, I’m so sorry,” he’d call me later in the evening. “You’ll never believe what happened.”

Maybe the first time I didn’t believe it. And then the third or the fourth or the fifth time, I totally didn’t believe it. I’d think, really? You’re going to pull the old sorry-I-didn’t-show-I-fell-asleep-on-the-train excuse six times in a row? No, and it got to the point where I wouldn’t bother making plans with Hayo, not unless I was with him the whole time.

“You want to grab a drink?” he’d ask me, and I’d have to follow him around the whole time, making sure to wake him up three or four stops before we got to wherever it was that we were going. I found that out through a little bit of trial and error, that while he’d fall asleep almost instantly, it took quite a bit of rousing not only to wake him up, but to keep him in a sustained state of not being asleep long enough for us to get off the train when we were supposed to.

And I don’t even know why I put up with it for as long as I did, maybe there was some part of me that believed his story. Either way, after watching him nod off right in front of me, after I got off the train those first two or three times, sure that he had to be faking it, unable to believe that a sane human being would willfully miss their stop several times in a row, I came to believe that there was something going on, that maybe he really was constantly falling asleep.

Now that I’m fleshing it out like this, I guess, yeah, I guess it does sound a little like narcolepsy. Again, I hope I’m not offending any narcoleptics. It’s like, I can imagine how annoying it must be to actually have a disease or a condition, and to have it completely misrepresented in popular culture. Like schizophrenia, right, I remember when I was a kid watching TV, schizophrenia was basically multiple personality disorder. Which isn’t the case, right?

Anyway, one time I decided that I wouldn’t wake Hayo up, but I’d stay on the train with him, and just kind of watch how things would normally progress if nobody were riding along with him. And it was just totally crazy. This guy, he was sitting there, his head bobbing up and down as the train rumbled along. There’s no way that that could have been comfortable. The whole whiplash thing should have been a natural wakeup. But stop after stop, the loudspeaker would announce the destination, there’d be that really loud, “ding-dong” as the doors closed, and Hayo was just totally out.

And after a while, after like two or three hours, the train started looping back again in the other direction. I waited for my stop and looked at Hayo before I made a break for it. Should I wake him up? I couldn’t. Nothing really made sense. And when he called me the next day, it was the same, “Hey man, sorry about yesterday, I must have fallen asleep on the train.” And I was just like, “Nah, it’s cool Hayo, you were probably just tired man. Don’t worry about it, all right? Just maybe, just be careful out there, all right man? Just maybe keep your wallet and cell phone in your back pocket from now on, cool?” And I had to stop answering his calls. I just couldn’t count on him, as a friend, for anything really. Because I’m serious, this guy went out, and he was just out.

Don’t mess with Greg’s coffee

I was with my friend Greg last week, waiting on line at a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. “And can you leave like an inch or two of space for milk? Please? Thank you,” Greg asked the barista. And I saw it, I saw how everything went down, the polite request, it was almost like he was afraid to ask, like he was really trying to communicate how he didn’t want to be a pain, if he could just get a little less coffee. And then the please and thank you, all very, very timid.


“Here you go Craig,” the barista handed him the cup of coffee. I could tell by Greg’s face that something wasn’t right, and seeing as how there was only one aspect of that coffee that could’ve gotten him upset, I guessed that just by holding the cup, that he could feel the weight, he could tell that something wasn’t right.

My initial instinct told me that the cup was probably filled too high. Maybe some of the hot liquid leaked out of the top hole on the cover, a dead giveaway that the container had reached maximum capacity. But then again, it could have been almost comically under-filled. Maybe instead of one or two inches of space, there were four or five.

I think back to my customer service days. I hate to admit it, because it’s something that I can only really describe as a serious character defect, but a lot of my interactions with customers and guests were directly influenced by the fickle nature of my mood. Sometimes I wouldn’t feel like going to work and waiting tables. And I don’t know what it is, because it’s not something that I want to have happen, but every once in a while, someone would ask me a perfectly reasonable request, like, “Can I get some extra ketchup, please?” and my internal reaction would be this automatic, “Go fuck yourself. I hate you.”

And of course, I don’t want to be that guy. That’s just not a nice way to live. And if you want to be employed as a waiter or a barista or whatever, you can’t be that guy. You’ll get fired. But on an especially dark day if I just couldn’t get my better nature to wrest control of my actions, I had a choice, I could just not get them any extra ketchup. I could say, “Sure, coming right up,” and then disappear for a while. Or I could take a really long time, watch for that customer to flag down someone else, and then right as he’s in the middle of asking that person, “Hey, could I get some extra ketchup, please?” I could show up in mid-sentence, “Here you go, sir,” make it look like he’s the one being really annoying.

This is all terrible, awful behavior, and I hope that nobody thinks that I’m condoning it or trying to make it OK. And it’s not like that’s something that I did, certainly not often. But yeah, I’d be lying if these thoughts weren’t a part of my underlying consciousness, that there’s something in me, and I’m sure in a lot of service industry workers, that just don’t want to, they don’t want to do anything, even if it’s a perfectly good-natured request, it’s so easy to slide into this almost comfortable pit of bitter entitlement.

Anyway, Greg took his coffee over to that little table by the side where you put your milk and sugar in and, it was just as I’d initially suspected. That coffee cup was filled all the way to the top. By the time Greg managed to get the lid off, there was coffee splashing down everywhere. He couldn’t even lift it up without spilling even more, and the cardboard container was already stained, becoming visibly warped by having so much hot liquid poured over the outside of the cup’s lip.

His face said that he was pissed, but I didn’t expect what happened next. I thought, maybe he’d try to take a big sip, which he did, but it was too hot to really get down a good gulp. And there was still the mess to deal with. I thought maybe he’d shake his head back and forth a little bit, try to make eye contact with the barista, give him a really nasty look. Of course the barista wouldn’t be looking. You don’t want to engage too much. The key to being passive aggressive is to focus on the passivity. That way if you get called out, if some guy that you screwed over confronts you, you’re not giving him anything like eye contact or any other sort of ammunition to further provoke a fight.

And I said it already too, that Greg’s a pretty cool guy, very polite, hardly confrontational. But that same thing that’s in me as a waiter, that same voice telling me to tell random people “fuck you” for asking for ketchup, it had to have been in Greg too. And sometimes you just can’t hold it back. Sometimes you know you shouldn’t do something, but you do it anyway.

So Greg went right up to the counter and screamed, “Hey!” and the barista looked up, and Greg splashed the whole cup of coffee right on him. And I’ve got to say, it was a perfect shot. Obviously you can’t go for the face, because that’s a hot cup of coffee, and you’re looking at burns, at legal action. No, it was right in the middle of this guy’s thick, green apron, right where you just knew there were enough layers of apron and black t-shirt and undershirt to absorb a lot of that heat. But it was a big cup, a venti, and so now this guy was soaked. And maybe it wouldn’t scald him, but there was probably a burning sensation, or at the very least, a really uncomfortable feeling of being very hot and wet.

And we just walked out. Nobody said anything, no manager came running after us. Because what were they going to do about it? What would I have done if I were in that barista’s position? I have no idea. It felt really good at the time, to have been there, to have witnessed what surely felt like such a release, just taking that “fuck you” and returning it right to sender, but without actually having to have done anything, no guilt afterward, no regret.

Because there would have been regret, if that were me anyway. Even now, a week later, I can’t help but thinking, what if that guy really did just make a mistake? What if he was really busy, and meant to leave that extra inch, but for whatever reason, he forgot? What if he’s just so conditioned to filling those cups all the way up, that it’s not even a conscious decision anymore, that it’s more muscle memory than anything else? And yeah, he made a mistake, but it’s a mistake. And now he’s got to, what, ask the manager for a new apron? For a new black t-shirt? What if they didn’t have any available? Would he have to go home, leave his coworkers short-staffed? “And why did he splash you? What did you do to piss him off?” the manager might ask, suspiciously.

No, I can’t, I couldn’t, it would have been too much. And I was expecting something out of Greg, an apology, maybe just the slightest expression of remorse, but nothing. I’ve seen him like once or twice since, and it’s like it never happened. And I don’t know, man, there’s something of that in me, definitely, and I’m pretty sure Greg has a little bit of it too. What else is inside? Aren’t you just a little bit sorry? What if he got him in the face? In the eyes?

I want to be a leader

I just want to be a leader. I just want someone to come up to me and say something like, “People look up to you Rob, you’re a real leader.” But I want it to be natural. So if you’re reading this and you’re thinking that you’ll just tell me how great of a leader I am the next time that we run into each other, just save it, all right, because it won’t be the same, it won’t be what I’m looking for. I don’t want to have to ask to be recognized as a leader, I want people to just see it. Unless of course you were going to say it anyway, and you just happened to read this, then go ahead, call me a leader. But if this paragraph is the first time that you’ve ever considered the words Rob and leader in the same sentence, don’t bother, I don’t want to have to go fishing for leadership compliments.

What I really want to be is a hero. I’d just love to be recognized for some sort of heroism. The subway hero, that guy was a total hero, and he didn’t ask for it, the universe just put him in a situation where his natural heroics shone through. That’s exactly what I feel like, a regular hero, but I haven’t been given that opportunity to really display what I’m made of. And how do you go about setting something like that up? You can’t. I can’t just push somebody on the subway and then go ahead and attempt a rescue. That’s not heroism at all. That’s just crazy.

No, I wish people looked up to me like a teacher. But not in an official teaching capacity. I’m not certified, and I really don’t see myself going through the whole getting-your-masters-in-teaching thing. But like a regular unofficial teacher. I wish that, if people didn’t know how to do something, they’d naturally gravitate toward me, thinking things like, well, Rob must know how to do this, he’ll show me, he’s a great teacher. And after I’m done, they’d say something like, “Thanks a lot Rob, you’re a natural.” But I haven’t had any opportunities like that, none that I can think of. I remember one time a while back one of my coworkers at the restaurant asked me if I knew how to clean the whipped cream machine. And I said yes, even though I had no idea how to clean the whipped cream machine. But I thought to myself, how hard could it be? And then the next thing I know, the boss was screaming at both of us, mostly at me, something about, “Why did you say you knew how to clean out the whipped cream machine? What’s wrong with you?”

At least a trusted friend, I’d love to have all of my friends call me up at different times throughout the year and, after really long and deep conversations, they’d say to me, “Rob, you’re a great friend, a really trusted friend, thanks.” But no, and I guess a lot of the blame is mine. Whenever somebody calls me, I always let it go to voicemail. And then I almost always respond with a text message. I just can’t shake that fear that I’m not going to be able to think of anything to say, and it’ll be this weird back-and-forth silence, but not even, because I’m too afraid of letting even a second go by without any words, and so I’m always just pulling conversation filler out of nowhere, peppering every ten seconds with words like, “Yeah,” and, “Sounds good,” or, “I’m just loving the weather today.”

Just once, I’d like to walk in on two of my bosses saying something like, “Man, Rob is such a dependable worker.” But every time I head into the office, the most I ever get is something like, “Come on Rob, you’ve got to knock before you come in here.” And I know you’re supposed to knock, it’s just that I thought they saw me through that glass window in the door. And yeah, it’s my own fault, I’m always struggling to not be five or ten minutes late. And I did spill half a bottle of wine on some lady a while back, that was a pretty big deal, I should be grateful that my bosses let that slide. But doesn’t my hard work throughout the rest of the day make up for it? Isn’t hard work the same as being dependable? Don’t you think a few unasked for compliments might propel me to that next level of even harder work and greater dependability?

Networking with my old friend Bret

My friend Bret from high school sent me an email out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen him in years. It’s not like we cut the chord or anything, but it went down like most high school friendships went down. We went away to different colleges, sure, I think we might have hung out a few times over the course of the next year, the first Thanksgiving back, stuff like that. But after that, that was it. Facebook wouldn’t be around for another two years or so, and by the time it became massively popular, it wasn’t like I was sitting around thinking, you know what I should do? I should send Bret a friend request.


But that’s how it happened a few months back, all of the sudden I got this friend request, it was from Bret. I said yes. And then the next day he sent me a message. “Hey Rob,” he started off with some introductory remarks, stuff like, “It’s been such a long time. How are things with you?” which, I never really got the whole asking a question via long Internet message. Yes, it’s a mostly nice thing to do, and if we were standing face to face, say we’d just bumped into each other randomly, all right, I can see it happening, “How’s it going?” “Great, you?”

Anyway, after he got all of that mandatory chit-chat out of the way, he got to the crux of the problem. He needed a job, badly, and he was wondering if my company was hiring. And I always kind of clench up at request like this, which is crazy, because how else are you supposed to get a job? It’s not like sending your resume out to the Internet is ever going to work. You have to like know people.

And even though I wouldn’t really say that I knew Bret, certainly not anymore, even though I hadn’t actually clicked all the way through his Facebook page, I was more than certain that, had I given some time into finding out what he’d been up to, I would have totally been surprised as to how different he looked after all these years.

Still, I thought back to all of those times that I needed a job, how I would’ve loved some random acquaintance from way back when to have pulled some position out of nowhere for me. So I said, “Sure, I’ll definitely pass it along.” And I hoped that would have been the end of it, I could have walked in to HR, dropped off a resume, done.

But it wasn’t done. I forwarded Bret’s email to the HR lady, and she wound up shooting me a response right away. “Rob, did you even check this guy’s resume?” And I didn’t, of course I didn’t. I’m not a resume guy. Whatever got me to where I’m at right now, it certainly wasn’t because of my resume. If anything, I’m currently gainfully employed in spite of my resume, that trivial obstacle that I always wind up tripping over as I make it a goal to figure out how to get work.

The back and forth emails were constant, like every two minutes or so, to the point where I clicked print and took the elevator up to HR, maybe see if we couldn’t iron everything out face to face. “Hey,” I told Sarah, I think her name was Sarah, she interviewed me when I was applying, but I don’t know, I hadn’t really been up to this floor in a while. And I could never really gauge how to approach HR, like what was the relationship? Back when I was still a potential employee, she held all of that power over me. It’s not like she was my boss, but that feeling of seniority still felt very present, whenever there was an email, or a face to face, like right then.

“Yeah, sorry, look, I haven’t seen this guy in like ten years. So I didn’t really feel right going through his resume. I kind of just wanted to do him a solid, pass along the document. You know what I mean?”

And she shook her head no, like she didn’t know what I meant, “Rob, look, if you want to network, and I get it, OK, I get the whole networking thing, it’s really important. But if you’re going to do someone a favor, do them a favor. Look at the resume. Do you see all of these typos? It looks like this thing’s current as of 2012. If you’re going to pass along a document, if someone’s reaching out to you for help, you should try to help.”

And this is exactly why I didn’t want to get involved in the first place. Like I said, what was I going to do? What if I tooled around with his resume and it wound up backfiring? What if whatever skills I brought to Bret’s resume wound up negatively affecting whatever chances he’d have not only at gaining employment here, but everywhere? Especially since he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that actually updates his resume, I couldn’t bear that, the idea that I’d be permanently hindering this guy from getting a job, all based on good intentions, it doesn’t matter.

Sarah looked at me, she was still kind of shaking her head back and forth, but eventually she did this sigh before looking up at me and saying, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to call your friend Bret in for an interview, but you have to spend some time helping him with his resume. OK? When I see this guy next week, I want to see something polished, is that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s cool,” I didn’t know what else I was supposed to say. Maybe she was doing me a solid, but she definitely felt like a boss in this situation. Worse, when I got back to my desk, there was another email, it was from LinkedIn, a message from Sarah, she wanted me to join her professional network. And that sigh that she did when I was up at her office, I was doing it right now, I tried to log on to LinkedIn to accept her friend request or whatever, but I couldn’t remember my password, or my username, I couldn’t remember which one it was that I couldn’t remember, it had been so long since I’d signed up for that site.

A week later, Bret shows up for the interview. I had to meet him for coffee and we had to go over his document and it was just like I knew it would be, I barely recognized him. And the part that I did recognize, it just sort of jostled in my memory how Bret and I, we weren’t even like direct friends. We hung out with the same group of people, but I never did anything with Bret one on one, it was always within the context of the larger group.

Even weirder, Bret wound up getting the job. Sarah made a comment to me, something like, “Nice work!” And I couldn’t tell if it was my resume-building advice, or if she meant like nice work on finding such a great hire. But Bret got hired, he was joining the HR team. And so now, I mean, I never see Bret, he works on a different floor. But every time I run into him, that thin veil of old friendship, it’s totally overpowered by the slightly thicker veil of is-this-guy-my-boss? And I don’t know? Is he my boss? What’s the HR relationship with the rest of the company? I wish we had a flow chart like I see at other agencies, like an organizational hierarchy, because it’s so weird, I don’t know how I’m supposed to address anybody, and I worry that I’m constantly coming across as too standoffish, or not serious enough.

One hundred happy days: day one

I’m really trying to get into that whole one hundred days of happiness thing that I see all of my friends doing on Facebook. Everyone just,looks so genuinely happy. Like my friend Bill had a photo up the other day, it was of him holding a movie ticket, and he wrote, “Just had a great time at the movies! #daysix #100happydays.”


And so I was like, that’s cool, I want in. So I went to the movie theater, and I really wanted to see that movie where Scarlett Johansen is that alien, where she goes around a kidnaps people. But I couldn’t remember what the name of the movie was, so when I got to the ticket machine, I just bought a ticket for the first Scarlett Johansen movie that I saw. And it wasn’t the right movie, this one was all about her getting super brain powers, and Morgan Freeman was in it. I tried taking a photo of the ticket stub anyway, but why would I lie about being happy if I was anything but?

No, if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right, from day one. And so the next day I was online and one of my coworkers put on Instagram this picture of a burrito: “nomnomnom so happy, me so happy, #daythirtyfive #100 …” you get the point, right? So I was like, yeah, burritos sound awesome, like just what I need to kick-start these next hundred days.

When I went to the Mexican place by my house though, I don’t know if the guy was messing me though, because I asked him, “Hey listen man, can I get no rice on that burrito? Just, yeah, pork is cool, I like spicy, but please, no rice.” And he was like, “You got it boss.” But then when I went home, I took the burrito out of the bag and knew something was wrong right away, just holding it in my hand, it felt way too light, like very airy. I knew there had to have been rice in there.

And yeah, it was like all rice. I took a bite, I took another bite, hoping that maybe there was just a little rice, maybe just unevenly distributed, concentrated right in that one bite. But no, I unwrapped it after a third bite and it was like ninety percent rice, five percent iceberg letter, four percent tortilla, and then trace elements of pork and salsa.

Whatever, I wasn’t going to go back and get in this guy’s face, OK, I didn’t want to get banned from the Mexican place or anything. But I wasn’t happy about it. I tried getting over it, just watching some TV, relaxing on the couch, but I couldn’t get happy. I looked up online, “How to force yourself to be happy,” and the first thing that came up was, “Why don’t you try smiling? Often times, if you smile, even if you’re not happy, the muscles in your mouth signal your brain to start releasing endorphins!”

And so, yeah, I gave it a shot, I started smiling, I don’t know how long I was supposed to hold it for though, but after like a minute, a minute in a half, I definitely wasn’t any happier, and the sides of my face started to hurt. Two days, two decidedly unhappy days. I resolved to commit to the first day of happiness starting the next day.

I woke up and checked my Twitter feed, and one of the Internet celebrities that I follow had a picture of a glass of wine, the same day twelve hashtag, the same one hundred days of blah, blah, blah. I was just about to give up on the whole thing, but then I thought, well, why not? I was off for the whole day. Why not kick back with a glass of wine? It might be just the thing to get the happiness started.

So I opened a bottle of wine, and then I had a couple of beers, and then at some point my friend Bill came over and things got a little fuzzy after that. But it must have worked, because when I came to the next day, I checked out my news feed, and there it was, it was me. I had taken all of these selfies, and I kept writing about how happy I was, “Look at me!” my status update said, “Day 100! I did it!”

And I’m telling you, I got like close to sixty likes. “So happy for you Rob #100days!” random people that I hadn’t talked to in years were congratulating me on a job well done. And why correct them? I definitely felt happier. It totally worked. I just had to get over myself, get past my hang-ups and let loose. I can’t recommend it enough. To anybody on the fence, just take the plunge, OK, don’t even second-guess yourself. Just be happy for a hundred days. OK? It’s awesome. #Happy.