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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Ask Not What You Can Do for Me, Sparky

I’ve decided I don’t like really friendly people.

It’s not that I want to be antisocial, or don’t enjoy a nice smile or warm greeting now and then. It’s just that I’ve noticed a trend recently, and it doesn’t bode so well for the hyper-congenial set:

There is an inverse relationship between friendliness and helpfulness.

I’ll admit, this idea is counterintuitive. You’d expect the grumbling, snarky trolls of the world the be the ones who aren’t helpful. And they’re not. But in not being helpful, they’re actually more helpful than the puppydog people-pleasers who go out of their way to be helpful. Here’s an example:

“A ‘friendly surprise’ is great in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box or when your missus is trying out a lacy new pair of underpanties. On the streets, it’s a pain in the ass.”

Driving to work this morning, I stopped at a red light. Given my cop debacle earlier in the week, it’ll be a cold day in Boston before I make a right on red again. And in this case, I was going left, anyway, so I sat my car’s ass dead still at the light. And I liked it.

By the time the light turned, a single car had stopped opposite me, waiting to go. I had my left turn signal on; he, evidently, was going straight. There was no one behind me. When the light turned green, I inched slowly forward, waiting for the car to pass.

Nothing. He didn’t budge.

I inched a little further, but still slowly, as if to say, ‘Come on, buddy! You can do it! Go through that light, tiger!

Still nothing. Then I saw him waving at me from the driver’s seat to come through in front of him. By the time I noticed, deciphered his intentions, and determined that he wasn’t going to plow into the side of my car if I swerved in front of him, the light had turned yellow. We hustled through it, going our respective directions, but not before a needless stuttering automotive dance in the intersection. And why?

The guy was ‘friendly’. And trying to be helpful. And failing horrendously.

Look, if there was a line of cars behind him, I’d have appreciated the gesture. And I might have been on the lookout for it, just in case. But he was the only car coming. The fastest way for me to get where I’m going off to the left is for him to drive the hell through the intersection when the light turns green. That’s all. Just do your job. A ‘friendly surprise’ is great in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box or when your missus is trying out a lacy new pair of underpanties. On the streets, it’s a pain in the ass. Drive away, people. Please, just drive away.

But my bigger recent beef with ‘friendlies’ actually comes with a more familiar face. Our building at work has someone from a security company watching the entrance during the day. We all have identification badges, and — theoretically — we’re supposed to present our IDs when we pass the guard. It doesn’t always work that way, of course. The same six or eight people take shifts on the door, and after a few weeks, you get into a routine with each one.

There are the no-nonsense hard-asses. You see one of these guys, you reach for your badge. No problem.

Then there are the quiet types. They don’t say much, but they’ll generally associate a face with the badge, and let you past with a simple nod.

A couple of the guards get a little chattier — you might exchange a ‘hello’ or ‘good night’ occasionally, but nothing out of the ordinary. And they all recognize the ‘regulars’ pretty quickly, so there’s usually no need to fish out a badge for them.

And then, there’s the ‘friendly’ girl.

Without question, she’s the most engaging and pleasant of the guards. Every day she’s working, I — along with everyone else who passes — get a bright, cheerful, ‘Hey, sweetie, good morning!

Followed closely by: ‘I’m gonna need to see your badge, please.

Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve walked by in the past. No leeway for all the times she’s called you ‘sweetie’ or ‘sugar’ or ‘angeldrawers’ — okay, I don’t actually know whether she calls people ‘angeldrawers’, but if there’s a security guard on the planet who would, it would be her. And it doesn’t matter if your hands are full with boxes, books, burritos or bowling balls. Friendly girl needs to see that ID.

Is it illegal to give a security guard a wedgie? Because I’m trying to think of something I can do to get her to remember me. And if she asks for my badge one more time while I’m juggling lunch and a soda and three other things, she’s definitely in wedgie danger.

Unless they outfit those guards with mace or tasers or something. I should probably check on that before I go and do anything involving this girl’s underwear.

Meanwhile, I’m swearing off overly-friendly people. Regular-friendly is fine. And a little helpful is okay. But if you’ve got an especially sunny outlook on life, and goshdarnit, you just have to share it by assisting your fellow humans, then stay the hell away from me. I’m friendlied out. Go try MySpace or something. I hear they like your kind over there.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Ask Not What You Can Do for Me, Sparky”

  1. GoshDernIt, Charlie. I’m from Texas. I don’t know ho to be unfriendly (well….). I’m with you on the driving, though. Don’t do the unexpected. It doesn’t help!

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