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Scheduling Conflict

By Tom "people person" Waters
October 1, 2004

I don't want to leave my house and my friends don't want to leave theirs. It's a Mexican standoff.

It's getting harder and harder to talk my friends into leaving their houses to socialize. I'm not sure when this epidemic occurred, but it hit me today. None of them want to go anywhere. Ten or even five years ago, I could call them up and they'd bolt out the door at a moment's notice, ready to embark on whatever adventure we could come up with on the fly. Nowadays, plans have to be made weeks in advance, days off have to be arranged, and permission slips must be obtained from their spouse or significant other. For me, by extension of my friendships, the peril and folly of youth is over.

In my prepubescent years, during the summer, my friends and I would spend entire days swimming, mountain climbing, and taking cans back. There were no day planners, PDAs, or obligatory family functions to attend. Hardly anything was planned at all. Even in my teens, we would walk everywhere, or spend full days and weekends trolling the mall and finding something exciting to do with a few dollar's worth of allowance. If a friend had a car, days would be spent tooling around finding excuses to run out the gas tank.

I took notice of all this when I got my new apartment and it happened to me. I just got a nice new studio and feel like bonding with it, and I can't seem to get anyone to come here. I don't want to leave my house and my friends don't want to leave theirs. It's a Mexican standoff. I've got enough toys and distractions at my domicile to carry me through an ice age, so there isn't usually a reason to leave if the mood strikes.

My friend Richie has a split-level apartment on the other end of town, and he broke the mold on the home-body type. He works Monday through Friday and spends his weekends doing forty seven piles of laundry for himself and his family. I like going over there, but it would be nice to have him over here for a change. He's king of the castle at his place, so he's hard pressed to leave his kingdom.

My friend Kevin is married but he's not allowed to leave the house. His wife must have put up an electrified invisible fence and attached the pet collar to his neck. Aside from work, he doesn't get out much. If I'm lucky, I see him two or three times a year, which sucks. This is the sort of thing that discourages me from getting married.

Chuck, my old room-mate, is so caught up with his routine that he barely finds the time to venture away from them. Since I moved out, he's gotten back into a steady rhythm of making meals, writing songs, puttering around online and doing whatever all else it is that most single men in their thirties do. Every time I try to bring him out of his shell he begs off because he's too busy. I don't get it.

Lindsay has a long term relationship and doesn't appear to spend free time with anyone but her boyfriend. We talk on the phone every week and always talk about the remote possibility of doing something but things always pop up. Relationships shouldn't be that constricting, if you ask me. Well, maybe for the new car phase, but how much time could you possibly want to spend with the same person? Soul mates or not, it can't hurt to get the hell away from your significant other and hang out with other people. Aside from a few book readings and a movie, we haven't spent much time together.

My friend Derrick who I used to work with at Toys R Us only hangs out with me when I call him. He works for the post office, so during christmas time he can't be bothered because he's exhausted with overtime. The rest of the time he's chasing girls downtown or uptown or wherever they're hiding or willing. Brendan works out and spends far too much time with his extended family. They're like a cult, eating meals together and going to church together. Inseparable. Davey doesn't have a car, which makes things difficult. Finn's got a new girlfriend, so they spend a lot of time together. Is there a statute of limitations on friendships? If you don't hang out with somebody for, say, a year, is that friendship null and void? They should have a law like that.

I don't blame them all, but it would be better if I got to see more of my friends. I got a bad reputation for causing trouble in my early adulthood, which could have scared them off to having misadventures with me in an unsupervised setting. If I take one of them to a bar or strip club review, it takes them months to recover. They've all got a Tommy story about the time they tried to keep up with me when it came to drinking, or how late we stayed out, or how much trouble they got into when they got home, and fact of the matter is that I'm not like that anymore. Well, not as much.

Is this how it is for adults? Getting bogged down in day-to-day chores with no room for unforeseen variables? If that's the case, I want no part of it! My parents get out about a dozen times a year, and that's on a good year. Once a month or so they have my godparents over to play cards. Whoopie, boy.

How exciting. There's got to be more to life than that. Times come along where I'm a very social animal and there's no one to be found. I feel like I'm too old to go through the exhausting screening process of new friends, but it's almost coming to that if I can't spend time with the ones I have. Phone conversations and birthday cards do not make for a fulfilling friendship by themselves.

Is it laziness? Am I just not an important part of their lives? I realize that we all have jobs or kids or spouses or pets or hobbies but so what?! Why can't they prioritize for one week and spend some time with me? I need attention too! I don't think I'm asking that they move heaven and earth to leave the comfort of their homes for a brief period and break up the monotony of rote activity. Spice things up a little. Throw something different into the mix.

Maybe I'm difficult. Maybe I piss people off. Well, I know I piss people off. And my schedule is peculiar. I work in retail and hardly anyone else my age does. But it can't just be attributed to my being a pain in the ass, because I've always been a pain in the ass. I'm a consistent pain in the ass, and I don't fluctuate. I've retained the same circle of friends for a long time, so they're used to it. People get busy. People get boring. People get preoccupied. We socialize less for a number of reasons as we get older; job, family, kids, hobbies, age, responsibility, and a score of other boring hang ups. I guess I can't blame my social partners for growing up all these years when I never did. I will, however, make them feel awful about it every time we do get together. Twice a year. That, or I'll bite the bullet and go through the agonizing process of making new friends. If all else fails. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.