Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Do Friends Owe the "Heads-Up?"

Before you even read this entry, just admit something -- at some point in your life, you've heard about a friend of yours passing through your *area* without letting you know, and you threw down the "WTF" flag, even if it was just to yourself.

Well, I figured I'd titled enough entries with "If Life Had a Rulebook" that it might be time to vary things up a bit.

The other day I was talking to a friend who lives in the Greater NYC area. I had been planning to visit the area and see this person, but was ultimately unable to do so based on the State Active Duty (SAD) mobilization for a Hurricane that never really hit Massachusetts, other than to dump what I'm told was six inches of rain on Martha's Vineyard last Friday.

Anyway, this friend asked about another mutual friend of ours, and sort of lamented that while he was reasonably certain that the mutual friend had been in the general New York area at several points over the past few years, he had never been given the "heads-up." I've also seen this phenomenon described in some articles about the perils of online social networking -- if you're constantly making a photojournal of your life and displaying it to everyone who knows you, you're inevitably going to torque some people who see you were in their area but didn't pass them a "battlespace entry notification."

This raises an interesting question: Do friends owe it to each other to pass the word when they are going to be in each others' general operating area?

After a lot of deliberation and attempts to see this from all sides, my answer is a resounding NO.

There are just too many variables here, and too high of a likelihood that a simple notification passed with the best intentions will lead to gross overcomplication.

A lot of times, if your travel is either work-related (like my current trip to Killeen, Texas, where I'm typing this right now), or personal but pointed (i.e. visiting your in-laws) you're not able to veer too far off course. Chances are, your itinerary is jam-packed enough without adding in other potential twists. That friend of mine in Austin isn't really that far away, but after a long day of running around, doing whatever is required job-wise, the LAST thing I feel like doing after 6 p.m. is adding anything else in -- I'll be quite happy with a quick dinner, some TV, and some restful sleep before doing it all again the next day.

I know I usually hem-and-haw on questions like this, but what gives me the confidence to answer so resoundingly is a simple application of the Golden Rule. Someone I consider a good friend, even though I hadn't seen him in more than five years, was just up in Lowell for my wedding. His girlfriend just finished graduate school in Cambridge, and her family is from Salem, NH. In relative terms, that might as well be next door to me. However, in catching up with him, it didn't even occur to me to harangue him about why-hadn't-he-given-me-a-shout or any such nonsense -- if he's driven all the way up here to see his girlfriend or her family, I think he's got plenty more on his plate! Ditto for another Eastern Seaboard friend of mine whose wife hails from the Merrimack Valley-- as much as I would love to catch up, and as much as I can reasonably assume that he and his wife have been "up this way" it would be an obnoxious overstatement of my own importance to assume he owed me some notification.

Just to tie the whole thing up -- my recent sojourn down to New York (yup, the one that never happened because I was in Reading, waiting for vehicles and equipment to return on Saturday) nearly got bogged down in a ridiculous logistical snafu for this very reason. Though originally planning to visit for a mate's 30th birthday, I passed the word on to some other friends whose tastes tend to be champagne and caviar to our Miller Genuine Draft and franks. Needless to say, the entire thing could have been a cluster-you-know-what when they started talking about fancy-pants dinner reservations and detailed plans.

My learning point for the future?

Next time, I'll just keep it simple.


Corey said...

Ha! I'm in total agreement with you on all counts, up to and including how to mash together friends of wildly different tastes if and when these types of side-trips do occur.

C R Krieger said...


Regards  —  Cliff