The New Guy

I have a new friend.  He’s quite a bit younger than me and I resisted making friends with him at first because of it.  But he kept showing up, and I did too, and after a while it just happened in spite of my ridiculous belief that I couldn’t be friends with someone who had not lived as many years on Earth as I had.  As I’ve gotten to know him I’ve pinpointed the thing that defied my logic – he’s what you would call “wise beyond his years.”

So the other night he and his occasional girlfriend joined me for dinner at this great little pub in my neighborhood that I’d been saying nice things about for weeks.  (I think they thought it was going to be a double date, which it was not, but that’s another story for another day.)  Dinner was fun, and silly, and the conversation never lagged.  We are all employed by the same firm so mostly we talked about work, the management as much as the customers.  She works front line customer service, and had plenty of things to say about the recent volume of guests.  He works in an area that sometimes gives jobs to hopeless cases as a form of charity, and at the moment had in his supervision a woman who talked to her water bottle, another with whom he needed to have a talk about using more deodorant, and a guy who regularly wandered off from his station to play games on his phone.  They were both unhappy, and I think more than a little envious that I had recently been promoted to the creative team, a department considered to be mythical, full of puppies and rainbows.

By the end of our meal I had them both daydreaming about what they would do instead of their current jobs. She was in school to be a teacher, and regularly did hours with a third grade class that she loved. All indications were that she would work at that school as soon as the degree was in her hand. He had no idea, but was simply looking for a change. Every time this topic of jobs came up I’d encouraged him to get out and see the world, as I had done with the years that I was older than him.  He nodded whenever I advocated for adventure, but with a hesitation that I found frustrating.  I didn’t believe he would actually do it.  But the more we talked (and the lower in the glasses our beers got) the more firmly he insisted that maybe he would just take off.  So firmly, in fact, that by the end of dinner he was definitely, absolutely, leaving this job for something better.

And then I realized what I had done.

“But wait,” I said, back-pedaling.  “What -?”  (“What will I do at work without my friend to come visit me on boring days?  To have coffee with me?  To commiserate?” But I couldn’t actually say any of that.)

He turned to me and said simply, “I have your phone number.”

I sat back with some satisfaction.  Unbeknownst to him, I had said that same thing many times in my past as I left one place for the next.  “I’m not going to the moon,” I would say. “The phone still works in the next city.”  And, for my efforts with said phone, I have been rewarded with a great deal of friends who greet me with open arms whenever I roll into town, even when there are years between visits.  If he has the same heart (and it’s looking promising) this new guy will be an old friend before I know it.

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