KIDS HAVE FEW EXPECTATIONS OF ONE ANOTHER – THEY JUST WANT TO BE FRIENDS
During my childhood years I spent some time with a friend named Bob, who was way more fun to be around with than most of the kids my age, despite being quite a bit younger than me.
I’m pretty sure was a main reason we got along so well was because Bob was laid back to the point of almost being horizontal; no seriously, he was to the point that he’d agree with everything I said, no if’s ands or buts. Never once did he voice an argument against any of my outlandish plans, or ever called them stupid or dumb which to be honest, some of them really were. Whatever hair-brained schemes I’d dream up for us to do, he’d always say “Okay” and go along with it, no questions asked… Easy, peasy.
As a kid I interpreted this overall lack of participation in choosing activities as just Bob being an agreeable kid. All I knew was that his laissez-faire attitude made for an easy and uncomplicated friendship, hence why being only 2/3 rds of my age – him at 8 years old, me at 12 – it didn’t seem relevant or unusual.
As we grew older however, I began to see just how this trait of always being “agreeable” nor participating in decision making would affect Bob’s life; especially when later on in life when the outcomes from the decisions he DIDN’T make had consequences.
My first clue came at 20 years old while working in a restaurant kitchen; my boss asked if I knew of anyone who could wash dishes, and I immediately I thought of Bob. I spoke highly of him, especially noting that because he was such an easy-going guy, everyone would love him. The bossman said “Okay”, Bob was hired and began working in the dish pit at 4 p.m. the following day.
By 5:00 p.m. something became shockingly clear: Bob only had one speed, and it was low gear. He’d plod along in the slowest possible manner, pausing every couple of minutes to ask things like “Where does this go?” This pissed off the cooks to no end as they hustled away at lightning speed behind the hot grill – to them, this slow-moving guy was nothing more than an annoyance.
Even though I’d personally witnessed this slow-motion behaviour of Bobs for many years already, it didn’t dawn on me that it was an issue since that was play; however, this was work, and there was no room for any tortoises amongst our pack of hares. I quickly figured out that Bob’s habitual lack of motivation or desire to make decisions didn’t translate so well to “adult” responsibilities… responsibilities like working for a living.
Not long after the manager got fed up and fired Bob, then barked at me “What the hell were you thinking?!” telling me to never, ever recommend someone like that to him again.
To be honest, I should have figured it out; but at the time I was just a guy looking out for his friend. Worse still is that I justified the incident by telling myself that at 16 years old, Bob was “still a kid” and that “He’d grow out of it”. Unfortunately for Bob, this episode turned out to be “Strike One” in a long, repetitive history.
ADULT SITUATIONS REQUIRE ADULT ATTENTION
As the years progressed, the rigours and responsibilities of adult life consumed most of my time and so Bob and I saw each other only infrequently, usually every few months when we’d connect over a beer. I’d always ask him what was up on the work front; and oddly enough his answer never changed, and was delivered with the same unfeigned optimism every time: “I’m hoping to work at ABC company” or “My buddy told me that XYZ is hiring” or “I’m gonna apply at my friend’s company”. Despite all the leads he supposedly had, rarely did Bob actually work.
This also meant Bob was always broke, which translated into me picking up the tab every time we got together. This really bothered me – but not because my friend never had money, but because without fail he always had a lit cigarette on the go, plus a spare pack in the front pocket of his Levi’s jacket. Smoking was a habit that Bob constantly cursed, saying he “hoped to give up someday” to save money.
While this “Being Broke & Gotta Smoke” riddle perplexed me, at the time it still didn’t phase me as being something Bob wasn’t taking control of. Call me naive, but I still only saw the friendly, agreeable little kid I’d run laps with before school or build rafts with at the beach every summer. I just figured that as an adult, life simply wasn’t giving Bob any breaks.
One day a colleague of mine called saying he needed a labourer for a day, and did I know anyone? Of course! I made the call; and at 8:00 a.m. the next morning Bob showed up, and then put in a full day’s shift in the meat-packing warehouse. At the end the boss paid him in cash, and even gave him a small pack of steaks to take with him as a bonus.
The following day I called my colleague to see how Bob did. “Oh, he was fine for one day” I was told. “However, he needed a lot of direction. I appreciate your help in a pinch, but I’d never hire this guy on as a regular employee”. “Ouch” I thought… “Strike two”…
A few months later I met Bob for a coffee (having grown tired of funding his drinking habit) and as usual, asked him about work; only this time, his totally, 100% sincere answer caught me off guard. “I’m not looking for a job” he said. “I’m hoping the meat packing plant calls me back to work”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Here was a 20 year old guy with no money, no employment, still living with his mother; a guy whose only “life strategy” was waiting for someone who gave him a single days work (six months earlier!) to call up and hire him! Worse still, this a call that would NEVER come!
Hearing this I finally acquiesced the problem Bob was having in life due to one thing, and one thing only… His lackadaisical outlook on life, and “hoping” that everything would be delivered to him without any effort or initiation on his behalf. Too bad he still couldn’t see this for himself.
A couple years later I found myself working in the frozen, barren wasteland that is called Prince George where I was the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at a corporate hotel. My duties were to assist the F&B Manager (hotel lingo) in running of the 7 different F&B operations (same hotel lingo) in making sure each one ran smoothly and profitably.
One morning my office phone rang, and on the other end was my old friend Bob. Now around 22 years old, he told me he still couldn’t find steady work, was still living at home, yada, yada, yada and had been hitting the bottle pretty hard, but “was hoping to quit” once he found a job… “But” he continued, “There’s no work here, and I don’t want to be a burden on my mom any longer. I don’t know what to do so I’m calling you for advice”.
Despite his disastrous work history, the bottom line was that my friend was asking for my help and so I did the unthinkable… I invited him to come to Prince George, telling him I’d (a) put him up for a few months, and (b) get him a job in the hotel so he could (c) get on track towards creating a successful self-sufficient lifestyle.
“That would be great!” he enthusiastically gushed. “I’m gonna quit drinking and smoking, and work really hard and save my money and move out in my own place after a few months. Thank you so much, this is exactly what I needed!” I hung up the phone truly believing I was doing the right thing in helping out my old friend, convincing myself that the change of environment would be enough to help Bob succeed in life. I was wrong.
After a couple of months showing up to work in rumpled clothing and reeking of stale beer and cigarettes, my boss told me to fire Bob. This wasn’t a total surprise since his behaviour at home was just as brutal; he never pitched in or cleaned up after himself, and – despite contributing no money for rent – had no problem running up my phone and hydro bills. Not surprisingly, he always had money for – you guessed it – beer and smokes.
Just like with the dishwashing job I’d gotten him years earlier, his slothful ways once again lost him the job, and embarrassed me for recommending him. Worse still, he’d affected my home life as well, and I was pretty pissed off. The time had come for me to (finally) employ some “Tough Love”; and so I gave Bob a month to find work and move out.
He happily agreed, saying he understood and “hoped” he’d find work and a place to live soon. Bob wasn’t upset; in fact he heaped lavish praise on me for helping him out in his time of need, and kept repeating what a good friend I was. By now, I’d heard this song too many times, and knew how it ended.
Bob got a job at a clothing store in the local mall. He befriended the manager, a religious family man who like me before him, also figured he could help this wayward youngster by taking him under his wing. Not long after Bob moved into the spare room of their house, and then repeated his well-worn pattern of making promise after promise with no intention of ever keeping them. He was soon fired from the job, and asked to leave the home he was staying in.
With no money, no prospects and no place to go, Bob moved into the girlfriends parent’s basement, where he spent his time smoking, drinking and “hoping” he’d catch a break. To be honest, I have no clue how he funded these activities, although I suspect that the girlfriend became his primary source of income. Having moved away from Prince George not long after, that was pretty much the last I’d heard of Bob… until one day, several years later when he tracked me down on Facebook, which after a while lead to a phone conversation.
In the discussion Bob was quite frank, telling me that at 50 years old he’s divorced, unemployed, an alcoholic and has nowhere steady to live. Not surprisingly he optimistically added that he was “hoping” for something to come his way, and once it did, he’d be set up. He asked if we could also get together in person, which I made up an excuse not to. Despite our history I’d had enough, and had finally decided to stop reaching out to Bob since nothing positive ever came of it.
Although he takes responsibility for his circumstances, Bob still doesn’t seem to fully understand that his daily choices are what have landed him where he is today, and that nothing will change until HE changes. God knows many, many people like me have tried to help him along the way; but he just never figured out how to use that help and then run with it.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe Bob’s got a good heart and doesn’t wish ill on anyone; but to be honest, he is just so unmotivated, irresponsible and lazy it’s incomprehensible to me, and I don’t have room for anyone like that in my life, regardless of our past history.
WHY I’M WRITING ABOUT BOB NOW
Yesterday morning I saw Bob standing outside the food bank with a smoke in one hand, a coffee in the other and a bag of food at his feet. With a tough, leathery face and a hunched over posture reserved for old men, he looks many years older than the 50 he’s lived. I noticed he was staring out into space, his eyes kind of glazed over and figured he was no doubtably just “hoping” for someone to come along and offer him something – anything – be it a job, a home, a smoke or another free coffee.
But I also knew that someone wasn’t going to be me. After 40 years, I simply didn’t want to hear Bob say “I’m hoping” or “I’m gonna” anymore, so I kept on driving.
And the reason I’m telling this story now is because it illustrates from start to finish a very valuable point: That “hoping” for something isn’t a strategy to getting it.
We all need a little help now and then; that’s a fact. But the bottom line is that for us to achieve our goals WE need to take responsibility for them, and then take action towards their achievement. Hoping, wishing or efforts from other people will never replace this, or the hard work and commitment required for success.
Unfortunately, this lesson that has been lost on my old friend Bob. And while I wish only the best for him, until he begins to act on his “hopes”, nothing will ever change for him…
I’ve seen 40+ years proof of this fact.