What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blessed be the Busy

Political science class starts at 10:00, but the real education begins 15 minutes before that as students gather outside the door to chew the fat, compare gossip and generally mingle. At these impromptu meetings of self-interested students (not meant in the pejorative sense), derelicts like me relearn the fundamentals of human interaction. Like the good student I am not, I notice trends in conversation and am beginning to discern some social and discourse virtues.

Before class yesterday, after Drake and I exchanged pleasantries and cash (I owed him for a lost sports bet and he owed me because I didn't go out with his sister; the balance had me paying), I asked what was new in his life.

"Man, I've been so busy lately, you know?" Drake didn't strike me as the kind of student who over-commits himself, so I didn't really know what he meant. But before I could ask a clarifying question, the conversation turned to the Cowboys-Packers game and why the @#$%^&* NFL wouldn't allow such an amazing sporting event to be put on broadcast TV.

Lindsey and Nate arrived moments later, looking a little too friendly, and had a similar refrain.

"So sorry I didn't send you that article I promised. I just got so busy with everything." Nate was referencing an article on Ron Paul which compared the 10 term congressman to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in a key primary state. I kind of wanted to read the article and had noticed when Nate didn't send it. Thinking back on how Nate and Lindsey entered, I thought I might know what had kept Nate busy. Outwardly, I shrugged.

Lindsey had an apology as well. She'd missed the week's study group saying she was "just too busy trying to catch up" and wanted me to send her my notes.

More students joined our circle. Trevor (a poorly adjusted, heavily acned, tall kid with radical ideas about the role of people in government), James (a devout atheist) and Carrie (yes, that Carrie) already had a conversation going and, from what I gathered at the back end, James was complaining about his school schedule next year, saying that as busy as he was this semester pulling decent grades would be nigh unto impossible.

At each expression of busyness, those listening reacted with expressions of sympathy and general assent. The non-verbal message was "I know what you mean" and "life is a 200-pound dumbbell wrapped around your legs as you are thrown into the Marianas Trench."

But I said I was a student. While, I came into the discussion with a preconceived notion on the merits of busy, I came to find that my classmates were right. Busyness is a virtue.

Most of the time, when people ask me what I've been up to or why I am unavailable for some social event, I answer something like this:

"TV. Lot's and lots of TV. I am even watching shows I don't care that much for. The other day, I sat through almost an hour of ads and the show on the other end was canceled. You?"


"I can't. I have to make money. I value money and the process of making it more than I value our friendship. But I still value our friendship a lot. Actually, making money is a good thing. Life is like money - it's useless if you don't spend it. In other news, I've been taking financial advice from M.C. Hammer. So, I'll be working instead of spending time with you.


"I've been dating around. You know, one night here one night there. Pretty recreational, actually. I treat the opposite gender like a jungle gym and that's why I didn't get you that paper on time."

It is beginning to dawn on me, through the gel in my hair and the thick skull encasing by brain, that maybe these kinds of answers are not socially virtuous; I should just play like a phone and put up a busy signal.

There is one other cardinal virtue I would be remiss if I didn't share with you, the faithful FCN few. That is the virtue of fatigue. He who is tired can do no wrong. Make a dumb mistake at work? You were tired. Forget to phone your mom on her birthday? You were suffering from absolute exhaustion. Call your friend a bad word? Really, no-sleep in days kinda tired.

Instead of saying "heck, I forgot, sorry" or "you know, I totally mismanaged my time this weekend," you say you're wasted. And all is forgiven.

If you really need to run interference, you can use them both in conjunction. "I was really busy this weekend and super tired with everything." The deeper in trouble you find yourself, the more details you should give about what kept you busy. But make sure that these details are socially valuable activities (volunteering at the animal clinic, taking care of your baby sister or rescuing baby seals at the poles) and steer clear of any entertainment related answer, no matter how true it is.

All people really want to know is that even though you spat in their face socially, you still give a care; that their plight is high on your list of priorities, even though you just blatantly shelved it. Now we know how this can be accomplished easily through the deployment of a simple, four-letter word.


Grace said...

Wow, that really is an excellent summary of social dynamics at most colleges... I just realized how much I use that excuse, along with how much my friends do.. Thanks for the wake~up!

Trevor said...

Just to note that the Trevor (a poorly adjusted, heavily acned, tall kid with radical ideas about the role of people in government)is not THIS Trevor. He is another. A duplicate. A copy. I am tall, but I am vurrently acne-free and actually well-adjusted. A different Trevor.

Matthew said...

"The two cardinal excuses, which can be used to cover any error or irresponsibility, are being busy and being tired." (by Abdiel)

guitarbob (hates cowboys) said...

i watched the cowboys-packers game on tv, so ha!!! dish network FTW!!!

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