Friday, March 20, 2009

On being a 'nice guy'

Just a quick thought before I get into the title of this post, I seriously can't believe how horribly I've ate today. Donuts and Pizza, that's it. Unbelievable, I'm going to blame it on the being the first week back at work and having been exhausted every night, so we finally decided that we just weren't going to cook tonight or drive out anywhere for food. Ok, that admission of indulgence is off my chest.

I hear the phrase 'you are such a nice guy' fairly often, multiple situations, too many to list. I'm a bit perplexed by this as on some levels I'm the exact opposite of a nice guy. But I guess it's a casualty of language. It's just interesting to me that people can make such assumptions based on little data.

I had an experience in Vegas that reminds me of my thoughts on this; I was playing video poker at one of the casino bars and definitely had finished off my fair share of cocktails. Night was approaching morning and more and more people start congregating at the bars. It's a unique way to sort of be a fly on the wall and observe people. Hookers looking for John's, two buddy’s from Minnesota partying on their first night, new brides drinking it up in full wedding attire and a vast assortment of others. Needless to say it's not a mix you would normally find anywhere else and if you look up your likely to get caught in a conversation with someone.

I happened to look up next to me and started talking with a guy who was celebrating his 39th birthday. He was with a buddy and they were tilting them back pretty heavily throughout the night. As time went on you could tell birthday boy was definitely starting to feel it. At some point his buddy disappeared and in random conversations he'd talk with me in sort of a depressed mode. I don't remember the contents of what the conversation was, but I've seen that drunken state before, the alcohol's taken hold as a depressant and magnify one's own thoughts, it wasn't horrible but he was definitely starting to spiral down. At that point the two Minnesota guys bought Patron shots for 10 people at the bar next to them, which B-day boy and I wound up being part of the random group of 10 he bought the shots for, a bride showed up at the bar, announcing she had just gotten married that day and was also fully in process of getting her drink on, and a couple of other random people were around drinking too. At that point the conversation becomes something of a round robin, moving from a one on one with the bday boy to an all inclusive mix of people just hanging out. For some odd reason, it turned out that I wound up being at the center of this conversation, by that I mean physically, not by participation and active observer would more classify my engagement. It's one of the things I love about Vegas, at any given point you can stumble upon a large mix of people that under ordinary circumstances would likely not even engage with one another, but for brief moments in time get together like they were old friends. Fascinating on so many levels and I'm doing a poor job of describing it. I was talking with the Minnesota guys some, one looked like a Vegas veteran and his buddy was pretty much in the tank and appeared to be relatively new to the Vegas experience. So veteran was in the process of trying to keep tabs on his buddy, who kept buying shots for pretty much everyone in vicinity, needless to say his buddy was fairly drunk and was a bit of a handful for the Vegas veteran. So this goes on for an hour or so, and Bay boy is falling into a deeper drunken state and he falls out of his chair around everyone. So I jump up and pick him up and put him back on his chair. Of course for the next 10 minutes until that small circle broke up I heard how nice a guy I was and things like, I wouldn't have done that. Now granted some of this was drunken talk, but it fascinated me, why in the world wouldn't you try and help someone in that situation. At the worst it's uncomfortable not too, not to mention if you were the one who was falling, wouldn't you want someone to pick you up? I know it's a meaningless comment for the most part, but it did perplex me a bit. In actuality the 'nice thing' I did after everyone moved on was ask the bartenders about the possibility of getting security to help bday boy back to his room. (bday boy was becoming a bit on edge at this point and definitely incoherent, not a state you want to be in Vegas late, late at night), as it turned out one of the bartenders recognized a guy bday boy was with and pointed him out to me, so I went and grabbed him to let him know his friend might need some assistance at that point to go up to the room. So it worked out for him. I just found it sort of funny that simply picking someone up from falling down seemed like a heroic effort even to a bunch of drunks.

This brings me to the point about being a nice guy. I certainly can be, as I believe everyone can, but in many respects I'm not, I can be elitist, guarded, introverted, selfish, and tend to not suffer fools. As I said in some respects I'm the exact opposite of nice. But I suppose it's just a function of the fact that people have different criteria for utilizing the word 'nice' then I do.

I do consider myself responsible and in many ways I take this trait very seriously, regardless of whether it's true or not, I take responsibility for those I care about. I care about them, I work to manipulate things around them where I can and I can be fiercely protective of them. The one thing I can't deal with though, is those that can't work within the boundaries of what I try to establish. I expect people to respect each other, be able to control their own actions, and to make good choices. I understand people go through a lot and put a lot on themselves and I work to understand it. People sometimes get pushed to the brink with issues and they act out based on that, but I have an expectation on behavior even in these cases.

The reason I bring this up is I wanted to write about some experiences in my life where either I've shut the door on people in my association with them. In these situations they went past the line of what I can tolerate. I don't know if it's right and in the whole scale of things it probably doesn't matter, but it's just a bit more insight into me.

1. I had a friend who was going through a rough period. He was either about to finish college or already done with it and he was finding out much to his chagrin that the work he had dreamed of doing he wasn't qualified for with the degree he had attained. In addition to this, his parents were getting a divorce. This appeared to be a difficult thing for him, as his parents had been married his entire life. It was a rough spot for him and while we weren't real close we began to talk more during this period and hang out more. We'd go play pool or go to a bar. My friend wasn't the most socially acquainted person, so if you added in alcohol you could run into some interesting situations with his interaction with others. For the most part it was harmless, although at times frustrating, he'd drink and go into a shell, or start yelling at random people, sideways emotions flowing out, without a way to channel it.

While it wasn't my favorite situation or person to go out with, I related to his plight with being frustrated about finishing school and understood him from a social sense, see we were similar in high school, intelligent people with severely underdeveloped social skills and while I struggled with my social skills in college it wasn't long before I adapted. This person though older, hadn't really adapted in college, I didn't really know him that well in high school, he was 3 or 4 years older then me and we only shared one or two classes, but I remember him from that time, as he was in one of my first classes at Streetsboro, and I got to know him a bit. Years later during college, he was actually brought into our little group by another friend who was about his same age. My point is that I felt I could help and was more then prepared to try, and even though the times we went out then could be difficult and uncomfortable, I understood that it was just a person struggling through a rough stage. Even with those uncomfortable moments (usually times when he would try and socialize himself with random people at the bar while drunk) it was within the limitations of what I was willing to accept. Now there are people that will say this behavior is unacceptable (and some did during that time) there reasons for it would range from his behavior was unacceptable or the issues facing him weren't so bad. Those are excellent points, but I believe we all go through rough periods and while the problems themselves are important, who we are is just as important because we all deal with things differently.

Anyway, we did run into a final straw, one night playing pool at the student center, my friend went over and got drunk at the bar and came back (to the two of us playing pool), we decided to leave the student center and were driving to someplace else. I was in the passenger seat, my friend, who's the topic of this discussion, in the back seat and another friend driving. Perhaps the driver and I made a mistake in trying to talk to him, to get him to open up about what was on his mind. But he did start talking some and became severely agitated and then decided to open the door and jump out of the car at about 35mph. We looked for an hour or so for him and had no luck finding him, and eventually we drove to his house, which happened to be about a mile away. It turned out, he had just made it home after running through the woods to get into his house, he was staying with his mom at the time and she told us he had just came home out of breath. But he was there and a bit bruised but seemed to be ok from the dive out of the car.

That was the final straw in my opinion and at that point, I could never go out with that person again. I'd accept if he was out with a common group from someone else's invite, but I would not take any interest, responsibility, or have anything more then a casual conversation with him going forward. I struggle with this sometimes, is it wrong that when a person got to perhaps one of their worst moments, I cut off any contact, what type of person can do that? Perhaps it's just me being cowardly or selfish. I truly don't know, but I can say this, I don't believe it was cowardly or selfish, under the right circumstances I'd stand by a person through thick and thin, but at the same time I have expectations on how someone needs to behave in those situations. Is it right of me to demand that, probably not, but ultimately I need to set boundaries otherwise I fear that I'll lose the ability to assist when it's needed.

2. This one ended rather quickly. A friend started going out with us during a breakup he was experiencing. It was mostly to go out and drink and hang out. I didn't know the person very well, but try to be accepting when new people are brought into our group dynamic. Within the second night out, he showed me he couldn't handle his alcohol (licking people's faces, biting people in a bar). On top of that when we got him home that night and carried him inside, he decided to swing for my head with an old rotary phone. In my mind, that's all I needed to ensure I didn't need to be around this person when we went out. Again, it's about boundaries. Breakups can be rough, there is no doubt, but even when drunk we need to have a reasonable control of our actions/emotions or at least that's my belief.

3. I was starting to see this girl, who played softball with us and some of us worked with. She was recently divorced and a good friend of mine had a bit of a crush on her, so I was proceeding cautiously. My friend had just been through a rough breakup with one of her friends, where for lack of a better term, the girl that dumped him did it in a pretty rough way. So this girl that I'm starting to see shows up one night and wants to take the relationship further, we talk some and I tell her that I'm struggling with it, as while I know she's not into my friend, I know he's into her, and I want to be respectful of those feelings and our friendship especially since he was going through a bit of a rough time. So she asks me to take a ride, we get in the car and she goes to my friend's work. She walks and announces loud enough for the whole store to hear, but directed at my friend, Mike and I slept together, get over it. Um, she couldn't have been more wrong in how to proceed. Respect is a big one for me, while we always don't have to like situations, how we deal with them and other people during those situations is telling. I could go on and on here about why this was probably the worst thing to do in a situation like this with me. It's just a matter of respecting people's feelings, especially the ones close to you, we can't always balance it, but we sure as hell shouldn't stomp on them, just because we aren't getting our way. Anyway, I got back in the car, had her take me home and didn't speak to her again.

Side note, my friend who had the crush on her, wound up helping her out when she had knee surgery a couple weeks later. He helped her a lot as she was incapacitated and needed a good deal of help, heck I believe he might even have provided some financial support during that time for her. He's got a heart bigger then mine, as she could rot for all I care, but he's also someone I consider a 'nice guy'.

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