Friend #1: The Guy Who Might Have Murdered Me
Since I had just ordered a rug online for my living room, I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone: I'd hire a guy to help me “install” the rug, and then become his friend after. I knew rearranging the room and putting in the rug would take about a half-hour, though I hoped our friendship would last a lifetime. And I figured since I charged him for an hour, he'd have to hang with me for at least a half-hour.
He arrived on time at my front door. Big dude with a beard, as promised by his photo on the site. I take him upstairs. We quickly realize I don't have a box cutter handy to cut the rug out of its plastic packaging. He goes to his car to get one.
When he walks back into my house, I'm confronted with a guy who's probably got 100lbs on me, who I do not know, and he's holding a very sharp box cutter. He has a beard that says either, “I'm friendly!” or “Shaving is a waste of time when you have so much murdering to do”. I wonder if making friends with strangers was ever a good idea, and how soon Dateline will do a story on my stabbing, warning average Americans about the dangers of the sharing economy.
Luckily for me (and unfortunately for Dateline), he cuts open the package and we put in my rug. It looks good. My parents will later point out to me that I installed it wrong, but whatever. I thought we did a good job. While we roll out the rug, we make small talk and I discover he doesn't watch pro or college sports, nor does he drink beer. I do not think our odds of getting along are any good. Sports and beer were invented specifically so middle-class white men would have things to talk about.
Ok, now this is where it gets weird. I paid him to install my rug, but there are 40 minutes left of the hour I already paid for. I have to slyly tell him he's stuck here since I paid for his time.
This is what I said instead, “Now you have to hang out with me for an hour.”
I'm not the smoothest guy. And he does not react well. He's polite, he says “sure”. But when I reiterate that we're hanging out for 40 more minutes (I initially forgot we had taken 20 minutes to install the rug), his real reaction comes next.
“Oh man,” he says, disappointment dripping from his voice.
Sh*t. This feels less like I'm going to make a friend and more like I just made a hostage.
After that, I try to get him to open up about himself. We talk about Denver in general, since we both live in the area. He mentions he's from Washington, and notes they have a lot of breweries up there. He's trying to connect with me, I can feel it.
Once we realized we were stuck with one another, we relaxed. I learned the following things about him in 40 minutes.
1. He understands how DLP screens work (like Oculus Rift's VR helmet).
2. He did 13 years as an avionics technician in the Navy and has been all over the world.
3. He sometimes misses the people, but not the Navy.
After genuinely engaging with one another, the hour's up. I tell him why he had to stay an extra 40 minutes becoming my temporary friend. He thinks it's funny and strange, which is the correct reaction. I walk him downstairs to the door, but then forget to give him a business card.
I run up the stairs to get one. I should mention at this point that I have slippery wooden floors.
And I mention that because when I get to the top of the stairs, I wipe the f*** out. My butt hits the hardwood quick. I'm lucky I didn't bang the back of my head on the floor and pass out.
I'm in pain, but I try not to show it. I'm mostly thankful I didn't hurt myself more.
“What did you do?” he asks.
I make light of it. I tell him his new task would've been to take me to the ER had I landed another way. But it's not a joke. He would've taken me. Because that's what friends do, even if you're paying them to be there.