|The Mediterranean Sea from the beach in Sitges, Spain|
About two weeks ago, I stepped out of the office at around 11 a.m. to try to get to an event in BGC at 12 noon. I was going to take Uber or Grab, but after 30 minutes of waiting outside our building I still couldn’t book a car, even though surge pricing meant the fare had ballooned to almost Php300.
I then decided to walk to the MRT station in Boni and take the train to get to Ayala, and then book an Uber from there. The crowd was relatively light, which isn’t saying much because that only meant there wasn’t a line to get inside the station. I still had to squeeze myself inside the train, in between other sweaty passengers. It was past 12 noon by the time I finally left Boni.
Twenty minutes later we pulled into Ayala station. I was furiously switching back and forth between Uber and Grab trying to a book a car while I hurriedly walked over to Glorietta 4, which was the most convenient pick-up point. (On hindsight, I could’ve taken the BGC Bus, but at that point I still figured Grab or Uber was the faster, easier option).
It took 20 minutes to finally get a car (Grab) and another 15 minutes for the car to get to where I was to pick me up. I checked my watch and it was past 1 p.m.
The driver used Waze, which suggested taking EDSA instead of McKinley Avenue. That meant we ran into slow-moving northbound traffic before we could get to Kalayaan. Traffic was also heavy getting into BGC.
The driver dropped me off near High Street Central and I had to walk another 10 minutes to finally get to my destination. By that time it was almost 2 p.m., nearly three hours after I left the office.
The whole time I was traveling, the only thing I kept thinking about was this John Mulaney bit in one of his stand-up comedy specials. In case you didn’t know, Mulaney is a comedian who used to work as a writer for Saturday Night Live. He co-created the character of Stefon, played by Bill Hader, who is still my favorite SNL character of all time.
Anyway, the bit that I was thinking about is called “Doing Nothing,” from his special called “New in Town.” He starts off by thanking people in the audience for coming to the show because, in truth, they didn’t have to.
“It’s really easy not to go to things,” he says. “It’s so much easier not to do things than to do them that you would do anything is totally remarkable. Percentage-wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them. And so much fun not to do them, especially when you were supposed to do them.
“In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin, it is an amazing feeling. Such instant joy.”
People working in media and publishing are constantly invited to go to events and launches and forums and press conferences. Sometimes, your presence is mandatory, and sometimes, these things can actually be fun, but when you’re faced with hellish traffic and hours—not minutes—on the road, the temptation to send your regrets and hole up in your home or office is just too great.
|The Cathedral in Cologne, Germany|
It’s exactly the same when it comes to meet-ups with friends and other social gatherings. Think about the times your friends invited you to dinner, or when they asked you to hang out and maybe catch a movie. Those perpetual “Kita naman tayo!” or “Coffee next week!” messages on social media. How often do you say yes, not even thinking about how you would get there or how much the Uber ride would cost to get home afterwards?
If you often find yourself not really feeling up to it and making up an excuse not to go, then chances are, you’re probably not that close, or else, not yet ready to invest in the friendship.
For all the humor in his bit, Mulaney is right. It’s so much easier to just coast along and not do stuff that would tax the mind, body and spirit. It’s infinitely harder here where we live, where one part of the city can sometimes feel like it’s in a completely different time zone from another.
But the willingness to set aside the very real agony of picking yourself up to do anything with anybody means that you value relationships more than that momentary inconvenience. When you honor people with your presence—never mind that you’ll need to get through horrific traffic and shell out costly commute fares—you’re sending a message that they are important to you.
And in this age of instant hyperconnectivity—when all it takes to get in touch with someone is a few taps on a mobile phone—simply showing up for real and in person is, I believe, the best measure of commitment and friendship. There’s no excuse for not being there if that person really means that much to you. A busy schedule, work fatigue, insane traffic, no parking area, P400 Uber rides—if a friend chucks all that to be with you, that’s when you know you’ve got a friend for life.
Seeing your friends during momentous occasions like birthdays or weddings is great, but having them there on a regular Wednesday, making sure to catch each other up on what you’re doing now or what you’re up to next, is just as (if not more) gratifying.
And that’s my main takeaway this year. I get it—people are extremely busy. There’s lots going on in the world. Lots going on in their world, so it’s understandable when they say they can’t make it to a get-together or they cancel on you at the last minute. I just shrug it off, no big deal. But, interestingly, the people who are always there, who so readily carve out time off of their day and put in that extra effort to spend just a few hours with you, those are always the people in your closest circle of friends.
And so you reciprocate. I reciprocate. In the hierarchy of social commitments, they’re top priority, and being there for them whenever they need me is how I show my appreciation. If there’s any opportunity to see my friends, interact with them and basically just be there with them, I would take it—EDSA traffic, nonexistent parking spots and insanely priced Grab rides be damned.