Do You Remember Walter?

in reality, all of this has been a total load of old bollocks
Bent Fabric
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Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Bent Fabric » 10 Aug 2017, 01:55

What about...people you "used to know"?

I've lived in the same big city for thirty years now (more or less to the day) and...college, bands, working in bars, dating, etc. - put in a fair amount of time building (or, at least, experiencing) all of these relationships of varying endurance - some extremely passing and ephemeral, some intense and lasting, and some sort of "recurring" (periodically you find yourself back in business/friendship with someone you might not have seen for a decade and it all works beautifully).

What I find maybe a bit jarring is the sort of encounter with someone from a bygone era - there's no bad blood or antipathy or bad feeling, but..there's also no lingering connection or chemistry. It's deeply awkward for me when this happens (like the sort of thing Larry David could make a million dollars from extrapolating). It normally seems to happen when I go to concerts (and, without digressing too deeply into my own lifestyle issues, let's just say that an abstaining alcoholic can absolutely verify the reputation drink has as a social lubricant...it's no wonder so many of us are so eager to be drunk).

There's a whole spectrum of experience here - sometimes the unexpected encounter is just the most organically satisfying thing in the world...the two of you have some unstoppable chemistry and affection that always activates automatically.

At the other end is the old friend or acquaintance with whom there is just absolutely fucking zilch. It's one of those things where a polite person will say all the right things (something like "Nice to see you" or whatever the fuck it is we say), and maybe even engage in some perfunctory gesture of greeting or recognition, but...the interaction really needs to end right then and there. One second beyond what little the moment can actually bear and shit gets real weird.

Now, I have some sense that my own ability to gracefully steer out of this particular ditch is not especially advanced. But...maybe there's a person on the other end who can't sort of read the moment for what it is and lingers beyond that small window of available comfort. Alternately - who sees it coming? It's not like I'm walking around in advance of this unexpected encounter thinking "That Bob Jones is such a fucking dud." I've had experiences in other cities, other countries even, where there's some "reunion" - obviously, both parties traveled to the point of convergence, put in some effort to be there, and there's just...nothing.

Now, allowing for my own personal quirks and failings - is this something we're all periodically forced to face/caught off guard by?

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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby toomanyhatz » 10 Aug 2017, 02:36

Oh god, yes.

I am facing an odd version of that with a friend I was EXTREMELY close with as a teenager. He had a little brother who was nine at the time. I think we were 17. Liked and was friendly with the little brother, but - obviously huge age difference at that point. Nice kid, I'm sure I thought at the time. Not, oh wow, what a cool guy he'll grow up to be. Just...OK, the little brother.

About a decade ago we got back in touch. I had dinner with both of them. Surprise! Found I had nothing to say to the guy that had been practically my best friend. His little brother and I are now great friends. An eight-year difference is completely meaningless when the younger person's pushing 50.

When I got together with my friend Chip earlier this year (yes, he was a Jr., and yes, he's still called that) I actually talked to him about it at length. And we both concluded that the nature of friendship changes greatly. You might still share the same interests or you may not. But the glue that bonds you is different. When I was friends with Chip's older brother, we were part of a group of outcasts that called ourselves the "karass" after Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (per Wikipedia - karass – A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident.) It felt like us against the world, and everything we did together felt 'significant.' Our connection felt very deep. Or maybe we just wanted it to, so we told ourselves it was.

Fast forward several decades. I can't relax around Mark (the older brother/my once blood brother) for a second. Everything's an ORDEAL. To get together for dinner he has to discuss the ins and outs of his schedule for hours. If you have to go somewhere and do something else, he worries that he's occupying too much of his time. So I have to deal with not only the time I'm with him, but the time it takes to reassure him that he's not taking too much of my time. Whereas Chip and I get together and have a drink or food and we just TALK - it flows naturally. We don't talk about what we want to talk about. We just talk. And one of the things WE bonded about was my expressing how badly I felt for hanging out with him for days and not contacting his brother (who lives in the same city) at all. He reassured me that he loves his brother, but hadn't seen him in a few years. For precisely the same reason I expressed. He wanted to just say "let's get together for a drink" and have the response be "sure. How's (place) at (time) on (day) for you?"

Maybe when you get older, friendship is something that you want to feel natural and you don't have to work on? Maybe that's it. I don't know. I may have strayed from your original question a bit. But I find it interesting how we change. My friendship with Chip doesn't feel anywhere near as "important" as my friendship with Mark did. But it's sure a lot more comfortable. Is that the secret? Do we seek comfort as we get older?
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby fange » 10 Aug 2017, 03:42

This does happen to me a lot now, particularly as i've spent many years living away from my home city of Melbourne - 5+ years in Tokyo, almost 2 years in Sydney, 10 years now in Hong Kong, plus a significant amount of time traveling and staying with people in Greece and America.

I think i take the negative side of meeting up again with someone i don't really like/have much in common with pretty well; i'm pretty good at swapping small talk for a little while - say, the time it takes for a cup of coffee - but anything more than that does start to bug me these days.

My wife and I recently met up with one her friends from Uni days and her husband, and while i'd always found the guy a bit boring, he seems to have gotten even worse with age or maybe my tolerance levels have just decreased. I wish it was a situation where i could just shake his hand and smile, mumble a few platitudes and then be on my way. But no, we had to have a 3 hour dinner date evening. Horrible.

On the other hand, sometimes i think reunions are a joy. I met my good high school mate Bill on my trip back to melbourne this month, and despite not having seen him for more than a decade, the old chemistry and fun was still there. Our evening together passed in what seemed like minutes. Wonderful.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 10 Aug 2017, 03:59

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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Bent Fabric » 10 Aug 2017, 05:58

fange wrote:...anything more than that does start to bug me these days. ......maybe my tolerance levels have just decreased...


toomanyhatz wrote:Maybe when you get older, friendship is something that you want to feel natural and you don't have to work on?....Do we seek comfort as we get older?


I don't quote selectively in the service of any agenda, but...

I do think there is an ongoing arc of increased agency and autonomy during most of adulthood (I suppose until one's body and mind start failing them in some crucial ways - which may explain why seniors can be so "acid"...they're rather reluctantly surrendering that [only recently mastered] control one morsel at a time).

By the time one hits certain plateaus of independence, life may be sort of so designed, customized and fitted...that any form of discomfort or involuntary experience is a bit jarring.

The ability to sort of "muster" things or "muddle through" them is something that can really atrophy in that hypothetical scenario.

So much so that when you find yourself in some stilted or unnatural setting, there's some genuine resistance and unfamiliarity.

It not only seems unnecessary and superfluous, but also strikingly unpleasant or unwelcome.

Now, fange mentions "small talk", and this is a thing that - even with my wife or relatives (God bless him, I have a nephew who can increasingly really fill the holes in the air like a trained expert...and, you know, my Dad really just doesn't "get bored") - I rather actively seek to avoid. It's probably a fucking art form (or a valuable skill), but I've really dug in my heels on this one as if it were ballet or auto repair. She finds it alternately amusing or irritating to watch me squirm (or flee) in certain situations, and I have a friend from an earlier part of my life who sort of takes a perverse joy in recounting interactions where I was clearly doing my pained and transparently not-very-good best to humor some arguably inane person (I find these stories very funny now). I think a very amusing highlight reel could be drawn of aerial footage of me forcibly and abruptly ending "conversations" that seemed maybe slightly internment-like.To whatever extent any of us is given cause to examine our own place on the autism spectrum, this business of breaking out in hives when the small talk begins seems like real textbook Aspergers/ADHD shit, and has certainly increased my reserves of sympathy for people who may have similar, seemingly irrational, "protests".

Now, I don't think that the following is necessarily "optimal" or even healthy, but one of the habits I've developed in recent years - and much of this is simply due to the fact that one sometimes needs to struggle to submit an uninterrupted sentence in a family of four - is sort of re-evaluating the "importance" of a remark that either gets cut off or unheard. Instead of reciting the repetition on request ("I'm sorry, what were you about to say?"), I frequently decline, only because it really does seem like "filler" once even moderately scrutinized. I think it frustrates my wife (and honestly, I'm not positive that the shit I do squeak out is all that essential) because it represents some unnecessary surrender or self-defeat, but...it's completely 100% real - I got interrupted and it gave me an opportunity to evaluate and choose not to submit "surplus".

I know a couple - the wife is a lovely woman of Swedish descent who has indicated that her mother speaks in a deeply abrupt version of their native tongue. Telephone calls are ended with this brutal efficiency - rather than some Swedish version of "I love you, I will see you soon, take care" or something similarly warm, evidently the signal is something that more or less translates to "I am done speaking with you". I was endlessly tickled when I was told this, but...I get it.

There is some basic..purpose (however frivolous it may ultimately be) that seems essential to our actions and our interactions - without it, I might (dare I say it) feel a little violated. I mean, pleasure is a purpose. But...the idea of sort of electing to "go through the motions" seems toxic - and maybe in some way that it didn't when I was younger.

The notion that a friendship of any vintage or depth be required to endure some sort of forced encore beyond the point that it is apparent to even one person that it now occupies infertile soil really does fly in the face of everything we know about "taking the shortest way to work" or "running the air conditioner at the perfect temperature".

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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Goat Boy » 10 Aug 2017, 10:28

I feel lucky that I am almost never in this situation. It’s one of the benefits of living in a relatively new city. In fact I can actually recall the last time it actually happened: it was just after I’d arrived back from a gap year so I would have been 25 and standing on the train platform waiting to get the final train home I bumped into a friend from school/uni who I hadn’t seen since we went to see U2 the day after my 19th birthday (I dropped out after a year and lost contact with everybody basically). And of course there was nothing between us so after the opening “nice to see you, hows things man?” the conversation dried up extremely quickly and we sat opposite each other at a table saying nothing at all. “Nice to see you again man, all the best for the future…” and that was that. of course both of you know that you felt this but nobody says anything. And that had only been a few years but, clearly, years when you are changing quite a bit. Mercifully this has not happened since although this means I’ve never experienced the pleasure of bumping into an old friend and getting on like a house on fire although, truthfully, I find it hard to think of anybody where this might occur. I don’t think the odds are in my favour.

*general rambling* Anyway.....small talk. Yes, this is a real social skill. Some people naturally have it (my dad is one of those people who can strike up a conversation with a total stranger, something which I’ve always been quite envious), some people develop it with varying degrees of success over time (me). I categorically did not have it growing up. The whole dynamics and ‘rules’ of small talk was alien to me. “You have to ask questions?” “About their job”? “Why on earth would I do that?” “Can’t we just talk about, you know, The Beatles or something?”. It’s only in very recent years that new people in my life have used words like “aspergers” or “spectrum”. I don’t particularly like this because it feels almost like a cop out, an excuse but it would certainly explain some things. Then again, maybe I’m just an awkward twat, there is always that possibility. The fact that there is a grey area now does provide some comfort though I have to say.

The thing is, a lot of conversations are barely even that and depending on your tolerance for this sorta thing such social interactions can be excruciating. People talking in statements, people talking over each other, people interrupting people and so on. Some people absolutely do not seem to be aware of the rules or possess the necessary skills to have a proper conversation (I certainly include myself in this by the way but I think I have improved over the years but I’m very definitely still a work in progress). Sometimes this can be explained of course. For example I know somebody with aspergers who talks mainly in statements and about things he’s into (politics and punk rock) but you make concessions obviously. Then you get people who do not seem to get this at all. It’s like they experience conversations with the same degree of obliviousness and lack of savvy that a drunk person does (maybe there is something awry in their brain of course, I dunno). You get this a lot at work sadly which is one of the things that makes it hard going at times.

Sometimes when I am on drugs I become quite aware that I am very much on the other side of this equation. Recently when I was at that stag do I’d had a few lines of coke and I could feel myself being quite intense and serious and not quite at the same ‘level’ as the person I was chatting with and part of me is thinking, “shit, I’m that guy”. The poor bastard tells me he directs modern opera and I’m straight in there with, “do you like WAGNER?”, “who’s your favourite composer?”. Sheesh. Back off, Dougie.

It’s such a funny thing because conversations are such a fundamental social interaction and yet I don’t think We are very good at them most of the time. I think this is a source of eternal frustration/amusement/alienation. *general rambling*


I know a couple - the wife is a lovely woman of Swedish descent who has indicated that her mother speaks in a deeply abrupt version of their native tongue. Telephone calls are ended with this brutal efficiency - rather than some Swedish version of "I love you, I will see you soon, take care" or something similarly warm, evidently the signal is something that more or less translates to "I am done speaking with you". I was endlessly tickled when I was told this, but...I get it.


I like this. To me this seems a sorta mature way of doing things. At some point conversations end. When that point is reached and one person goes on too long it’s the kind of thing that makes me pray for deaths sweet release. It feels good when this end point is tacitly agreed and the conversation neatly wraps up. There’s something about this that makes the conversation feel “successful”? Because so many social interactions are unfulfilling when you have a nice conversation that ends well if feels good, you know? Like you’ve actually achieved something.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Fonz » 10 Aug 2017, 10:45

Sometimes, in an awkward social situation, I feel compelled to make it even more awkward by affecting a foreign accent, or a lisp, or a camp voice, or pretending I'm called something else. I've pretended to be from Paris; I'm from West Yorkshire, manifestly.

I don't know why I do it: to make things 'interesting' (i.e. Fucking weird for anyone else), a genuine social awkwardness, I don't know. I have embarrassed myself and loved ones.

I can be a right fucking tit sometimes
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Fonz » 10 Aug 2017, 10:49

But going back to the original subject, I've had many experiences where the 'chemistry' just wasn't there anymore. The original reasons for being pals have evaporated over time, and all that's left to talk about are the 'good ol' days', which gets old after a couple of times.
I think, if you want a friendship to endure, you have to have new experiences with that person, just like you need to in a marriage; keep it fresh, even if it's a once a decade thing.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Nick » 10 Aug 2017, 10:50

Goat Boy wrote:Anyway.....small talk. Yes, this is a real social skill. Some people naturally have it (my dad is one of those people who can strike up a conversation with a total stranger, something which I’ve always been quite envious).


My dad excels at it too.

For most of his adult life he's been in the habit of taking himself to his local at the same time every Friday and Sunday night. You could, as they say, set your watch by it. Around 8:30pm on both evenings, he'd get up from his chair without a word, go upstairs and wash his face and comb his hair, then come downstairs a few minutes later with his jacket, and go. Around 11:30pm he'd return, having had a couple of pints, a few chats with various people, and maybe a game of darts, and take himself happily off to bed.

I was never aware of him making any arrangements with his friends to meet, nor of him ever missing a Friday or Sunday evening drink. He just went to the pub, secure in the knowledge that almost always, most of the regulars would be there. And even if they weren't, he'd strike up a conversation with whoever happened to be at the bar.

It was the same on holiday, every year in Scotland. He rarely went to the pub with my mum. He'd just wander down to the local hotel by the loch shore, sit down at the bar, and chat to anyone and everyone, about anything.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby !!VAPRANT!! » 10 Aug 2017, 11:13

Nick wrote:My dad excels at it too.

For most of his adult life he's been in the habit of taking himself to his local at the same time every Friday and Sunday night. You could, as they say, set your watch by it. Around 8:30pm on both evenings, he'd get up from his chair without a word, go upstairs and wash his face and comb his hair, then come downstairs a few minutes later with his jacket, and go. Around 11:30pm he'd return, having had a couple of pints, a few chats with various people, and maybe a game of darts, and take himself happily off to bed.

I was never aware of him making any arrangements with his friends to meet, nor of him ever missing a Friday or Sunday evening drink. He just went to the pub, secure in the knowledge that almost always, most of the regulars would be there. And even if they weren't, he'd strike up a conversation with whoever happened to be at the bar.

It was the same on holiday, every year in Scotland. He rarely went to the pub with my mum. He'd just wander down to the local hotel by the loch shore, sit down at the bar, and chat to anyone and everyone, about anything.


I love this.

I'm OK with small talk - I enjoy it sometimes. I've never had a problem with it. I'm a good listener. If someone's not listening to me, too, then I make my excuses - politely, usually - and walk away.

If this was all we had, then yes, it would get annoying. But we have more meaningful dialogues with close friends and loved ones to 'compensate' for the banalities of polite social interaction. And you can push at the boundaries a little even with that stuff - it can even be fun! ('yeah, you look like the sort of person who'd be happy with five children').
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby The Great Defector » 10 Aug 2017, 13:29

I usually meet someone I haven't seen years at Christmas down the pub. I've changed a lot over the years so their last impression of me would be 180 degree to what I am now. I find it's a two way street. If they want to talk, they will and take an interest in you, if they don't, fuck em.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby kewl klive » 10 Aug 2017, 13:55

The Great Defector wrote:I usually meet someone I haven't seen years at Christmas down the pub. I've changed a lot over the years so their last impression of me would be 180 degree to what I am now.


Could you not turn around? It seems very rude.
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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby The Great Defector » 10 Aug 2017, 14:11

The Savage Young Gash wrote:
The Great Defector wrote:I usually meet someone I haven't seen years at Christmas down the pub. I've changed a lot over the years so their last impression of me would be 180 degree to what I am now.


Could you not turn around? It seems very rude.



I need to hear this first.

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Re: Do You Remember Walter?

Postby Jumper K » 10 Aug 2017, 15:45

Just ignore the boring twats.