I have a little different notion of the proper use of the term, friend, than do many people. I think most people tend to use it entirely too freely, encompassing workmates, casual acquaintances, even the guy on the next barstool.
I have always been more strict in my use of the word. I have had hundreds, no…thousands, of workmates, probably as many casual acquaintances, and admittedly, entirely too many buddies on the next barstool. In my entire life, I think I have only had three or four true “friends”, by my definition
Ken is one, of whom I have already written. We shared much of our youth, essentially living as brothers, and either of us was always ready to sacrifice, if it would help the other. Sadly, shortly after Ken joined the Navy, we lost track of each other, and in spite of years of effort, I have been unable to track him down. If I could, I doubt that much would have changed.
But I would like to dedicate a little space to my other two friends. These are guys with whom I feel I share a special bond.
First, there’s Shawn. Shawn and I have been friends for over twenty years now. We were next door neighbors for several months, before we ever spoke more than two words to each other.
Coco and I were occupying the front half of a duplex, in Long Beach, CA, and Shawn and his wife occupied the rear half of the next door duplex. Coco knew his wife, and occasionally babysat their two year old, Shawn Jr.
I never warmed much to Shawn Jr.’s mother. The first time I met her, she was either drunk, or drugged, and that soon proved to be a trend, so I had little use for her. The few times that Shawn and I had seen each other, it was no more than “Hi” or “G’ morning”, and he impressed me as a sullen sort – definitely not a people person.
Often, after Shawn came home from work, we would hear shouts, and things being thrown. A couple of times, he stormed out, got in his truck and left. More than once, we saw his wife with a conspicuous bruise, or a cut, so we assumed that their quarrels got physical. I told Coco to let her know that if things ever got out of hand, she should either call, or knock on our door. I don’t know that Coco ever told her, though. I kind of doubt it, as she is hesitant to get involved.
One evening, I was sitting in our living room, watching the news, and Shawn came home from work. No sooner did I hear his door close, than the screaming started. Then pots and pans started flying around their house. I bristled, as it was getting very tiresome, and Coco and I had discussed more than once, our concern about Michelle being exposed to that sort of thing.
Then I heard a different sort of scream – one of fear, or pain. Shawn’s wife screamed over and over, “No! Stop! You’re hurting me! Help!”
I was brought up to believe that a man should never hit a woman, and I had no use for someone that would! Coco tried to stop me, but I stormed out the door, and kicked open their front door, fully prepared to kick this cowardly son of a bitch’s ass!
Right inside the door, Shawn was seated in his recliner, with his feet up, and his wife was fifteen feet away, in the hallway, screaming “Stop! Help!”, as she threw a flowerpot on the floor, breaking it.
He knew right away what I thought was happening, and why I had kicked open his door. I was thinking exactly what she was trying to make someone think. I looked at him apologetically, and closed their door.
A couple of days later, she disappeared during the day, and she never returned. Shawn and I ended up becoming friends, over the next couple of years, and remain fast friends today.
I ended up hiring Shawn away from the company where he had worked for ten years, to join me as my maintenance supervisor at the injection molding company in Gardena. When I left, he became Maintenance Manager, and stayed there until after the company was transitioned to the final owners, that shut it down.
When I became plant manager at the manufacturing company in Orange County, I hired him as my Fabrication Manager, and once again, counted myself lucky for having gotten him. When I left after the new owners took over, he remained, and has been offered further opportunities with them.
He recently married a lovely lady, and I believe that now, he can finally enjoy a happy home life.
Why do I call this man friend? Well, to put it simplistically, because I know that I can count on him, whether it be a professional or a personal issue. When my daughter had her fifteenth birthday ball, he left work late in the afternoon, and drove three hours to get there, and then faced the drive home afterward. We have similar values and beliefs, and we respect the differences.
I know that Shawn would “take a bullet for me”, and I would do the same for him.
Finally, there’s Bob P. Bob was (still is, for that matter) the regional sales manager for a major international equipment manufacturer. We first met when I was working in Gardena, and Bob was trying to talk our president into buying some of his equipment. Bob quickly overcame my instinctive dislike of salesmen, with his professionalism and his personality. I learned, early on, that he delivered on whatever promise he made, and then some.
I watched Bob lose his home, a very large and beautiful place in an exclusive area, because of financial problems. We shared more than a few drinks, while he was going through marital difficulties, and the divorce that resulted. I was one of the first people that he introduced his new girlfriend to, and one of the few invited to his small, private wedding, just a few months ago.
Bob is the one that landed me my job with the Swiss owned molding company in Tijuana. He has called me several times, when he became aware of a business opportunity that might interest me. When I think network, Bob’s name is at the top of the list.
Which doesn’t make him a friend, by my definition, does it? What then?
Well, let’s say it’s because Bob is another person that drove several hours to attend my daughter’s fifteenth ball. And because he has always been totally (and sometimes painfully) honest with me. And then, of course, there’s that “bullet” thing. Yep, he would.
And so would I!
A buddy will come bail you out of jail, at three o’clock in the morning.
But a friend will be sitting in the cell with you, saying, “Boy! That was FUN, wasn’t it?”
Pretty much sums it up, I guess!
After years of fruitless efforts of trying to track down Kenny, I recently found him, living in Alabama. We’ve reconnected, and are planning our next get-together.