There are very few words that seem to strike fear into the minds and bodies of those we call friends and associates like…”Could you help us move?” I think we have all been on the receiving end of that phrase, that desperate plea for help or manipulative query that is uncomfortably uttered by us poor souls who’ve had to take part in that emotionally and physically daunting task. It had been a long time since my last move although I have been at the receiving end of that question a few times. I would have rather been cornered naked, in a dark basement by a Catholic Priest in an abandoned building. But alas the term “Friend” is often contingent upon these very five words.
Dependent upon the answer you give can determine whether or not you get invited to the next “core friends” BBQ. And there is no righteous outcome, if you are able to throw up a confident “yes” without choking, it won’t only be eight hours of your life you’ll never get back but you will forever afterwards be that friend, the one he/she can always count on and will not only state that at every social function but will take full advantage of it at every turn. Especially if it’s an old stanky toilet they need removed from the basement, or some massive piece of awkwardly shaped furniture trapped in the family room for the last twenty years that just simply won’t fit through any doorway in their house, no matter how many times you turn it or angle it or slam down another beer looking at it in a stern and threatening manner.
If however you return with a definitive and minimalistic “no”, you can kiss that next “Core friends” grilled steak and Saison DuPont goodbye in lieu of the neighborhood BBQ’d frozen chicken thigh and store bought lemonade mix. Not only will the person that asked you begin their request to every other friend with…”So and so refused to help me…”, but don’t even consider asking them for help when next you need it because no matter what they will always have some commitment that’ll quite “unfortunately” keep them from helping you out, but they will wish you good luck and offer their quite sympathetic apologies.
This has all led the human race to honing their improvisational skills in order to be that friend who didn’t come up with the same excuse as every other friend. This is nothing new, nothing contemporary about it; in fact it has been true throughout history. I am certain that back in the day, during a midweek plundering event, when Eric Bloodaxe asked ol’ Sweyn Forkbeard for help carrying the wench he kidnapped from some unfortunate village to his boat, Sweyn probably gave him the old “oh well dontchaknow dat me cousin Bjorn Ironside is in town and we just really wanted to spend some quality time catchin’ up”. He had skillfully offered the ancient my relative’s in town excuse; brilliantly played he didn’t have to say “no” and got out of the task honorably because family is always first. Everybody knows that, and you will never be asked to prove that ol’ Bjorn Ironside is not just your fire hearth repair guy.
Over time we have become proficient at coming up with all sorts of excuses or “unfortunate” and “regrettable” reasons why we can’t help. That’s why small residential moving companies like Two Men and a Truck and the sexist but growing Shirts Optional Moving Company have prevailed. They are doing well and it probably doesn’t help that manual labor is all but a thing of the past for the majority of us. We sit five days a week at our desks wearing away the characters on the little buttons on our keyboards and wonder why those jugs of milk seem to be getting heavier…”but it’s 1%, I just don’t get it.”
Most people would rather beg for money on the curb with which to pay for their fancy coffee than to ask their friends for help moving. But don’t worry, brush up on your improv skills and don’t you even dare use the much worn out…”yeah well I would but I promised my girl/guy we’d go shopping at the mall that weekend, sorry Bob, but hey, good luck moving and I’m really sorry I can’t help out this time” excuse.