“We need to talk.”
“Have you any idea what time it is?”
“Yeah, it’s 2:10 am.”
“Can’t this wait until tomorrow?”
“Nope, we have to talk now.”
Anyone who knows my buddy Stan is familiar with this pattern. After pulling some ridiculous stunt, he will put off what he knows he needs to do until he is in crisis and then he hits the panic button.
The panic button is the DIAL icon on his phone.
For some strange reason, this usually occurs shortly after 2:00 am. I think it has something to do with bar closing hours.
However this time, it was me calling him rather than him calling me.
A storm had woken my wife. She had been up for half an hour padding about the house in her slippers before she roused me and said, “Call Stan, NOW!.”
I never ask why when she does things like that. She has a sixth sense about people and when she tells me to call Stan to avert a crisis, I do it – but then guessing that Stan is in crisis is a pretty safe bet.
“What do you want to talk about?” Stan asked.
“I have absolutely no idea,” I told him.
“So why did you call me at this ungodly hour?”
“I was told to.”
“That makes perfect sense,” he said.
It was raining where he was too, I could hear it over the phone, along with the hiss of tires and loud voices calling to each other across the street. I figured he was in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. There are a lot of bars there.
“You know you have issues, Stan.”
“Failing to realize you have issues, is an issue.”
“You are unreliable.”
“Selfish and self-absorbed.”
“Does that count as one flaw or two?”
“Can you say anything good about me?” he asked.
I had to think about that.
Stan always did things the hard way. For as long as I knew him, the guy could never follow the rules.
In first grade, when the rest of us learned our ABC’s, Stan tripped over the rule that says ‘B’ follows ‘A’. He simply could not hold his focus that long. When we learned to count to ten, he stalled at zero. Nor could he wait patiently in line nor stop talking in class.
But here is the strange thing, despite the fact that he couldn’t grasp the basics, or that the nuns beat the crap out of him and the rest of the kids called him stupid, Stan thrived.
He wasn’t stupid. He was a kind of savant.
Where everyone else sees chaos, Stan sees patterns. He is able to perceive a current of life that flows deeper than rules or laws and he operates on that level while the rest of us swirl and bob about on the surface of things.
He became a very successful engineer, a machine-whisperer of sorts and unlike the stereotype of the nerd or geek, he developed a knack with people. He gets along with everyone and though he drives them crazy by trashing every social convention, people still love him, though few understand why.
As I pondered these things, the only sound that passed between us was the drumbeat of rain ringing against the roofs and hoods of cars that was picked up by the speaker on his phone.
He must have been walking through a parking lot.
“I’ll admit my flaws,” he said, “but they have always worked for me. You, on the other hand, are the one who needs to change.”
“Yeah you. You always put off what you know you are supposed to do until it becomes a crisis.”
“Like what?” I asked. I was flabbergasted that he would resort to the tactic of trying to turn this around on me.
“Like your leaky roof,” he said. “Don’t you know that is why you called me? I had guessed your wife told you to call me the minute my phone rang. Did she step in a puddle? And how long have you been putting off fixing that leak and how many times has she complained about it?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How did he know about my roof?
“You better get to it first thing tomorrow.”
“I… I… I….”
“Dude, you know you have issues.”