Thoughts from the ammo line

The New York Times has our friend Ammo Grrrll is thinking about FRIENDSHIP LEVELS. She writes:

The New York Times – faithful, fawning Boswell to Obama’s Johnson (it’s a literary reference, grow up) – informed us recently that The President is “seething” over his minions’ incompetence! A once-prestigious paper reduced to being a childish narcissist’s mood ring. What if the rest of us mere mortals had such powerful friends as Pinch, Punch and Little Paunch who would print any drivel we fed them as news? This suggested the topic of Friendship and that is what we will discuss today.

I have pretty rigorous standards for what constitutes true friendship. I am blessed with perhaps a dozen really close friends evenly divided between men and women. Dozens more are valued acquaintances. And that’s nice, too. Not everyone is destined to be a soulmate.

How do we know, often at an early age, who we are going to bond with for life? What is that alchemy? In romantic attachments, of course, you have sexual attraction which unsentimental scientists tell us is just pheromones. What is it in friendship? Commenters, please share your thoughts. I am fascinated by this mystery.

Of my closest friends, one I met when we were 6 and the twins of Road Trip fame when we were 14. In the latter case, had our last names not started with “B” so that we sat next to each other in class, it may never have happened. Think of that! Bonded for life because of the alphabet! At the end of the movie Stand By Me the narrator says: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

I do, actually. In adulthood I became great friends with two neighbors, from the serendipity of having bought a house next door. One neighbor’s motorcycle buddies also became beloved friends. Being retired is almost like being a kid again, only with more money. You can go ring the bell and ask if Randy or Angela can come out and play.

Like the colored terror threat levels, I have constructed a handy Friendship Level chart.

Level 1 (Beige) – You know these people very casually. They will come to a party that YOU throw and drink your beer and eat your chips. Some of them will never be invited back.

Level 2 (Puce) – These people will actually trouble themselves to host a party to which you are invited. You see them a couple times a year like New Year’s Eve or Superbowl.

Level 3 (Periwinkle) – People who will hang out and engage in mutual activities. Men tend to share activities while women share heart-stuff and recipes. I once had a co-worker named Ted whose “best friend” Jim filed for divorce without Ted’s ever knowing there was anything wrong with the marriage! This would be unthinkable for a pair of women friends.

Level 4 (Silver) – Now we’re getting serious. These friends will help you move. Cultivate people who own pickups. Mr. Ammo Grrrll and I helped two sets of “Silver” friends with equally wretched Minnesota moves, one in July and one in January. In the first, it was 98 and humid; the second was 30 below zero with a stiff wind. Good times, good times.

Level 5 (Gold) – These folks know your very soul. They will pick you up at LAX at rush hour, knowing that you will do the same. They will take a 3:00 a.m. call if you are depressed or anxious. They will commiserate with you when you are down, and will rejoice with you without jealousy when good things happen to you. If you are lucky, this level includes your spouse.

Some Gold friends will clean up an extremely-deceased rabbit on your patio. And shoot pigeons – winged rats, really – off your roof. Hypothetically, because that would violate HOA rules and a bunch of other picky laws.

(Memo to self: check on the Statute of Limitations for bb-gun infractions before sending to Scott. Even though nothing happened. Plenty of reasonable explanations for dead pigeon. Google “Incidents of Pigeon Suicide: More frequent than commonly thought?” See also: “Pigeon Gangs and Drive-Bys – The Craps vs. the Bloods”).

One thing I do know for sure: friendship needs quality time and effort. Trite but true, to have a friend you have to be a friend. And sometimes that means picking up the phone, sitting down to email, reaching out to comfort, when you’d rather just watch Seinfeld re-runs or ESPN. Friends not only enrich your life; they lengthen it. Call one today.

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