By lex, on Sun – January 25, 2004
Several years ago, as a comrade and I were discussing retirement, I had to ask: “How do we know who our friends will be, if we don’t have a squadron to join?”
It was a non-trivial question – as you move from one squadron to another, you and your significant other will meet a number of wonderful people almost instantly. You know they are to be the center of your social life for the next few years, and that these are your friends. You just don’t know their names yet.
My friend answered, “When you get out (of the Navy), your kids parents are your friends.”
“Our kids parents?” I asked, “Wouldn’t that be we, ourselves?” Sinn Fein!
“I mean your kids friends parents,” quoth he. “You know what I meant.”
“But doesn’t it seem strange to you that your friends are to be selected by your children?”
“No more strange than the Navy selecting them for you, more or less at random.”
To which there was no reply.
So anyway, last night we were invited to an annual “Australian” party by a couple of friends of ours, who were indeed selected by my daughter. The girls had gone to school together, spent numerous nights at each other’s homes, and in the way that girls sometimes do, drifted apart. Their friendship was sufficiently long for us to become invitees to this party, but since I had been at sea for each of the previous two anniversaries, this was our first actual attendance.
Darren is a charming man, an Australian who runs a business dedicated to creating hardware for video games: controllers and the like. He does very well. Elizabeth, also Australian, as far as I can tell, does not work outside the home, but focuses on raising the children.
The guests were a many splendored and variegated assembly. Many people were either employees or partners of Darren’s business or members of the Australian immigrant community here in San Diego. Several were Brazilians living here, which energized the Hobbit, coming here as she did from Brazil at a tender age. All were fascinating, charming and most were very beautiful. As the night wore on, I was taught the samba. Publicly. In front of other people.
Now, in spite of the fact that I’ve been pouring out the random firing of my neurons upon these pages for general review, it’s worth pointing out that I am a bit introverted at the best of times, if not an actual recluse. I took the c test several years ago, and learned that I was an INTJ* , which helps in part to explain this tendency. So I stalled a bit getting ready to go the party, you know, dragged my feet getting into the shower, getting dressed, puttered about a bit in the garage – I know that toolbox is in there somewhere. Wonder if it’s under here?
Which brought the Hobbit to ask me, “You don’t really want to go, do you?”
We have this conversation fairly regularly, and it is fairly loaded with consequence – the Hobbit is an extrovert (in fact she’s good at everything that I am not) and not going to the party, not getting there is a pretty big deal to her.
“Of course I want to go, I just don’t want to be the first ones there,” I said.
“You’ll have a great time, you always do.”
“I’m sure I will. I’m sure you’re right. But I don’t know anyone,” I bleated.
“Get in the car.”
And so I did. Some battles ought not be fought. You could win and still lose. Big time.
And we had a great time, despite the public dancing. It was not merely public, it was actually very closely scrutinized: my teacher was a stunning, willowy Brazilian woman, and the full focus of the Hobbit’s attention was on my every move.
“Hah! I may be introverted,” I said, “but at least I am not jealous!”
I said this to myself, of course.
And I spent some time on the porch, watching the shrimp barbecue, which is a safe, introverted kind of thing to do. It’s plausible. The shrimp does need watching, and even though I wasn’t doing the actual barbecuing, two sets of eyes are always better than one. Plausible, but ineffective in the event – representing as I did the “U.S. military” demographic (just me, for all of them) a curious and kindly Canadian gent sidled up and asked me what I thought about this whole thing in Iraq.
I suddenly felt a little tired, because I was fairly certain that he didn’t really want to know what I thought about this whole thing in Iraq, he wanted to tell me what he thought. I could probably have spared him the breath, took a shortcut to the end and told him it was all about the OIL, but that sort of thing is considered antisocial.
So I waited for it: “I think it was really all about the oil,” my Canadian friend told me, finally.
“Wouldn’t it have been cheaper for us to simply lift the sanctions, normalize the trade and buy Saddam’s new flood on the market? And do you think that if it were possible, we should roll back the clock, power up the people shredder, re-open the killing fields, and put the Department of Genital Clamping back in business?” I asked him.
And more along those lines. The problem with being an introvert is that you have these long, extended, hypothetical conversations in your head all the time. So that if anybody should ask you a question, your answer does tend to go on.
He then asked, “Why Saddam, when there is so much evil in the world? Are you going to fix it all?”
Talk about setting it up on the tee…
“Since we cannot catch all the people who commit crimes, should we then not try to catch any of them?”
He told me that the Canadians were better at peacekeeping than war making. I told him that it had not always been thus. Eventually he told me that he thought the body of public opinion in Canada was in support of our actions, in spite of the posturing of their political class.
“Great,” I said. “How many divisions can the body of public opinion provide?”
I said this to myself, of course.
Some battles just aren’t worth fighting.
* Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of the sixteen psychological types. –Ed