suit. of. armor.

This keeps happening. Not the dying part, but the seemingly natural and obvious friendship that gets torpedoed by someone saying or doing something aimed at me personally that I would never ever do or say to them and thus I find it difficult to forgive. A critical component of these situations is that the other person involved doesn't think they need to apologize for anything.

To know me I don't think you'd think this would be part of my life, but it seems to be. I keep telling myself it's because I work from a rather strict moral/social code to which I expect my friends to magically adhere. Problem being that no one really knows what the details of this code are but me (fyi, in a nutshell, it's "don't be a fucking dick").

The below set of circumstances isn't exactly the same thing, though the end result pretty much is.


This is a placeholder for when I have time to write about Tom Edwards and the voicemail he left me one day back in 1996 or so. He's in the picture above somewhere, or at least he should be. I should be too, but I think neither of us are. I mean I know I'm not, and I can't positively identify him anywhere (later I did: he's in the back row, sixth from the left).

Tom and I were roommates whenever we went on company trips. Like twice or three times a year everyone from our little geographic region would be flown out to Seattle, or New Orleans, or San Francisco, somewhere supposedly fun, for what was supposed to be a week of training and "inspiration". If you knew how to "work the system" you could manage to stay out there for two weeks or so, most expenses paid, in fact a pretty great arrangement. Also pretty inspirational, in terms of inspiring you to not quit your job.

So the idea was that you'd be in these tremendously exciting classes from, say, 8am to 6pm, with subjects like "Case Study: Integrating the Ungerman-Bass XNS Protocol v 1.0 With Existing LAN Manager/OS2 Networks" and if you survived that awesomeness then your reward was that you could go out at night and explore the city you'd been ferried to. Some people actually did this all week long, the classes, which totally amazed me (and still does really, until I reconsider what some of these people were like in terms of imagination and ambition).

I kind of actually didn't do this all week long. I just pretended I was on vacation and explored whatever city we were in, both during the day and at night. Pretty exhausting really. You would try very hard, eventually quite desperately as the week went on, to get up in time for breakfast so your manager and non-drunkard colleagues could see you, and you'd talk about what classes you were going to attend that day ("Cool, man, see you in Advanced DHCP/WINS Architecture after lunch!"). But on your way to your first class you'd pretend to be having trouble deciding between two sessions (in case your manager somehow left the breakfast table with you, so you could change your mind at the last minute and escape), or worst case pretend to forget something in your room, and then...just never come back.

Then you spend the morning at Pike Place Market, or SF Ferry Building, or anywhere interesting and just far away enough from the action so you wouldn't be seen. Or go back to bed, trickier but doable. Then make an appearance around lunchtime in the convention center, having taken a peek at the slides for the session you were supposed to have gone to ("Can you believe they're dropping NetBEUI support? Dude I didn't see you there. Yeah, I was in the back kind of dozing in and out").

And then you disappear again, plus this time you can have beers if you like b/c the next time anyone's going to see you is dinnertime. And then you go out and have dinner and afterwards see Swans (Seattle) or Atari Teenage Riot (SF) or Rebirth Brass Band (New Orleans) or whatever else was happening in town that night that seemed like an adventure.

You can imagine how one might not be able to make it to a group photo. It was helpful to have a roommate that was comfortable with this approach, which Tom was.


So this voicemail he left me. He had taken Microsoft Encarta or Bookshelf or something and made it pronounce every remotely obscene word he could find. Not just the obvious things, but lots of vaguely (and innovatively) euphemistic words, which could become more and more abstract as the context expanded.

So you'd have to imagine me, possibly in a suit and tie (if so, it would be either gray or blue, I was spending a lot of time at Coca-Cola then and this was their dress code, complete bullshit), standing in my cubicle checking my normally unpleasant work voicemail, my finger hovering over the "Delete" key. Then a man's computerized baritone voice solemnly intoning:


Etc. And then:


Moving to a suite of military/battle references:


And on and on for about 3 minutes. Finally ending with:


I have no idea how many times we, me, Mara, Stu, Steve, etc listened to this voicemail, but it got to where lots of people around the office and my home could (and would) recite random sections of it on a daily basis. Pretty sure you had to be there.


I'd never been friends before with anyone who liked to fuck with me as much as Tom did. I like to think my buttons are pretty tough to push, but I guess they're not once you've figured them out and he had a real talent for detecting things I was uncomfortable talking about and not shutting up about them until I stopped resisting.

I say we were friends, but I guess we were more like colleagues. We almost never saw each other outside of work, maybe one time in 7 or 8 years. No more than 5 times. It was just too much, in a kind of invasive way.

But we saw each other at the office almost every day for a few years. And at work I tended to tolerate/absorb whatever invasiveness there was because Tom was pretty darn entertaining in a battle of wits, combining quick thinking with a sadistic prankster's threshold for the social discomfort of others. He had a great gleeful laugh, a distinctive, disturbing high cackle you could hear from a good distance away, and after being around him for a while you found yourself wanting to imitate it because it just sounded like so much retarded fun.

I'm talking like Tom's dead or something. He's not, he just suddenly, inexplicably became a devout Christian back in 2001 or something and it immediately became impossible for he and I to talk about anything other than my atheism because he just had to convince me he was right about his decision.

Which I understand, surrrrre I do, but it's a conversation I didn't need to have and an argument I knew he'd never win, not at all because I'm an awesome debater but because ultimately I didn't care if he thought he was right, or at least I don't care anymore: I really hope I tried telling him that it was OK, it just didn't matter to me, good for you, yay, pacify yourself however you need to, can't we please just go back to talking about unforgettable long-distance ejaculations or the Pantone names of shit colors because otherwise this is going to end badly, but the last thing I remember is that he wouldn't/couldn't stop trying to show me how wrong my godlessness was, logically, morally, in every way.

Eventually he did give up and bade me farewell and wished me good luck and I said hey you too man. And now we don't talk, all because of someone that doesn't even exist, ha ha ha, hilarious.


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