Sunday, May 17, 2009

What are the odds?

I took a bit of a dive last week. Andy put me in touch with a psychologist in Albany and I had my first meeting with her on Tuesday. This came on the back of a couple of depressing days at work, and even though I thought she was good, I frankly didn't want to know. I'll be meeting up with her again this week.

On Wednesday things got worse. I had a marathon phone call with Julie that night (an hour and three-quarters actually, so people almost have run marathons in the time it took us to finally hang up). Apparently I was a rude inconsiderate prick the time we went to those open homes. Now I don't think I am a rude inconsiderate prick, but I do think I'm socially clueless, and according to her I'm even less socially adept than I thought. My antenna doesn't always pick up the right frequency, and I doubt living by myself for the last two years has helped. I do my best, but if Julie expects socially normal behaviour from me 100% of the time she'll be disappointed. Hell, hanging around with a 63-year-old woman probably isn't normal social behaviour in the first place. I felt sick after that phone call though. I hated myself for having upset her, and realised not only that I'm unlikely to make friends but also that I'll alienate any I do make.

I saw Andy on Thursday. He instantly made me feel a lot better. People's salaries really are arse-about-face, aren't they? He makes a significant positive impact on someone's life and gets paid $x; my bum makes a significant positive impact on a chair all day and I get something close to $2x. OK, I've had to pass a few exams along the way, with all the angst involved in those, but wouldn't it be really cool, just once, to feel I was making a difference?

That evening I went to see the Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy with a few people from work. I wasn’t in the mood for comedy at all. I got home from work and thought, shit, I’ve got to go out and meet people in town and what if I miss them and then we’ll have to go to the bloody pub and I’ll be expected to talk and I’m so bad at that and I’ll just sit there and not say anything and feel stupid. The ferry leaves in half an hour and I haven’t got any clean clothes that are even vaguely acceptable to go out in and I look in the mirror and I’ve aged five years since the last time I looked and I wouldn’t buy a second-hand car from that man and my flat is a complete mess and I scream. My landlords upstairs must have wondered what the hell was going on in the basement but screaming relieved the tension a bit. I got into town and met up with two of my colleagues and had a couple of drinks with them before the show; I was extremely lucky because if I had to pick two work people to have a drink with, it would have been those two. And Danny Bhoy was amazing. I was in stitches the whole way through. Returning to the subject of overpaid and underpaid professions, well comedians earn every penny. Being able to stand there in front of thousands of people takes some serious cojones for a start. And Danny could make just about anything seem funny: Australian motel rooms, flatting in London, what the woman in the front row did for a living, and so on. He would go off on some crazy tangent but would always somehow get back to the original point. He could also take the mick out of himself; comedians who can do that go up in my estimation. I really wish I’d taken full advantage of the Auckland Comedy Festival – it brought a real vibrancy to the city which is so often missing – but it’s always the same story for me: there’s hardly ever anyone to go with and I feel silly going on my own. I now realise that comedy is a great drug for dealing with depression, even if the effects wear off very quickly.

Which they did. Friday was casual day and two fairly eminent members of the department were leaving, so we had lunch to “celebrate”. The head of one of our teams had all kinds of vitally important strategy meetings so wasn’t participating in casual Friday and was only at the lunch briefly. Plenty long enough for me to spill wine all over his trousers however. The odds that my glass would topple at precisely the required 45-degree angle were pretty slim, but it had been that kind of week. It wasn’t a lot of wine really, and at least the glass didn’t break.

Last week was an unusually sociable one for me: on Saturday I went to the rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park, again with work people. I got caught up in a Stop the War in Sri Lanka protest and then, for the first time ever in Auckland, got on a train. Based on my limited knowledge of trains in the UK and France, I found the whole Auckland train experience a surprisingly civilised one. Crusaders fans are a vociferous bunch – about half the crowd seemed to be decked in the red and black of Canterbury. My parents live deep in Crusader country – red-and-black letterboxes are commonplace down there – so I suppose I was glad when the Crusaders kicked a late drop-goal to eke out the match 15-13 and keep their season alive.

Yesterday I went to Takapuna market with Julie. It’s a lively market and I should go there more often, particularly as there are now real bargains on offer. Among other vegetables I bought some chokos – until Julie told me yesterday, I’d always wondered what they were. I had another crack at that badugi tournament, and this time I lasted only ten minutes. I caught a 543A badugi, the fourth-best hand, only to be trumped by 432A, the top banana. My opponent took two cards on the last draw, so his/her odds of outdrawing me were around a hundred to one. I felt I was on a pretty good wicket there; as far as I knew, he/she might not even have known the rules of the game. One player on our table kept showing down hands like trip sixes and KK66, and must have wondered why he didn’t last very long. All my chips ended up in the pot, and that was that. Poker teaches you that in life there is always a best decision based on the information available at the time, and bad things can happen that you simply can’t legislate for; when one of these bad outcomes does eventuate, that doesn’t suddenly mean that you made a poor decision. When I’m depressed, however, my decision-making process goes out the window and I end up not making decisions at all. (As an aside, I was also dealt four aces in one badugi hand at odds of over 270,000 to one. In hindsight that would have made a good hand to bluff with.)

I've just got home from a hit of tennis. Today is pay day and yes, money really is still going into my account. About half of it will go straight into my savings. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up.

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