Saturday, April 13, 2013

Out with the old

I had a hard time concentrating yesterday afternoon. Realising I have very few real friends can do that to me. I suppose Julie is the only real friend I have here in Wellington, and she made it pretty clear on Tuesday that she wanted to die.

I still think I struggle to make friends because I can't do that "interplay" thing. I know it when I see it, but I can't really define it and I certainly can't reproduce it. Maybe the real reason isn't that, and it's actually because I'm boring or selfish or both.

At least yesterday was Friday. For a lady in the so-called quality team, it was her last day. She turns seventy in two weeks, making her three times as old as many of her colleagues. They'd arranged a morning tea to celebrate the big seven-oh (how often do you get to celebrate that milestone at work?) but things happened quickly. I have first-hand experience of just how quickly things can "progress". She'd been there 7½ years, getting paid very poorly, but a new boss and some new systems led to her demise. Her leaving date kept being brought forward and in the end she just wanted out. An email was sent, implying that she'd jumped, but everyone knew that wasn't the case. So instead of a birthday morning tea she got a leaving one, which was quite substantial - the amount of food provided is mostly a function of how long you've been there rather than seniority. Her boss, who would normally give some short speech, didn't say a word.
Her husband died some time ago, and under the law at the time his family got everything while she got nothing, hence why she was still working at that age. She's also had cancer. Some people have it tough.

Old people have been a feature of my recent blog posts. I've always had a lot of respect for older people and tend to get on reasonably well with them. That's probably because there isn't the same expectation - and pressure - that I feel when talking to people of my own age. When the other person is of a vastly different age to me (older or younger), the "interplay" thing is no longer as important. I've always thought it shocking how the elderly are treated in Western cultures - they often have a lot of valuable experience that for some reason is deemed to be irrelevant. To show you what I mean about valuable experience, watch this video of Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking jump from last October. It's an amazing, goosebump-inducing, video anyway, but what puts the icing on the cake for me is Joe Kittinger, directing operations from Mission Control 24 miles below. Kittinger was the previous record-holder: he jumped from 19 miles way back in 1960, and here he is at the age of 84 directing proceedings, ticking off items from a checklist. His "Attaboy" and "Your guardian angel will take care of ya" made the moments before Baumgartner's big leap quite moving.

Margaret Thatcher's funeral is expected to cost £10 million. Yes, she was a hugely influential leader, and I think that anybody's funeral should be a big deal, but ten million pounds? It's incredible how much some things cost. The price tag to earthquake-strengthen my work building is $35 million. The cost of refitting a nearby cafĂ©, just so it can serve coffee, is $4 million (my cousin and I talked about this - she didn't think that was a lot). It's always interesting to talk money with my cousin; her dollars and my dollars aren't really the same currency. She recognises that too, and she's also aware that it rubs off onto the kids. When I last visited they gave their eldest boy $2 (he'd lost another tooth) and the shiny coin meant more to me than to him. If he wants something, he knows they can just buy it for him.

I had lunch with Tracy on Thursday. I think I realise now that she'll always just be a sort-of-friend with whom I spend one lunchtime every second month or so. We met at the food court, as usual, and all her complex (but very real) food allergies gave us an obvious starting point for our conversation. We do have quite a lot in common, but I'd say she's got a lot more self-confidence than me. With her it's a case of "I've got Asperger's, I'm happy with that, and all you crazy neurotypical people can do what you like." With me it's "I may or may not have Asperger's, I'd rather not know, but whatever I've got I'm not particularly proud of." Being at peace with herself meant she could appreciate the small things like the seagulls (we sat out in the warm sun) and I wish I could do that more. Most of our conversation revolved around her, or at least things that were common to both of us; we only briefly touched on anything specific to me. It would be unfair to call her self-centred; she does a lot of volunteer work. It would be safest to call her a complex character.

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