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Trying to be a Friend

For some reason I continue to be amazed at the cruelty in the world.

This summer I've been working as a server (aka "waiter") at this really cool restaurant. We're located not too far from this university so we get a lot of college kids during the lunch shift, which is when I work.

I haven't had any real major problems with the people I serve, only the occasional guest who is what the shift manager calls "very entitled." In other words, the kind of person who thinks you are there as their personal slave... somebody they can be condescending toward and treat as a non-person. They treat you like you're some kind of nasty low-life and you get the feeling they want you to bow down when they enter the restaurant and kiss their ass for the privilege of serving them. My word for them is "pathetic." As annoying as they can be, I seem to be able to handle those kinds of people pretty well. I've learned it's all a matter of trying to maintain the right attitude and focusing my main attention on all the other people who are really decent, which is probably 99% of all the guests.

The "cruelty" I referred to in the first sentence is a whole different animal. I can understand people who are just plain "pathetic" better then I can understand people who are "cruel."

There's this one person I work with (I'll call her "Diane") and she and I have become really tight friends. She's also a server. I'm not sure of her exact age, but I would guess she's about 25 or 26. When I started working there she was the person I followed around for the first few days (she called me her "shadow") until I got the hang of how things were done. I couldn't have asked for a better trainer. She really took me under her wings and gave me all kinds of advice that would make the actual work go smoother and easier. I really appreciated how she treated me and I always look forward to the days when we work together. Matt and I have hung out with her and her boyfriend a couple of times and we've always had a good time.

Well, she confided in me at the end of last week that she and her boyfriend had this huge argument. She was sorta downplaying it at first and I got the impression is was probably just one of those "garden-variety" type of things that happens sometimes. She didn't give many details but the more she talked, the more upset she seemed.

When our shift ended, I asked her if she wanted to get a soda and go to this park down the street to talk. Well, she opened up and told me her so-called "boyfriend" had hit her and slapped her around some during this argument. Even then she was downplaying it, which I had a hard time understanding. We talked some more and she said this was not the first time he had done something like that. She was actually a little taken aback when I told her that there was no way she should downplay what had happened. I told her there was no excuse for what he had been doing, that it was wrong and I was worried about her.

Then she said something that surprised me. She just turned to me, had this small smile on her face and said, "Well, you know how guys can be sometimes." I was dumbfounded. Not what I expected to hear! I got angry at that point (which I still feel bad about) and said straight to her face, "No, goddammit! This is NOT how guys can just be sometimes!" I think my anger startled her and then I realized she was feeling like I was criticizing her, or blaming her. When I explained that she was not at fault and I was not saying she did anything wrong, she started crying. I just leaned in and put my arms around her and tried to soothe her the best I could.

I tried to think of what to say to her. I mean, I've never had a friend tell me anything like this before. I knew they lived together and all I was thinking about was her safety. I was sorta stumbling around with what to say and just asked her if she ought to move out and get her own place or maybe stay with a friend until she could sort things out. She said she was worried that this might make him even angrier. I was running all kinds of ideas in my mind and ended up being very direct with what I thought. I felt like as a friend I owed her that. But I also didn't want to say anything like I was in control of her life or anything. I didn't want her to feel like I was pressuring her. I mean, the last thing I wanted to do was have some kind of controlling attitude that she might see as similar to how her boyfriend treated her.

So, all I said was, "Look. This is probably just going to get worse. I mean, I think you're telling me all this cause you trust me. I want to help and I don't want to find out you ended up in the hospital or dead." I got her to agree to at least talk to my dad, who is an attorney. So, I got on my cell, called him at his office, and she agreed to go over to see him in about an hour. She wanted me to go with her, which I was hoping she would ask. I think she needed some extra support or strength or something.

My dad made some calls and let her use a conference room at his office so she could call some program or agency in town that helps with domestic violence. She didn't want to leave this guy just yet because she didn't feel prepared for his possible reaction. My dad told her about restraining orders and gave her all kinds of legal advice. After being at his office for a couple of hours, she asked him how much she owed him. So, he said there was this category of legal work called "pro bono," and she didn't own him anything except her promise that she would consider everything he told her and call him if she wanted to go with the restraining order or had any other questions. He also told her about some "safe houses" where she could stay.

So, yeah, I can handle "pathetic" customers who come to the restaurant and want me to kiss their ass and treat them like royalty. Piece of cake. I don't like it, but those kind of people are not worth my time to worry about. It's the cruelty like what my friend has been going through that makes me want to turn into a raving maniac. When somebody deliberately hurts a friend of mine ... and puts their life at risk ... I'll do whatever I have to do to protect them. Maybe I'm being naïve or something. I mean I don't think doing something like this will end all the cruelty in the world. All I care about is being a friend and making sure I do everything possible to keep a friend safe from physical violence ... or worse, death.

I felt really special that she trusted me enough to tell me all this stuff. I felt like she was counting on me. How could I let her down? One lesson I'm getting out of all this is the value of friendship in this world. Maybe in the long run it will have some kind of positive impact on all the cruelty in the world. At least that's what I'm hoping for.
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