There are favours for which you are sincerely grateful. Favours which come as rain upon the desert, or a hot salt bath when all your muscles are aching. Then there are favours which are a pain in the far South of your backbone.
You’re no IT expert and, after struggling with on-line instructions, you manage to design yourself a website. A friend, who is a professional in the field, looks at your effort and says, “Oh, no – it’s all wrong. It look too amateur. You’ll never make a professional impression with that. I’ll help you with it.”
What a kind friend. You’re so lucky to have a real pro advising you. So you wait, and wait, and wait for your friend to have a moment to spare. After his/her assessment of your “amateur” job, you don’t dare activate your website as it is. You drop a subtle reminder. “Absolutely!” says your friend. “This week is manic but we’ll definitely get together next week, and do some work on it.”
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t like to bother you but since you kindly offered…”
“No problem. It’ll be a pleasure.”
Two months of this, and you wish your friend had shut up in the first place since all his/her favour has done, is knock out your confidence and put nothing constructive in its place.
You’re looking for a job. Your friend says, “Actually, I saw an ad for a job, the other day. It sounded perfect for you. Your skills are just what they’re looking for.”
Your hopes soar. “Great! Where was the ad?”
“I can’t remember exactly, I’ll find it as soon as I get to the office, tomorrow morning.”
You wait, then give your friend a nudge.
“Oh, sorry, I forgot! Just going into a meeting but as soon as I’m out…”
The next day, you nudge again.
“It’s ridiculous. I can’t find it anywhere, but don’t worry, I know it’s somewhere on my desk…”
“Can’t you even remember the name of the publication, so I can look it up myself?”
“Look, the deadline is ages away. I’ll rummage through my desk before I go home.”
Eventually, your friend gives you the ad. The job description fits your CV like a glove. Shame the deadline for applications was yesterday.
“Sorry about that,” says you friend, all bubbly, “but never mind. It obviously wasn’t meant.”
You stare at your friend’s smile, and wonder how much they would mind about their clothes if you accidentally caught their glass of red wine with your elbow .
You get a migraine at a party, and try and ring for a taxi before the snowstorm before your eyes incapacitates you completely. Your friend won’t hear of it. “Don’t be silly, I’ll drive you home.”
He/she just has to say goodbye to a few people.
You sit and wait in the hallway, your face in your hands, and hear your friend being drawn into a new conversation. You listen out for an “anyway” or a “it’s been lovely” but, instead, hear “oh, really?” and “what about..?” All you want, is to be home, in bed – and you would have been, too, if you’d taken the taxi.
Finally, you’re in your friend’s car. “I’ll just stop off on the way and pick up some milk at the corner Tesco. You don’t mind, do you? I’ll just be a tick.”
Hard as you try, you not only fail to drum up gratitude for the lift but you positively resent it, which makes your migraine even worse.
Those are not favours. They are power games.
Then, there are the 90% favours – the favours which fall short enough to highlight your friend’s somewhat defective generosity.
He/she invites you out for dinner. When the bill comes, he/she waves away your attempt at fishing out your wallet. No sooner have you done up the clasp on your bag, that he/she asks if you have any change for the tip. It’s not the few pounds – it’s the pettiness of it that makes you cringe.
He/she invites you to his/her home for a meal and hints (or blatantly suggests) that you should bring wine. You go to Waitrose, and pay extra for a bottle with a real cork because you don’t want to look cheap by taking one with a screw top. You arrive at your friend’s house, and get served pasta with ready-made sauce straight out of a jar. You start comparing the cost of the meal with what you’ve just spent on the Chianti but stop yourself – you’ve been invited for a meal, so you must appreciate your friend’s hospitality.