commitment n. an obligation to be undertaken

Maybe it’s a result of my Scottish Protestant upbringing, but when it comes to manners, I am terribly old-fashioned. For exaample, you should always say please and thank you — even when addressing those who are inflicting pain on you. Indeed, especially so then, since the last thing you want is a peeved dentist wielding power tools in your mouth [An issue currently close to my heart since next Tuesday sees me in the chair for the first time in…er…a while. I shall be exruciatingly polite, to the point of subservience.]

I mention the above, in preparation for an “It Makes Me Mad…” rant, since it appears that commitment, as defined above, is a term which seems more than a little unfamiliar to some people. In the past four days alone, I’ve had the following:

  1. Friend X was supposed to be coming round on Sunday afternoon; I got a phone call at 4pm saying he couldn’t make it, largely because he’d now got some bird in tow.
  2. Friend Y should have come round last night, but phoned to say he was “too tired” after a book-buying trip
  3. We played five-a-side football today at 1215. Colleague Z announced at 1100 that he was going to a noon meeting instead.

None of the above is the slightest bit life-threatening, admittedly, but all were variably irksome in their own ways. I’m not really a formal guy, but if you’re going to break arrangements with me, there are things you need to remember, and they are nicely illustrated by the above. Firstly, try and have a good reason — “I found something better to do” is not, as far as I’m concerned, sufficient justification. Now, I remember well the days when I would cheerfully have sold my own grandmother for a shag, but I never did — admittedly partly because the market for grandmothers was sluggish in my part of the world. However, I will let Friend X off, because, having gone out and bought beer ‘n’ stuff, the fridge is pleasingly well-stocked. His loss is my alcohol-induced stupor.

The second occasion was perhaps the most understandable, but fell into disfavour because of the lack of notice. That very afternoon, another friend had invited me out for Chinese. “Thanks, but…”, I said, and explained my prior engagement. Having blown that out, getting a call that night left me high ‘n’ dry. You may not have anything else in your empty little lives, but mine is a hectic social whirl. Or rather, I’d quite like it to be, if people would stop faffing around at the last bloody minute!!!! Thank you.

The third case combined the worst of both worlds: not enough notice to make alternative arrangements, and a poor excuse. Part of my burden in life is being the dude who has to try and shepherd enough bodies to make up the footie team each week, and it’s a chore of Sisyphean proportions. I am now hardened to getting a steady stream of emails on the day before, from cancelling players: this I can handle, since I just ask the next guy on the list to bring in his kit. But on the day itself, I’m creek-located and paddle-deficient. In addition, when you get a mere sixty minutes notice of a meeting, it is perfectly reasonable to say “Sorry, I can’t make it”. Unless, of course, you’re a sad lap-dog with no social skills for whom work is the centre of life. Mind you, given this guy’s mobile phone plays the theme from Star Wars, it would seem a valid possibility…

Worse still, the meeting ended up being delayed by an hour, so he could have played after all. On the other hand, when it did start, it ended up being The Meeting From Hell, with people notorious for sorting paper-clips by size and colour. It lasted four-and-a-half hours. And this is the moral of the story: learn from this, and remember what happens when you can’t tell the difference between “I’ve found something better to do”, and “I love it when you come on my tits”. Now, that is what I call commitment…