Instant friends


I stopped at one of the fuel-food-casino stations for lunch, and as seating was scarce in their dining area, a gentleman invited me to join him at his table.  I thanked him, sat down with my hamburger and fries, and we introduced ourselves.  We got a little distracted when nearby, a man said enthusiastically to his two companions, “One hundred dollars!  Fellers, lunch is on me!”


My new friend—we will call him “Bob”—smiled.  He said, “I’ve been watching him.  He got two or three scratch-off lottery tickets, and as he scratched them off, I could tell by his face he’d won something.  It wasn’t the ‘I’ve won five dollars so I get my money back’ sort of expression.  It wasn’t the euphoric hysteria of somebody who won a big money jackpot, either.  Well, you heard him.  He’s reacted with a midrange, happy enthusiasm.  You know, one of the ‘well, this is nice’ varieties.  He did all right.  He’ll still have to go to work tomorrow, but that’s a good thing.”

I was impressed with Bob’s analysis.  “You seem to be knowledgeable about human nature,” I commented.    

“I’m not, really.  I just used to buy a lot of lottery tickets.  Sometimes when I see players, it’s like I’m seeing myself.  Do you play the lottery?”

“Every now and then,” I confessed.  “If the state depended of players like me, they wouldn’t make enough to keep the lottery going.  But you said you used to buy tickets.  You don’t anymore?”

“No, not anymore.”

“Why’d you stop?”

There was the briefest bit of hesitation.  Then, quietly, Bob said, “Because three years ago, I won 8.5 million dollars.  After taxes.”

This information left me at a loss for words.  There was nothing about Bob’s demeanor that reeked of wealth.  He was dressed in clothes that were at least as shabby as mine, and the stubble on his face indicated he had not shaved for a few days.  I perhaps said the wrong thing when I said, “Gee, Bob!  It doesn’t show!”

“Well—good!  But it took some effort to get here, to be inconspicuous.  Suddenly getting rich takes a toll on a person.  When people found out, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by instant friends.  Instant enemies, too.  Lost relatives, or people claiming to be relatives, came out of the woodwork.  Old friends I hadn’t seen in decades looked me up, dozens of charities looked me up, total strangers looked me up, and every last one of them wanted money.  It disillusioned me, some.  It made me angry, too, angry enough I wouldn’t fool with ‘em, and all of a sudden, I was the bad guy.”

Bob slowed down, and reflected a few moments.  “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.  It’s been on my mind so long, though, that it’s good to vent and let off steam.”

We talked more, and finally went our separate ways.  I did not say it to Bob, but I was envious, and thought to myself how wonderful it would be to have some of his problems.

Attitude is important, though.  I recently met Jimmie, a 70-year-old fellow who is so outgoing and personable he became an “instant” friend unlike the sort Bob had to deal with.  Jimmie has worked all his life building buildings, he is a rancher, he owns a vineyard and other real estate, he has grandkids and great-grandkids, and is acutely aware of his blessings. I was visiting in his neighborhood; he saw me while he was checking on a family who needed help, and introduced himself.  Before I knew it, I was helping him tend to small jobs the family needed done.  It’s amazing how good it felt!

So, there are legitimate instant friends. I hope Bob remains cautious, but doesn’t give up looking for them.  Friends may be hard to find, but the rule is, if you can’t find friends, be one!  It may take some effort, but it’s worth it.    

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author avatar
Craig Hall
Publisher and owner of Heavener Ledger and