I’ve been meaning to write about my friend for a long time. I wanted to write about her because she’s a great friend, definitely part of my squad. But we said a temporary goodbye as she waddled off into a sunset with a tummy swollen with baby, preparing to add a beautiful girl to her very beautiful family. And I knew I wanted to write something in tribute to our working life together in honour of its temporary hiatus.
Do you have a work friend who keeps you on the straight and narrow? Who gets the work started, and also points out to you what you really actually need to do? My work friend has never failed to have already drafted a straw man, in an appropriate template, or to have set up that meeting, or to have been sympathetic about a tedious and frustrating meeting. She’s positive, full of humour, and brings me up, acknowledging that I struggle to reach her level of positivity and lack of cynicism. Meaning that I like to whinge. But we think a lot of the same things, and feel the same way about a lot of stuff too. It’s nice to be in concordance with someone, but to know that if you’re not, it’s an appropriate challenge, not someone being contrary for the sake of it.
Of course, one spends more hours with one’s colleagues than with one’s spouse/family. So my friend knows everything about all the work and life crap that I have been through over the past couple of years. She knows the real story, she watched it happen. She also knows exactly how many sandwiches I ate that day when I was really really hungover.**
But this is all just preamble. I knew what I wanted to write about, straightaway. It’s part of a much bigger, more complex story. But essentially, I wanted to write about the magic that happens when two or more people take a long car journey together. Conversations get to the nitty gritty quickly. Secrets are divulged. Tears are shed (by me, mostly).
For our first road trip to the midlands satellite office, I arrived at St Ives Park and Ride in our hire car at stupidly early o’clock. I had my happiness playlist playing, and no make up on. We got lost – which is my modus operandi – and thus extended our journey by a good half an hour. Having done some initial work chat, we got into talking about the really important stuff. And that was when I asked her opinion about the butt plug. It’s part of a longer more complicated story, and in that sense, what gets talked about on tour, stays on tour. But this is a brilliant example of how my friend provides “appropriate challenge”.
Me: Would you think a butt plug with a tail would be an appropriate Secret Santa present?
Her: Yeah, I think that would be hilarious!
Me: From an older man to a younger woman? [voice rising] I think that’s inappropriate.
Her: I think you’re being uptight. If I were friends with that person and it was a good joke, I’d totally do it!
Me: Even amongst all their colleagues? In a professional environment? Don’t you think it could be interpreted as sexually aggressive? If that happened in my team, I’d take the person aside and Have A Word.
Her: No! It’s got a tail. It’s clearly a joke!
Me: Well I stand by my opinion. I didn’t even know butt plugs could have tails!
Her: I know what I’m going to get you for your birthday.*
Me: I googled. They’re really bloody expensive you know.
For our second road trip, we were joined by our colleague. We are like the three angels to our boss’s Charlie… or something like that. To mark our first road trip as a threesome, I added their own handpicked songs to my happiness playlist to represent them (Groove Is in the Heart by Dee-Lite and A-Punk by Vampire Weekend, in case you were wondering). On the outbound journey, we talked about work, but in a masterful stroke, my friend spread out her pregnant self in the back of the car on the way home. This meant that our colleague had to sit in the front seat, next to me. Maybe it was just timing, maybe it was the stars aligning, perhaps it was that skilful back seat manoeuvre, but that was the day our colleague really opened up and started to tell us about herself. Part of becoming friends is being aware of other people’s shit. And that stays on tour too.
*On my birthday, she gave me a cool lipstick set. They were from a premium brand I suspect they still were less expensive than a butt plug with a tail. She said to me “I didn’t want to spend that amount of money on something for a joke!”
**Four. Breakfast was a Tesco sandwich with a Coke Zero.