Things I Learned from R. B. (May 31st, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4426)

Episode 17

R. B. deeply enjoyed Chinese food, even though he hated ordering it off the menu because he was unable to remember the names of the delicacies that enticed his flavor lust, and ended up having to ask the waitress what the various terms meant, and then ended up nodding his head as if he understood, only to reveal upon her departure that he was clueless as to what had been explained to him—and just a little bit pissed that she was “so damn foreign.”

About two weeks after arriving in Nashville, R. B. requested that we begin what he called “sessions.” Having been unemployed for well over a year and spending most of his time alone, he was very reclusive, and a bit fearful to share his feelings in front of others, even if he knew them well.

So he saved my family for “fun times.”

He asked me if I would be willing, once a week, to partake of a meal and help him with his plans. Thus, the “sessions.”

I suggested we choose a Chinese buffet that had become our family favorite, where we also taped a weekly broadcast of a radio show, which I purchased time for on a local station. It was a five-minute-a-day newsy, comedic and sometimes musical presentation on an outlet which, according to a respected survey, seemed to have no listeners.

We didn’t care much. The show was for our glow. We gathered at the Chinese restaurant on Saturday mornings, taped the show and then over-ate the MSG.

I told R. B. that he might like the place because he wouldn’t have to remember the Chinese dishes but could just stare down into the buffet until he could visually identify a favorite. So it was agreed that we would meet once a week—the day and time changing based upon his whimsy.

R. B. knew how to talk.

Apparently saving up lots of energy from lonely nights, he could fill three hours of conversation better than any man I’ve ever met.

The situation was simple and perverted. R. B. wanted to present plans he’d made, which, as time passed, proved to be theories he had no intention of pursuing. And I got to pretend that I was using my skills as a teacher, a reasoner and a counselor, to help another human being. In the process, both of us got high blood sugar and weight gain.

Since I had not seen R. B. for some time, the first “sessions” were a little bit startling. He had settled deeply into habits. I suppose some people would call them bad.

It is certainly safe to call them questionable: smoking, staying up late, drinking, over-sleeping, temper tantrums and having a diet which consisted of anything that fit concisely into a Styrofoam container.

The sessions were not a healthy situation. I knew if I aggravated him by making contrary suggestions, he wouldn’t want to meet anymore, and I would lose my buffet appointment and ability to claim that I was in the midst of counseling.

He also did not want to become aggravated because the sessions were his red-letter day of the week—when he could spring for $6.99 to have a pair of ears listen to him ad nauseum.

Looking back on it now, I see how easy it is for us to get involved in meaningless and perhaps even dangerous entanglements. I can tell you three unchanging ideas that came out of R. B. during the sessions:

  1. The industry was changing and that’s why he was unable to get a job.
  2. In some way or another, he was smarter than me and he didn’t even know why he was seeking my counsel since I was basically a nobody-nothing.
  3. It was made clear to me that I could be encouraging, supportive, complimentary but needed to avoid espousing any idea that he didn’t appreciate. Otherwise R. B. was likely to pout.

Working within this framework, we maintained what could be loosely considered a friendship.

But I did maintain it. I had selfish reasons which were bolstered by a couple of selfless aspirations.

One of the selfless thoughts was that if I didn’t talk to R. B. and commiserate with him, who would?

Of course, a case could be made that if he wasn’t being pandered to by a Chinese-gobbling friend, he might have been able to get some real help.

The fact of the matter is, I, myself, was too needy to help the needy. I didn’t realize it at the time.

But every session always ended with the same speech.

“This was good,” opined R. B.  “Let’s follow up on some of the ideas and meet again next week, and I certainly will try to work up the energy and hopefulness to go out and apply for a job or two.”

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