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The drive-by friend

Rebecca O'Neil | Sunday, January 20, 2013

As a moderately-awkward human being, I revel in the rare moments when I befriend someone new. If the conversations are more than just socially mandated, the connection becomes real and the person, special – to put it in the cheesiest terms possible.
In high school, I found sustenance in meeting new people. I lived off of it. Strangers offered a view into a life I had never been exposed to before, and that was exciting. They knew nothing about me, therefore every new person marked a fresh page, free to create whatever imprint I desired. I wasn’t keeping track of the number, or even the names, usually, only of the last time I had talked with someone I didn’t know. My short attention span engaged whole-heartedly in the “friendships” for a day – maybe a week – at a time before I never spoke with them again.
I had cooled down by the time I graduated. While my world at home still had so much left to explore, I was trying to solidify the friendships I already had. Faced with endless opportunities to meet new people and armed with a phone in college, I thought friendships would be easy to come by and a cinch to keep. By the end of my first semester, I was unable to identify at least a third of the new contacts in my phone as friends for longer than a night, if I could identify them at all.
This didn’t bother me until certain people I had the privilege of meeting started to make indelible impressions. I still wonder about my (seemingly brilliant) engineering partners’ lives long after that group disbanded. I still reminisce on the conversation I had with an MIT student/professional gamer on my flight to O’Hare in August. My mind is currently fixating on a musician from Chicago I met just yesterday. These are the people who in spite of the fluid world in which I live, I never wanted to become an un-texted or un-called contact. Although we exchange numbers or Facebooks or whatever the trendiest form of technological communication is at the time, our interactions are never the same.
That’s what I hate: the drive-by friendships. It’s one thing if it’s a casual wave or head nod from a transient acquaintance as they mosey on down the road that is life. But the beautiful but crazy friend who waves erratically, body half-out of the moving vehicle’s window, screaming my name – that gets me. The ones I grin dumbly at as I let them drive by.