What Should I Do About My Friend That Everyone Hates?

Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed Canada, formerly the managing editor of Hazlitt. Her debut collection of essays, The Pursuit of...

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Good news, tempestuous air travellers: you will no longer be asked by a polite flight attendant to stop screwing around with your iPhone while the pilot launches your lardy body into the air safely.

Canada’s federal government recently announced that you can now use electronic devices gate-to-gate during your flight. Such an allowance was in high demand, because apparently some people are no longer satisfied with reading books made of paper or watching the free television and movies provided on the flight, or just staring straight ahead and hoping that they do not die.

Despite the easing of the rules, there’s still a ban on taking phone calls in the air, which is great, because good lord, could you imagine? But it does open a question of etiquette. Now that you’re no longer required to put away your device for the first and last 10 minutes of a flight, there’s an increased likelihood of you wanting to destroy the child sitting next to you.

Look at him, over there, his iPod Touch at full volume. Where are his headphones? Where is his MOTHER?

So, what do you do when dealing with a fellow flyer too inconsiderate to look up from his e-reader to let you run to the bathroom before take off? How do you handle a woman chuckling very, very hard at a stupid game she’s playing on her phone when you just want to get some sleep? And does this mean you don’t actually need to pay attention to the flight attendants when they show you how to escape from the plane should it burst into flames?

First, you start by politely asking. If you can’t stomach that, get passive-aggressive and start coughing directly in your seatmate’s ear, or stare at him wordlessly for the entirety of the flight until he stops whatever he is doing, or casually pour a glass of Diet Coke into his lap and when he asks what you’re doing, mumble something about, “Oh, is this bothering you?” And of course, you should always pay attention to a plane’s security precautions. Boy, will you ever feel dumb if they drop those oxygen masks and you completely forget how to use them. You will feel dumb and then you will die. But the very best thing you can do in this situation is not be this person.

Tell me, Hazlitt readers. Tell me what ails ya.

Back when I was in university, I quit my job with a few months left in my degree to focus on schoolwork, and unfortunately, my savings didn’t last me quite as long as I thought they would. I borrowed a few thousand dollars from my brother, who I figured would be more lenient than other alternatives. A few years have passed and I’m able to start paying him back, except, recently, what always seemed like a low-level drug problem on his part has become far more serious. I always had every intention of paying him back (and he needs the money now), but I know this is going to go straight to paying for an addiction that is ruining his life. He, of course, insists he doesn’t have a problem of any kind, and says he’s been more than fair with how long it’s taken me to reimburse him, which is also true. What should I do here?

- I.O.U.

Denial: it is a hell of a drug.

Who knew when you borrowed all that money from your brother, he might need it back conveniently around the time that his casual interest in addictive drugs would become a dependency! Whatever the case, this is an awkward position. So instead of trying to make up some surely unusable advice, I asked an actual expert. (Oh no, have I revealed that I am not a real expert in much of anything? Nevermind. Don’t worry about it. Do not look behind this curtain.)

Dr. Shimi Kang, author of The Dolphin Way, is a Harvard-trained physician and knows more about everything than I do. She says there are two extremes in terms of personality types: jellyfish, who are enabling and permissive, and tigers, who are overbearing and over-controlling. You need to find a way to find a comfortable middle: thus, the dolphin approach.

“You can have a plan for [the repayment,]” she says. “The person could say, ‘I can pay off your credit card, I can pass it onto your girlfriend or your mom, I can pay it in installments.’” Indeed, you are somewhat obligated to pay your brother back, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw a few thousand dollars at him while thinking, Good grief, I hope he doesn’t do what I absolutely think he’s going to do. “Do not be a permissive jellyfish and further potentially enable an addiction by giving the money back with no discussion.”

Surely there is a way to pay your brother back without giving in entirely. Has he told you what he needs the money for exactly? If it’s rent or a debt he needs to pay off, offer to do it directly. Pay him in installments so that he can’t go on a bender, if you think that’s a risk. The best thing you can do is come to some agreement with him on how to pay him back.

In the meantime, it might be worth talking to the rest of your family and your brother’s friends about how to handle his ever-growing addiction. I don’t know what a “low-level drug problem” is, exactly, but it sounds like all that background noise in his life is quickly becoming an undeniable racket.

*

I have noon plans with one friend, let’s say his name is Schlomo. And I have plans with another friend at 3, Esther. We’re going to, uh, let’s say, a klezmer music festival. Schlomo wants to go to the festival with me as well, but what he doesn’t know is that Esther doesn’t like him. I don’t want to break Esther’s trust or make her feel uncomfortable, and I don’t want to hurt Schlomo’s feelings even though it’s easy to see why someone wouldn’t like him (he’s kind of condescending). What do I do?
- Irving from Forest Hill

“Klezmer music festival?” No wonder people don’t think these questions are real.

Okay, so clearly you know that Esther does not like your friend. In that case, it’s perfectly acceptable to alert your friend Esther that Schlomo has asked to come (or invited himself?) and you want to know how she feels about it. Any decent friend will understand that you’re stuck in the middle, and if she’s worth her salt, she’ll deal with Schlomo’s presence for your sake. If she doesn’t, then you need to pick whose feelings you’re more willing to preserve.

But.

I used to have a conflict with a certain friend who would always invite me to parties when she knew a certain unsavory character would be there, too. The person in question would get drunk and start touching me far too intimately, so I asked her to no longer bring me anywhere if she knew he’d be around. She didn’t think it was that serious, so every few months, there would be a surprise attack of sorts where I’d walk into a bar and he would be there, glassy-eyed from too much beer, waiting to wrap his hand around my wrist.

I am now friends with neither of them.

You’re not clear on what is it about this friend that makes your other pals uncomfortable, but you do say it’s easy to understand why. So my question for you is why you’re hanging out with someone that you know is a big butt? Are his redeeming features all that redeeming? Does Esther have other, more meaningful reasons to dislike Schlomo beyond the fact that he’s condescending?

Perhaps this is something to discuss with her after your, uh, klezmer music festival.

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