Maybe Means No

Grad Daniel and I are trying to get promoted. I asked Mike, one of the senior developers on my team, what he thinks I need to do to become a senior developer, and he said that he would like me to be more “aggressive”. He didn’t mean aggressive in the sense of aggressive, but he wanted me to want things more – to want to be challenged. I told him that that’s just the way I am. “Be the river,” I said. But I told him that I’d work on it. Mike also told me that one skill it’s really important to have is to be able to have difficult conversations. Grad Daniel have adopted “Be aggressive” as our way of goading each other into doing more.

It started out as a lunch. “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while, want to catch up during lunch?” I agreed, but was busy that week, so suggested a different week. Lunch turned into dinner, as Brian decided he wanted to go to a particular restaurant. I suggested that we invite the people we went to get burgers with last time, and he agreed. So I created a Facebook event, with a date, and invited those people, plus MrFodder. He asked to be made a host, so I did it.

I woke up the next day to find that the little catch up dinner had turned into an event with over 30 invitees. OK, fine, he’s the one doing the challenge, whatever. To be honest, the idea of being a large dinner was not appealing to me at all. MrFodder dropped out, and I wanted to as well, but as the host, I felt obligated to go. The event was created 3 weeks and 2 days in advance, and I gave people until the week before the event to respond before I’d be making the booking.

At that point, I had 8 yes responses (including myself), and 3 maybes. So I made the booking for 8 people (Old Anna would have thought about some algorithm, looking at the statistics of people who say “maybe” and factoring in the likelihood of them coming. New Anna says maybe means no). The restaurant is pretty busy, and we only had a limited window to eat, as it was for a Friday night, during peak time.

The night before the event, I log in to Facebook, and see that it suddenly says 9 people are attending, the new person being one of Brian’s friends (I know his name wasn’t there, because I said that if people said they were going, and didn’t show up, I’d have the right to slap them twice the next time I saw them, or once at a future undisclosed time. I wrote down those names so I would remember who said they were going). I call the restaurant asking if we can increase the booking from 8 to 9 people, and they tell me that they don’t have room, and we can either eat an hour earlier, or two and a half hours later. Well, an hour earlier was not going to happen, as people needed time to get from work to the restaurant, and given that I now wake up at 5:20am to go to work I really didn’t want to be starting dinner at 9pm. Old Anna would have started calling seven other people, try to get a diplomatic response, and then do whatever that was. New Anna called Brian and asked what he wanted to do. He wanted to move if to the earlier or later time. Old Anna would have said sure, and made it happen. New Anna said no.

And here’s why. Eight managed to reply in time. Eight people had organised their day to take into account that we would be having dinner at 6:45. All because one person suddenly wanted to come did not mean that we should completely re-arrange everything. That is not fair for the eight other people who did the right thing. Who were organised enough to be able to click a button saying, “Yes, I will go”.

As a compromise (because even New Anna knows that it’s good to compromise), I figured at the worst case, we could all squish up a bit, and add another chair to the table. Even though, sigh, it means the poor waiters will have to constantly try and work their way around this oddly seated person. Until around 2pm, when I checked Facebook again, and got a message from another person saying, “Sorry, I know it’s last minute, but since you’re already calling to change the booking, could you add me as well?” I explained that I wasn’t able to add more people to the booking, but said that if he was willing, he could come along and hope that someone doesn’t show. And at the very worst case, if we’re already squishing to fit an extra person, we should be able to do the same on the other side. But I told him that if there was no space to fit in, then the people who had responded earlier would take priority. He said that he understood.

I finally make it to the restaurant, and tell them that I have a booking. The guy takes me to the side section, and points to a couple of tables, then goes back to the hosting station. I wasn’t quite sure which of the two 8-people tables he pointed to, but one of them already had a small group of people I didn’t know, so I figured we must be at the other one. Slowly, people start to show up, including the 2pm RSVP dude (he messaged me earlier, but I was busy at work and didn’t check until 2pm). We are now 7 people sitting at an 8 people table, and Brian and two other people we were expecting are nowhere to be seen (in case you’re confused: we had six people who had responded, plus the 2pm RSVP dude, we were still waiting on Brian, his friend who responded on time (Patty), and his other friend who changed his response after the deadline).

We’re 15 minutes in, and I check Facebook to see a message from Patty saying she’s here with Harry. Who on Earth is Harry? I had checked the event quite a few times in the past couple of hours, and there was no mention of a Harry. We were well beyond the “squeeze in and fit a couple more chairs” stage. Brian finally arrives, says hi, and walks past our table to the other 8-people table next to it, greeting the people there. Oh, that must be Patty and Harry. And some other dude. And then another person shows up. So we are 12 people for an 8 people booking. Luckily, we are split over the two 8-people tables. And then it dawns on me, I had sat down at the wrong table. But it was too late for that now, as we had already ordered food. Nobody seemed to be kicking us out of the table either, so perhaps the group who had booked it didn’t show. Phew.

Part way through our dinner, a few people appear behind us, and the waiter and host seem to be discussing something. Uh-oh, it looks like the people who had booked our table finally showed. Nobody spoke to us about it, and I don’t know what they ended up doing with that group, but I really wanted to leave. It was unfair to that group that we were sitting at their table, and they now had to wait for another table large enough to be free. As soon as the people on my table finished eating (except me, because I’m so slow), I asked for my food to be boxed up and requested the bill (OK, Auto hadn’t finished either, but he only had half a slice of pizza left).

To be honest, I was pretty pissed off during the entire dinner. My desire to spend time “catching up” with Brian has dropped significantly. Firstly, the only thing he did as a “host” was invite a crapton of people, almost none that I knew. Yep, great start to our “catch up”. Secondly, either his friends are inconsiderate people, or he is an inconsiderate person.

When you go to eat at a restaurant, you take up space. There is no getting around that at this point in time. And each restaurant only has finite amount of space. Sure, you can add chairs to an extent, but people still need to move around, so for a popular restaurant on a Friday night, you can’t just “drop in”. I mentioned a week in advance that I would be booking. The date and time was known three weeks in advance. So the three people who showed up (all Brian’s friends, by the way, at least mine had the decency to respond on time), either thought that it’d be fine, they could just show up, in which case they are inconsiderate, or they told Brian, and Brian didn’t tell me. In which case Brian is inconsiderate. The last guy, the 2pm RSVP dude, did respond late, but at least he told me he wanted to come, and was accepting of the fact that he might not fit. When the 7 of us were sitting at the table, he looked like he was ready to say, “Sorry guys, I didn’t respond last week, so I’m OK with someone else taking my seat.”

You might be asking, if his friends are the ones who are inconsiderate, why should that stop you from wanting to see him? Well, I just want to avoid a repeat of this situation. As soon as I got off the phone with the restaurant knowing they wouldn’t be able to fit extra people, I spent a lot of time fretting over what I was going to do. I was hoping people wouldn’t show. I was mentally preparing myself, if Brian said that a non-RSVPer could stay over an RSVPer, I wanted to be ready to just get up and leave (hey, it’s a seat). I guess a part of me had already lost respect for him after he was so willing to just change the time of the dinner (see my reason above).

Thirdly, I think we just don’t have as much in common as we did when we met. I think because he is a huge fitness buff, and I was going through my fitness transformation, we had a lot to talk about. Now I find that fitness is jut a background event to me. Sure, I go to the gym, and I go to fitness classes, but they’re just like chores now, I don’t feel so OMG passionate about it that I want to talk about it all the time.

So when he has recovered from tonight’s meal, I plan to have a difficult conversation with him. I want to say that while I’m happy to stay friends, and I am not going to avoid him if we end up at the same social event, I have no desire to go out of my way to meet up with him. Perhaps this is a harsh thing to do, but New Anna says life is too short to water that lemon tree when you don’t really like lemons. I have friends who treat me better than that, and those are the friends that I would like to spend my limited social time with.

Am I being too hasty? Am I being too aggressive? I feel like I had to write this all out so that tomorrow morning, after I’ve slept on it, I will still have the same resolve that I feel now. Am I being too crazy about the etiquette of responding to events?

Edit: I just want to add that this incident alone isn’t what makes me want to see him less. It’s part of a pattern of behaviour. We have had many rescheduled lunches (sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes it’s his). But also times where he has been incredibly late, or messages at the last moment apologising but he’s double-booked, or plain forgot. Everyone has bad days, but I just feel a general lack of respect for my time.

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2 Responses to Maybe Means No

  1. chaoticgood says:

    This is a tricky one! The blog version sent to my email didn’t have the edit, so I thought perhaps you were being a bit too harsh, but then when I got here and read the edit…

    If you feel he doesn’t respect you, then forget about him! Personally, I wouldn’t go with a friendship-ending difficult conversation, but if that works for you, do it!

    I’d also like to add that people in the tech industry (or any industry) don’t get promoted by “being the river” :P

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