Wednesday, January 9, 2013

One True Friend (Slice of Life)

The Arch, Saint Louis, Missouri

It was dark times when I arrived in Missouri. I had so much heat on me in Michigan that it was almost suicide to stay. I had also pretty much made up my mind about who I was. Blessedly, that was all about to change.

About a year after my arrival, I took a job at Centurylink (then Embarq). About six months into the job (and I didn't think I'd last that long), a short, squat little man who could barely open his mouth came to work there. Seriously, he stood at about five feet two, maybe five three. Five four at most, and I'm being generous.  A razor had never touched his face. He looked like a bulldog when he spoke and for the life of me, I couldn't understand a damn thing that was coming out of his mouth. He had the thickest Southern drawl I've ever heard in my life. Of course, he was from Arkansas.

His name was Robbe Lloyd.

We all took bets on him. We didn't think he'd last three months in the extremely high-pressure, performance- based world of sales. We were wrong. He outlasted us all. He's still there, in fact.

I did not think much of Robbe when I first met him, and he was counting on that. I made my assumptions and moved on. Damn, did he drive me frakkin' nuts when I tried talking to him. I didn't understand a word he was saying.

Then he got on the phone. All of us were in total shock hearing his sales pitch. His accent vanished. Suddenly, everything is "yes, ma'am."  "No, ma'am. "Why, absolutely, ma'am. In fact, I'll go ahead and guarantee that for you and lock it in..." The man was one of the greatest closers I've ever heard.

Then, he'd hop off the phone and go right back to being slow, hustling Robbe. It was a double-act.
I'd never had my perceptions of any human being so completely shattered like that.

Months later, when I ran into trouble, he chimed in out of the blue and volunteered to pick me up and take me home. Every day, five days a week. For him to do this, he had to come five miles out of his way.
Naturally, a friendship was struck up. He almost made me care about college football. Even now, I have a soft spot for the Arkansas Razorbacks, even if I can't name a single player on the team.

The friendship would go on hiatus when we got to work, turning into a vicious rivalry. I was always on top in the sales charts; he was never more than a few spots behind me. He even outdid me a couple of months. We'd race ferociously to have the most sales at the end of the day. Between the two of us, we set records and won a ton of awards, which meant we could get away with a lot at work. And best believe we did.

It went further than that. I only knew the people I worked with in Missouri. I didn't have much of a life, and he extended himself. We would head out on the weekends. Sometimes just him and I, other times his wife and her friends. He allowed me into his house so often that it felt natural after awhile. Lunch breaks were filled with quick matches on the X-Box or brief glimpses of a movie.

When I left Centurylink to come back to the west coast, it was he who drove me two hours to the airport.

People come and go in life all the time. Friends bring something to the table. True friends change the way you look at life.

I was dark and angry when I came to Missouri. Robbe was one of the people who really changed my world view and I have only these words to express my appreciation for everything he did for me.

Thanks for reading.

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