I Am Jack’s Colon Cancer

Chaos in Print

I’ll only be gone for six months — Diane Chamber’s parting words, on her final episode of Cheers.

This real world thing sucks. When I finished university, I thought “That’s it! I’ve had enough of this classroom! Let me go out there and experience that real world people always tell me I’m not ready for!” So, I left university with my two degrees in hand, ready to go face the world. And do you know what I discovered? All degrees are worthless. I know people with all sorts of degrees that you think would just guarantee them a job, but no. They find themselves flipping burgers or being video store clerks. And when you try to take a few moments away from these jobs to go see your friends, you have “other commitments.” Yup, we are all dogs, and life is the cruel master that chains us up and beats us with a stick.

Let me tell you what drew me to this latest conclusion. My longtime best friend/recurring character Chuck is in a similar situation as me. He too has had enough of this real world and is retreating to the safety and comfort of the classroom. I was OK with this at first, but then Chuck told me that he decided to go to some french immersion university in Nova Scotia. His reason had something to do with “wanting to regain [his] bilingual status, plus that’s where [his] siblings are going.” So, not only is he going back to the classroom, he’s going to one on the other side of the country. Knowing that this might be my last opportunity for a year to see my best friend, I knew that we had to get together sometime in August just to spend some final, quality time together.

The initial plan was a grand one indeed. Chuck was to come up to Entwistle, where we would spend a day hanging out at my place, watching old Batman cartoons and showing off the new additions to my collectible action figure collection. A week later, I’d head on down to Kingman and we’d spend the day at his place, doing pretty much the same thing, and forcing L, the woman he happens to be dating, to watch Titanic. I find it a crime that she has never seen that movie. Yup, it was a brilliant plan. But, the best laid plans of mice and men….

The week that we had selected for Chuck to come up to Entwistle soon drew nigh. We sat down with the schedules of when we working that week and discovered that we had no compatible days off. None whatsoever. So, Chuck canceled plans to come up to Entwistle. The plans for me to come down to Kingman, however, were still on.

So, the next week soon came along. I knew that we could probably do it on Thursday, as my boss always gives me Thursday off for some odd reason. I knew this time that we would have compatible days off, as Chuck was taking that whole week off to finish packing and putting the stuff he wasn’t taking in cold storage. I got my hot little hands on my schedule only to discover that my boss had me working straight through from Monday to Friday. Our last hope was the weekend. I e-mailed Chuck right away, asking how this weekend looked for him. Things didn’t look good. Chuck had to work, and he dare not call in sick on his last two days. So, he proposed that perhaps I come down for the whole weekend, and that we could spend some time together in the precious few hours he had before work. But, I had a brainstorm. “Before I commit to that,” I said, “let me try super-dangerous, bad karma inducing, Plan Z. I will go to my boss and beg for a day off next week.”

At work the next day, I showed up early, with the purpose of taking a few minutes before my shift to beg the boss. I even put my kneepads on underneath my pants, fully prepared to literally beg on my knees. I marched up to my boss’s door, knocked, and discovered that MY BOSS HAD TAKEN THE NEXT FEW DAYS OFF!! No one to beg! I took a second look at the timetable. The only other person I could switch with was taking the whole week off, hence why I was working straight through from Monday to Friday. Oh, I should have never told my boss I have no life! When I did that, I instantly became the go-to guy for days off and holidays. Somewhat begrudgingly, I phoned Chuck that night to tell him that this weekend was a go, but on one condition.

My parents had went camping for a week, and decided to leave our dog at home. Now, it would be unfair of me to coop my dog up in the house for the whole weekend, so I asked Chuck if I could bring my dog along. Chuck reacted negatively to this, and said he’d half to ask the other parties involved. I waited by the phone for Chuck to finish asking around. When he called back, things were not good. Chuck’s roommate/landlord was allergic to dogs, and thus could not stay there. L (the woman Chuck is dating) couldn’t take in my dog either, as she feared that her landlord would spot my dog, quote the “no pets” article in her rental agreement, and thus be evicted. So, my dog had to stay home. Chuck then proposed that perhaps I could just come up on Sunday, and we could spend a few fleeting hours together before he had to go to work. This being the only option left, I took it.

So, what had originally been conceived as two days of cartoons and merriment soon got compromised and negotiated down to a few fleeting hours before work. He’s a video store clerk. I bag groceries. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that we are hopelessly dedicated to our jobs, or that these are the jobs we are dedicated to. When we first started planning this at the start of the month, we should have just said “We will do this on that day,” then go to our respective bosses and book that day off. But no, who needs to do that when you’re job is only part time? I mean, what would have been so wrong with asking my boss for a day off to do this?

In an earlier column, I swore I wouldn’t get this way. John Lennon said that life is what happened while you were making other plans, and I swore that I would never find myself making other plans. And now, what have I spent the last few weeks doing? Trying to work my friends around my job, when things should be done the other way.

I don’t know, I guess I’m just haunted by how things are going to change with Chuck not being around. I mean, when I take a glance at it, I think to myself “What really is going to be different? We spend all our time talking through e-mail anyway.” But then, I realize that things will be changing. We’ll no longer be able to get together and hang out at the mall, like those two time we did it. I won’t be able to go down to Kingman and hang out with him those few times I did, and he’ll never come up to Entwistle again to hang out like he did that one time. What little connection we had will be weakened even more.

I once read somewhere that, after college, you’re forced to decide which friends you want to keep for the rest of your life, and which ones you’ll have to let drift away. Chuck was the one right there at the top of the list; the one I wanted to keep forever. Now, quite literally, he is drifting away. Maybe, with our incompatible schedules the past few weeks, the fates have been trying to tell me something. Maybe I do have to cut him loose. But it’s so hard to let go. Of all the friends I made at college, he remains the one I am closest to. I’ve tole him things I’ve never told anyone else, and been grateful for the fact that he actually seems to like me. If anything, I hope that in all the grand adventures he goes on, that he only remember me. It’s going to be hard with him gone, but I’ll survive. Some how. Goodbye, Chuck.

Yeah. The real world sucks.