Friday, October 15, 2010

helping people

As we approach the season of helpfulness, I think it's important to review some of the basics on how and when to help other people. That is, of course, not at all, and never.

Unfortunately for the Scrooges among us, it is considered "rude" to be so up front when declaring your unintention of helping. Societal norms place ridiculous demands on us as people to be "kind" to our "fellow" humans in helping them in their needs, and even more strenuous injunctions to help when our fellowman is actually doing things for our own benefit, like cooking us food.

However, in the interests of helping the invisible (helping) hand stay that way, let me provide you with the following advice:

Offer to help when it is no longer needed

This is the first and foremost way to appear to be good natured. Let's say your old roommate has invited you over to brunch. Also, let's say his pregnant wife is in the kitchen cooking so you can enfatten yourself on the fruits of her labor.1 Why don't you make jolly conversation while she slaves away, until, at the last moment, as brunch magically appears through her sweat and tears to the table, you can offer, "is there anything I can do to help you?"

The pregnant woman is placated, your old roommate thinks you have abandoned your selfish ways, and you get to eat delicious omelettes without nary an effort on your part.

In a related move, when you invite yourself over to said old roommate's house to watch a football game, the correct way to get out of paying for the pizza you made him order is to offer to pay as he is walking up to the door, credit card in hand.

Offer to help as you are walking out the door

Let us assume a hypothetical situation: suppose, for a moment, that your co-worker, who we shall call Delilah for the purposes of this example, is working non-stop, and is being slowly beaten to death by various clients wielding the functional equivalent of stick bats made from stiffened skunks. Let us assume that you are leading a jolly good old life, in which you have enough time to stay after work and write about how you shirk all adult responsibilities generally, whilst she is ten feet away fretting over delivering data to clients.

Now, fair reader, watch me as I stand up, pack up all of my worldly possessions, and walk to her desk, with my jacket on, and computer packed, and ask her if she needs any help. There is obviously no polite way on earth in which she can prevent me from going home to my wife and children,2 so she, in keeping with her generous nature, declares that she has it covered, and spends the rest of the evening in a caffeine-induced state of hypercoding.

Now, many people have a hard time mastering the first two of the shirker's rules, so let me grant you my last piece of advice:

Pretend to help

When you visit your home town, and invite yourself over to your sister's house, and she spends the better part of three hours fighting her five children in order to cook food for you: arrive late, of course, and when you do arrive, spend your time in a constant round of washing your hands, opening and shutting cupboards, moving Seth's drawings from one end of the counter to the other, washing your hands, offering to chop the tomatoes, and then making it clear you are incapable of chopping tomatoes, and thereby force her to chop them while you wash your hands, etc.3

This will, of course, cement in your sister's mind the fact that you lack even the most elementary of motor skills, which, to be honest, is not that far from the truth, but it will also absolve you of all helping responsibilities forever and ever.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm coming into town in November, and would, of course, love to get a delicious meal, Bekah. Have pity on your motor-skill-and-wife-less younger brother.

1. That is, the cooking type of labor, not the labor that produces a child you incessantly beg them to name after you.
2. As this is purely hypothetical, let us attempt to imagine a reality in which I am married, and not a bitter old man.
3. I want to be clear that the preponderance of washing one's hands is not, in this case, evidence of any psychological disorders. Constantly checking the door at night to make sure it is locked might be, but not repeatedly washing one's hands. I swear.


Unknown said...

Wait a minute... I distinctly recall you helping that same pregnant lady (pre-pregnancy of course) and her husband move out of their apartment and into their house. I'm pretty sure it took half of a precious Saturday, and I didn't see you even try to get out of it. You DO like helping people, Christoffer. Admit it!

chris said...

ssshhhhhh adeline, sshhhhhh!

Unknown said...

What's wrong with repeatedly checking that the door is locked? It's far better than being woken at 3 AM by some weirdo pounding on the door, only to find that said door is unlocked.

bek said...

Could you babysit while you are in town? I thought if I asked you early enough....