A cow in Willesden

Public psychotherapy for a veteran auditor


So my holiday was fandabidozee. Spent lots of time with close family and did lots of relaxing, playing cards, reading local papers, kicking or hitting a ball around in the fields, and getting my R’s kicked in Fifa ’11 (but not in Pro Evo soccer for a change).

Other highlights : watched Ireland humiliate the shameful Wallabies, saw Dublin show passion and determination to beat the far superior Kerry, and Spurs crush inferior teams from Merseyside and wherever that monstrosity of a stadium is that replaced Highbury (certainly ain’t in Arsenal no more).

Caught up with a few friends and relatives as well, but nowhere near enough, which reminded me of the request to elaborate on my position regarding friendships.

The ones I did catch up with reminded me that you don’t need to be in constant touch with someone to remain good friends. All you need is a robust framework for telling the difference.

So here is my system.

I have 2 categories into which people fit. The first is self-explanatory, although I will need to tone down the language. Lets call it “Tossers.”

As you’d expect, this is the category I use when I find that a person is not to my liking. Stupid people go in here. People who talk too much fit here. Cowards belong here. People with irritating habits and obnoxious opinions go into this category. People who don’t enjoy Mexican food also drift into this category sooner or later, although the high correlation doesn’t indicate a direct causality.

Examples of people in this category : My secondary school English teacher and headmaster (One was called Duffy, the other Bean-head); the former Department of Education administrator who refused to release my scholarship money because he misinterpreted the criteria; the former Lord Chief Justice who didn’t laugh when I asked him if he also used his ceremonial robes as a Santa costume over the Christmas holidays (seriously, he looked exactly like a shopping centre Santa); the lady who worked in McDonalds at Port Authority bus station in 1996 who couldn’t understand my accent and insisted on giving me a number 2 meal instead of a number 3 meal, even when I held up 3 fingers to show her; most of my work colleagues from professional audit practice; about half of my audit clients, unevenly spread throughout my career; every Arsenal manager since the late 80’s; the cast and crew of the TV series Frasier; and the concierge of the Gare du nord hotel in Paris. To be honest, there are thousands of people in this category, I could go on for pages.

Then there is the second category. This is the default place where everyone starts out and remains unless and until they make the transition into category 1. I call this category “Undecided.”

Again, fairly self-explanatory. People who fit in here are : people I don’t know or don’t know well enough to form an opinion of; my immediate family; my close friends; my casual friends; Jesus and his close friend from school Brother Harrison (my school, not his); some work colleagues who are effective and professional and who don’t fit the criteria for category 1; and … that’s about it.

So a fairly simple system, I find it more than sufficient for all practical purposes, and quite easy to use. Transitions are in one direction only (the ‘undecided’ tag makes this explicit), which minimises the effort of maintaining up-to-date assessments, and I find it no trouble to remember the relatively small intersection between the set of people whom I know well and the set of people who are Undecideds. In fact its a small proportion, I imagine somewhere close to a quarter with a definite trend downwards the better I get to know people. I think that if I made an effort to properly get to know everyone I deal with frequently, it would approach a limit of around 10%. But its flexibility is part of the magic, the ability to respond to new information.

In light of this I’ve often considered changing the default placing to category 1 rather than 2, as this would give a more accurate initial assessment in most cases. The advantage would seem to be outweighed, however, by opening up the possibility of 2-way transitions.

There you have it : a flexible and reliable system to maintain your integrity when classifying the people around you.

I’m back from holiday now so hopefully a little more time to devote to writing (admittedly not evident in this post). Welcome to my 2 new subscribers this month, hope you find something to amuse you in the next few posts. Sof, you’re still firmly an Undecided in my book.

Its good to be back.


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