I was recently invited to dinner by a friend whom I will choose to call Mr. X. It was a one of X’s big affairs where you are one his ‘very close’ friends among a crowd of around 250. There was plenty of food, unending grog, boring social gossip and meaningless chatter. In other words, the event had every ingredient of being a social success. I stepped into the over-furnished gargantuan living room and looked around, trying to find a familiar face.
“Hi,” I said, waving out jovially to Mr. Y. I had not seen Y since a year and thought that it might be a good idea to catch up with him. However, his stony response took me by surprise. He smiled uninterestedly at me, shrugged his thin shoulders, waved a skinny hand and then walked away on unsteady scrawny legs. But I had been taught to persevere in life. Never give up, my old man had said. And therefore, I decided not to give up. I elbowed my way through the excited socialites and tapped Y on the shoulder.
“Mate, how have you been?” I asked. “It’s been a while now.”
“I am fine,” Y replied. The distant look in his eyes was unmistakable.
My old man’s words flashed through my mind again. I decided to stick it out.
“We need to catch up one of these days. Over a drink, perhaps?”
Y let out a hoarse laugh and said, “I know when people don’t like me.”
His reply caught me by surprise. I tried to raise my eyebrows. But I couldn’t because my wife had persuaded me try out Botox that morning at a local skin care center. I could hardly feel my eyebrows.
“Are you kidding?” I asked, picking up a glass of whiskey from a passing waiter.
“I never get a ‘LIKE’ from you on any of my Facebook posts,” Y said. He sounded genuinely upset.
“LIKE?” I asked.
Y looked at me disdainfully. “Do you realise that I ‘LIKE’ everything that you post on Facebook? Do you even bother to check?”
I shook my head. “Erm… no. There are too many ‘LIKES’ for me to count.”
Y thrust his face at me. I could smell the fumes of whiskey. He was getting a little affronting.
“Too many ‘LIKES’?” he asked in a rasping voice. “What, may I ask, did you put up on Facebook that had countless ‘LIKES’?”
I decided to get a tad more insulting than he was. “You should know. You just said that you put a ‘LIKE’ on all my posts.”
He smirked and then smiled like a flatulent Cheshire cat. I could feel my blood simmering and then coming to a slow boil. I gulped down my whiskey and then decided to rub it in.
“It was an essay called ‘Likeable Social Etiquette’ I said. “It had 165 LIKES.”
Y smirked again and said, “Who the hell would ‘LIKE’ an essay on likeable social etiquette?”
The leer on Y’s face was killing me.
“Well,” I said. “Those who like ‘likeable’ social etiquette would likely put a ‘LIKE’ on it. Isn’t it?”
Y stared at me and panted like a mare at the end of the Derby. The conversation was obviously getting too confusing for him. I walked away quickly just as he turned around to pick up his sixth scotch of the evening. Mark Zuckerberg is an intelligent man. At that moment of torment, I wished that Zuckerberg had designed an ‘UNLIKE’ button in Facebook. I made a solemn promise to myself. If Zuckerberg ever announced his desire to put a ‘UNLIKE’ button, I will be the first one ‘LIKE’ it.
I staggered over to a leather sofa and sank in. I needed to catch my breath. I also needed another drink. A large scotch, I decided, would definitely fix up my nerves. I waved out to a bored waiter and asked for a double scotch. Then I closed my eyes and let my blood pressure go down to its normal level.
“Woo… hoo! Look who’s here!”
I jumped out of my skin. It was a high pitched female voice; the type that is effectively used in movies like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’. I opened my eyes and then let out a smothered scream. It was a blast from the past. Mrs. Z stood before me and she had passed away last year. I rubbed my eyes and looked up again.
“Hi,” the lady remarked. “It’s been a year since we met.”
I sighed and wiped the sweat from my Botoxed brow. I also managed to put on a withered smile. It was Miss Z, the formidable daughter of the late Mrs. Z and a replica of her mother.
“Yes,” I stammered. “Haven’t seen you since your Mum passed away last year. What have you been up to?”
“A lot, to be honest. Have been travelling a lot.”
“Really? Where have you been?” I tried to sound very interested.
“Oh! You naughty boy!” She smiled benevolently. “You know where I have been.”
My blank stare must have recounted my life’s story to her.
She continued. “I saw your ‘LIKE’ on my photograph from Los Angeles.”
“Yes. That!” I smiled back. I really needed that drink now. Where’s the bloody waiter?
Miss Z sat down next to me. I retreated to the far corner of the sofa gasping a little, as her generous girth squeezed the last breath out of me. At that very moment, the saviour came in the form of the bored waiter who leaned over my crushed frame and thrust a glass of double Scotch into my eager hand. I took a deep breath to summon the last bits of energy and gulped down half of the glass. The world suddenly looked so much brighter.
Miss Z was intent on chirping on.
“But you are not a good friend,” she complained.
“Really? And why not? I did put a ‘LIKE’ on your photograph on Facebook.”
She looked sadly at me and I nearly expected a teardrop to roll down her jowls.
I stared at her for a few seconds and then managed to find my voice. “Did you say 75 photographs?”
“Yes. And you put a ‘LIKE’ only on the first one. I had 92 ‘LIKES’ from other friends.”
My background in theoretical mathematics came very handy.
“Are you saying that 92 Facebook travellers put a ‘LIKE’ on each of your 75 photographs?”
“Yes.” She had a coy smile on her face.
I took two large gulps from my glass and decided to take the diplomatic path.
“Erm… I have been a little busy,” I said.
Wrong move. Wrong statement.
She stood up in a huff and the sofa nearly tilted over with the sudden loss of weight.
“Too busy for your Facebook friends?” She had a tint to her voice that could be best described as a snarl. “And what keeps you that busy, if I might ask? You are retired aren’t you?”
For a few moments, I was at a loss for words.
She bent down as much as her girth would allow and thrust her face into mine. I smelt the whiskey. Deja Vous, I thought. I retreated slightly lest she fell on top of me. I am not a big fan of premature accidental deaths.
“I am still busy in the music industry,” I managed to gasp. “Keeps me occupied.”
“Music industry?” Miss Z recoiled in horror. She pulled herself in an upright position and snorted. Once again, just the sort of things you hear in the stables at the Derby.
“Let me know once you get a proper job.” She rubbed it in.
I nodded weakly and looked around for the waiter again. I needed a larger serve of whiskey. I looked up apologetically and heaved a sigh of relief when I saw Miss Z walking away. However, she took a few steps and then turned around to look at me. She had an intelligent look on her face that took me by surprise. For her to look intelligent after multiple whiskeys, needed exceptional talent.
“You should get off Facebook,” she said in a booming voice.
A veil of silence suddenly descended upon the room. Men froze, women let out stifled screams and waters came to a standstill. There was a simultaneous intake of breath across the room. Thankfully there were no kids around; they would have fainted with the shock. I simply cowered into the corner of the sofa and tried to hide from the curious angry glances directed towards me. The enormous effect of the word ‘Facebook’ dawned upon me. Obviously, it was the new F word; albeit with more usage than the four lettered one. It was too late though. The word had got around the room and I was a marked man.
I looked for the waiter and found him looking down at me. He had a look of sympathy on his face. I smiled up at him as he silently handed over a glass of whiskey to me before I asked for one. Ahh, I thought to myself, the world did have some leftover Samaritans.
“What was that about, my friend?”
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. I looked up and found Mr. M looking down at me. I smiled back at him and sipped on the whiskey.
“I heard something about Facebook posts.” He tried to sound nonchalant.
“Yes,” I slurred. “Nothing to worry about though.”
“You are an unsocial bastard, that’s what you are.” M said and made himself comfortable next to me.
“What do you mean?”
M looked at me and put an arm around my shoulder. I hate it when people do that. He leaned towards me and I smelt the whiskey again. Or did I smell my own fumes this time?
“It’s time you brushed up on your ‘likeble’ social etiquette.”
I looked at him and let out a hiccup. He retorted with one of his own followed by a compassionate burp.
“At least,” he said in a hushed whisper. “You should try and greet people in the morning.”
I decided not to try and raise my eyebrows. That didn’t work last time. I just glared at him.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Of course, I greet people in the morning.”
“No you don’t. At least not to my ‘GOOD MORNING’ posts on Facebook.”
I clicked my teeth together lest my jaw hung open and simply stared at him. For a dreadful moment, I thought I was hearing things. But I was not.
M continued his hushed whispers. “When did you last reply to my ‘GOOD MORNING’ posts?”
I had not replied because I usually get anywhere between 25 to 30 such posts every morning. But I did not say that to him.
The hushed whispers persisted. “You really need to get your social manners in place, my friend. I said ‘GOOD MORNING’ this morning at 6 am. On Facebook.”
The third whiskey had infused a little more than intoxication in me. It had filled me with social courage.
“Well,” I said. “Your ‘GOOD MORNING’ was not mine.”
“I had diarrhoea last night. I had a very BAD MORNING.”
M got up quickly. “You know what? You are fucking disgusting.”
I blinked at him.
“Goodnight,” he said firmly turning his back on me.
By then, the third whiskey had had its complete effect. I stood up on unsteady feet and raised my voice.
“Hey! Why don’t you post your ‘GOODNIGHT’ on Facebook?”
M turned around and walked back to me. For the third time in the evening there was a face pushed close to mine and for the third time someone was blowing whiskey fumes into my face. However this time, I did not recoil. But M did. Possibly because the fumes of whiskey was stronger on my breath. He put an admonishing arm on my chest pushed me roughly. I would have fallen down except for a pair of strong arms that held me up. I looked around and was surprised to see the bored waiter lending his strength to prop me up.
“Sir, you have had too many drinks,” he whispered. “I think you should go home and rest.”
I thought I was hallucinating because I smelled whiskey on the waiter’s breath too. I couldn’t care less my then. He put his arm around my shoulders and slowly ushered me out amidst the tut-tutting guests. As I passed through the mammoth entertainment area, most of them gave me the wide berth and moved away. Moses could not have parted the sea quicker. But then Moses was not an inadequate Facebook member.
Once outside, the waiter quickly asked a friend to get a cab for me and then lowered me onto a chair.
“Thank you,” I slurred.
The waiter had an expectant look in his bored eyes. “Sir, before you leave, I would like a favour from you.”
I had a fixed smile on my face by then. I nodded in order vigorously to enhance the effect of benevolence. I also took out a twenty dollar note.
“You don’t need to tip me, Sir,” he said in an ingratiating voice. “From your conversations tonight, I think that you are a Facebook regular.”
I nodded. I wanted to tell him that I was, in fact, a ‘Facebook irregular’.
He continued. “My name is Emmanel Zavala. Can I please send you a FRIEND REQUEST?”
That was the last thing that I heard that night. Mercifully, I passed out.