Emotional Bank

My friend, [Mao], is in town. When I came back from Korea, I made two
stopovers, one in Vancouver and one in Calgary. Calgary was to spend a week
with [Mao] (and to play Metal Gear Solid 4, since I don’t own a PS3 of my
own). We went to college together, and he’s one of those people who I spent
arguably more time gaming, watching anime and eating in restaurants than I
should’ve, considering my grades. Mind you, he’s not someone I had a lot of
time to spend with, mostly because he was someone who also smoked a lot and
I didn’t mingle with that crowd, but when we did spend time together we got
along as if we always had. We had, and still have, a lot in common.

He moved to Calgary a bit before I moved to Asia because his girlfriend
lives there. They’d met in Montreal while she was studying here, and when
her time was up, he decided that she was worth it enough to just pack up and
go. He takes a lot of flak among our circle of friends because of the fact
that he basically abandoned us all, along with his family, to go and work
out there in the middle of Calgary and be with her. I must admit—I am one
of those people was among the critics. Especially since, although I say
Calgary, it’s not even Calgary proper—it’s one of those Timbuktu suburbs of
it, where there’s pretty much nothing. It was a pretty miserable
existencewhen he started out.
Promised a managerial position, he went out there to work for EB Games, but
that fell through. He found another job at another computer place, but on
the bright side, he clawed his way up that ladder. Now things are more or
less working out for him, and eventually, he and his girlfriend plan to move
back here to Montreal. (They both hate Calgary.)


Having dinner with him was kinda fun like it always was. Shooting the shit
at Beijing over some food, I gained 4 pounds tonight. I’ll probably burn it
off over the next couple of days, since I really gorged myself tonight. Ah,
but the good old days. Mao is one of those people who, like [Zanshin],
appreciated how some cheap Chinese food makes for a good background to some
chitchat. I miss going out to lunches where we’d just order the four-person
combos and eat between the two of us over a stretch of several hours. But
alas, Mao is a Calgary person, and Zanshin is now a Suwon (SK) person.

There’s something about just hanging out in a Chinese restaurant after the
rush hours, when all the waiters know who you stop to chit chat. It’s that
sorta event that really makes you enjoy that ghetto community feel, back
from when the word ‘ghetto’ could still be used to refer to something

At the next table was a group of badminton players I recognized from my days
at the YMCA and at RsM. It was nice to see that some things stay the same.

After eating, we did the tradionally duel for the bill.

On our way out, the waiters said their goodbyes and asked Mao if he’d be in
town for long, and wished he would come back sooner than later.


One of the things that Mao and I like to do is talk about our friends behind
their backs. It’s inevitable. It’s something that he and I do best because
I think that, out of all my friends, he and I shared the most similar

It’s also a phenomenon because he’s been in Calgary so long that basically,
all of his friendships have been on pause. They all resume now where they
left off, much in the same way that I tried to resume mine when I came back
from Asia. For him, the change is even more drastic though; he left before
I went to Asia, and he’s now visiting much after I came back from Asia.
Frankly, a lot of the friends he had that used to be friends with eachother
have drifted apart or downright don’t get along anymore.

He’s organizing a dinner on Friday, since he’ll be heading back out west on
Saturday, and he didn’t realize how many tensions existed between people.
He mentioned that he was actually a bit concerned about this; as much as the
Friday dinner he organized was with the best of intentions, after talking
with people individually he’s coming to see just how much some relationships
have deteriorated in the years of his absence.


I’ve talked about this before, but it never grow old as a subject.
Friendship, that is. The relationships we have with people.

They fall in all sorts of different categories, even if we use the word
friend so easily.

[SiB] once introduced me to this convenient idea of the “Emotional Bank,” in
which basically everyone you know has an account balance with you.
Everytime they do something nice with you, it’s like they make a deposit on
that account. Everytime they screw you over or let you down, they make a

I say it’s convenient because it’s a good metaphor, I think, for the way
that I handle how well I treat people. If your account is in good standing,
then I treat you way better than if you were in debt.

Some things that count as deposits:

– Inviting me to do something
– Keeping in touch (phone calls, emails, text messages, whatever)
– Accepting invitations to do things
– Keeping promises
– Doing me favors

Some things that count as withdrawals:

– Saying you’ll do something and not doing it (especially calling me
back! God that’s annoying)
– Not communicating (especially about things that you dropped the ball
– Asking for favors
– Causing me embarrassment
– Not paying me back money

You get the idea. Of course, no relationship is really without it’s
withdrawals—I mean, a friendship is all about give and take, right? I’ll do
you favors, and you do me favors; proverbial “I scratch your back, you
scratch mine.” An account balance exists so that you can make the
occasional withdrawal. It’s a mutual thing. And, to be honest, I’m quite
lenient with the exchange rates: I’m really a giver, I think, so when I do
someone a favour, I might only charge them 1$. Everytime you do me a favour
of the exact same order, I’ll give you 2 or 3$ back!

And some things? Make me laugh and you’ll get 50 cents per laugh. If I
make you laugh? It’s free!

Regardless of a favourable exchange (which I think, indicates that I’m a
pretty easy going guy) I’m sure you can imagine from your own similar
experiences that some people somehow manage to maintain their accounts in
debt. It ranges from a zero sum balance, which means that I treat the
person basically like an acquaintance who I barely know, to people who are
in severe debt. Some people are even completely bankrupt. Bankrupt people,
you just don’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole because the moment
you do, they just take more out of you. In the metaphor of emotional banks,
bankrupt people are those who have really done a number on you, the ones who
make you feel used and abused by. They’re the sorts of people who you’d
simply be better off without.

That’s the thing about this dinner on Friday. A lot of the connections there
are zero sum relations or bankrupt ones. I can’t say I’m thrilled—it’s one
thing to not really be thrilled about going through the effort of meeting
new people (who start at zero sum) if you’re not in the mood for it (or, if
you’re at a point in your life where you kinda just feel ‘full’ enough that
you’re not shopping for new friends)—it’s another thing to meet zero sum
people who are zero sum because, even after all this time, they haven’t
managed to improve their standing with you.