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Rear View Mirror: You got a friend in me

As Valentine's Day looms, our cab driver Tony Schumacher asks 'who do you love?'

Published on February 14th 2011.

Rear View Mirror: You got a friend in me

A FRIEND asked me this week: “How many friends do you have?”

Well, I say “a friend”. I’ve never met her or heard her voice. For that matter, I don’t even know what she looks like. And when I say she asked me, what I actually mean is she tweeted me and the 300 other people she “knows” on Twitter.

I love him, although I’d never tell him, because he is a fat idiot who gets on my nerves. And besides, just to confuse matters further, he isn’t a friend he’s a mate

We’ve had a few decent conversations in the past; obviously they have been limited to 140 characters or fewer – but I think it’s fair to say she is a friend, even though we’ll never meet or actually converse face to face.

For all I know she is a bloke in Wigan.

The whole friendship thing popped into my head again today when I was walking the dog, coming towards us was a lady I say hello to pretty much every day of the week. She takes her Jack Russell out at about the same time as I take the flea bag I live with, and our paths (and leads) cross. We normally stop for a moment, to allow for the sniffing of bums (the dogs', that is) and to discuss the weather, while ignoring the canine snorting ceremony in a terribly English way. Fifteen seconds later we move on with a “Cheerio” and a “Ta-ra” (she’s posher than me).

Today as we chatted about drizzle, her mobile rung and she answered with, “I’m just chatting to a friend, I’ll call you back.”

I almost looked over my shoulder to see who she meant, then I realised she was talking about me. We concluded our discourse. “Better get on, I’ve got dancing tonight,” she said and then waltzed off.

I pondered my new found “friendship” and the value of what we call a friend”.

I thought about my best friend, he lives in London; we met on the first day of infant school in 1972 and we pretty much sat next each other in school right up to leaving in 1983 (except for one year that he won’t let me forget, when I was stuck in the thick class because the teachers couldn’t read my handwriting).

We travelled the world together, working on cruise ships; Greyhound bussed it around the US twice and once lived on a hotel roof at Miami airport for six days because we had no money. We normally chat a couple of times a day about nothing.

He winds me up and I wind him up, when we meet we’ve been compared to a pair of old ladies bickering.

I love him, although I’d never tell him, because he is a fat idiot who gets on my nerves, and besides, just to confuse matters further, he isn’t a friend he’s a mate.

Now a mate is a sub-division of friend. In many parts of the UK it would be considered to be lower down the pecking order than friend. But in Liverpool a “mate” is better than a “friend”; you would never hear a drunk with his arm around another bloke saying: “You’re my best friend you are, I love you I do.”

For that sort of sentimentality only “mate” will suffice.

A mate will tell you things a mere friend will never do: “He/she was never good enough for you.”

“You’ve got bog roll stuck to your foot.”

“There is a lump of food on the edge of your mouth.”

Think about it, if it wasn’t for our mates we’d all be walking around looking a shambles while the rest of the world told you otherwise.

A couple of months ago, two girls got in the cab as my hectic Saturday night shift was coming to an end. My heart sank as the bleached blonde beached on the back seat and started to sob in a way only a forlorn drunk can do.

“Waaaaa haaaa haaa ha! Waaaaaaaaa ha ha ha,” she replied when I asked where we were heading.

“Maghull, mate,” replied her mate as she smoothed her friend’s fringe from her sodden face.

“Waaaaaa haaaa haa ha,” said chuckles as I turned up the radio.

“Is she okay, love?”

“She’s just caught her dickhead fella kissing the face off someone.”

“Waaaaaaa haaaaaa haaaaaa,” said her mate in agreement, head bobbing like an Iron Maiden fan during an encore.

“He’s not worth it, love,” I said over my shoulder. “There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”

I was now aware that I was starting to sound like I was reading from a book of “Cabbie’s Consoling Clichés” so I decided to shut up and leave them to it.

“Come here,” said her mate and pulled blondie close, putting her arm around her and wiping her cheeks with a tissue. The gut-wrenching cries of anguish abated to softer, intermittent sobs and she rested her head in her mate's lap and I breathed a sigh of relief I wasn’t going to have to listen to her all the way to Switch Island.

I lost myself in late night radio as we ambled on our way; it was only after a few miles I realised I could hear the sound of chuckling coming from over my shoulder. I watched the mirror as Blondie’s mate whispered in her ear and smiled. She giggled through the tears and nodded her head.

After a moment she turned and said: “I love you. Thank you for making me smile,” and they hugged and then sat in silence, sharing a the sort of love and respect that is a world away from a Valentine's card or an overpriced rose from a Chinese lady in a pub.

The sort of affection that comes only with long-term trust, not test-tube nurtured in the marketing department of a greeting card firm.

I might phone that fat idiot in London in a minute. Maybe you should phone yours too.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BendyGirlFebruary 10th 2011.

Oi mate, you most definitely owe me a box of tissues!

TillyMintFebruary 10th 2011.

Love this,,,,amazing friends, true, real friends are very rare. When you find one, never let them go!

The Big SisFebruary 10th 2011.

Not many of us are lucky to have a true mate that long, wish I was as lucky!

billynomatesFebruary 11th 2011.

Oh god is it too late to find a friend? where would I start????

DigFebruary 11th 2011.

I love you Tony!

Idiot in LondonFebruary 20th 2011.

I always thought you were in the divvy class because you are a divvy.

deanfriedmanJuly 20th 2011.

I'm still crying here. Well wouldn't you be if you thought you were his best friend !

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