“The car will start. There is no curse!”

So I’m driving to work yesterday morning, eyes glued to the clock because I think there’s an outside chance I might make in on time (I’m concerningly late in the mornings all the time, in every job I’ve ever had, and school, but that deserves a whole blog post all its own so we’ll talk about it another time) when that universally hated peak hour traffic jam presented itself and I slowed down to almost a complete stop.

Then it dawned on me: I was in the center lane.

Now I’ve taken this route to work for many years, despite moving twice in the last two years I still lived in the same general area, and logically this had always been the faster/less traffic jammed lane to stay in. Even in a traffic jam, this lane moves faster than either of its left or right compadres. So instinctively I made sure my car was in it to lessen of the possibility of experiencing the, admittedly well deserved, wrath of my boss arising from my morning chronological disability.

Except there was one minor problem: my car has developed a tendency to stall when in the lower gears/almost stopped. (I feel at this point it’s wise point out that it’s an automatic.)

As the car struggled to move forward from a complete stop my mind started racing in case it stalled. The car is duel fuel LPG/Petrol. It GENERALLY only stalled on LPG, so the logical thing to do would be to switch it to Petrol and then I wouldn’t suddenly turn this traffic jam in the worst traffic jam in history.

There were two problems with this theory:

1) The petrol gauge was already on empty.

2) When the bastard had stalled on Friday night, it had taken a good ten minutes to get it started again.

Which, yes, wouldn’t be an ideal situation in any lane, but at least in the left most lane I had a nice little breakdown lane I could’ve somehow moved the car into. If it stalled in the center lane, things would go bad very fast, unlike the traffic which would very be still for a fairly long period of time.

“Don’t stall, don’t stall, please don’t stall,” I begged my 92 Ford Falcon EB, pretending it had some sort of sentience and thus could be reasoned with.

IF my car did have some sort of free thought, it would have responded with:

“Screw you, pal.”

And thus proceeded to stall immediately. In the middle lane. In a peak hour traffic jam.

I didn’t have time to panic. I did have time to deliver a few appropriate swear words to my car as my hands flew to the LPG/Petrol switch, whilst also flinging the car into Neutral.

There have actually been a number of times in my life when I’ve been extremely grateful to hear an engine scream to life. My friends can attest to this. They’ve seen the Facebook stasuses that say “The car will start, there is no curse!”

My friend Ben has even been in the car when it stalled and wouldn’t start at an intersection (unfortunately, a far too common occurrence). Thankfully then it was 1am in the morning and no one else was around.

This was not the case right now. Right now it had to start. The boss’s wrath was now the last thing on my mind, the wrath of every commuter within a 1km radius however was. On the upside, if a lynch mob formed it would surely be more than enough people to push my car off the road first. Except, you know, for the lane full of cars between it and the side of the road.

With a desperate battle cry of “The car will start, there is no curse!” I turned the engine over for a third time, the car sprang to life, I yelled a cowboy’s “Yeee haw!” and the car rocketed forward through the space of three empty car lengths that had formed in front of me.

Thus began the most adrenaline pumping, but paradoxically slow, commute to work in recent memory. I danced a precarious balance between switching the car to Petrol when it looked like we weren’t moving, switching to LPG when moving was happening for the foreseeable future, and then switching to Petrol when yet another traffic jam presented itself.

Thankfully by the time I hit the second jam I was on a different road and, far more importantly, was in a lane that had a convenient cyclist lane I could move my piece of crap car into if it decided to shit itself again, so my stress level was remarkably lessened.

Until I got to work and my eyes fell on the clock on the dashboard.

Shit.

While the ‘wrath’ is probably better described ‘extreme frustration at a repeated problem’ it didn’t fall on me that day. Though it rightfully should’ve. Again. But that is a story for another blog post.

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The Beginning

I used to be a confident guy.

Yes – that’s a pretty emo way to start a blog. Don’t worry, this isn’t an emo post. And I’m fully aware I have more confidence than others even in my current life. I mean, I wrote about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’ve ever had a crush on, and have done weddings (I’m a marriage celebrant – officiant for the international folk reading this) where I’ve stood in front of 180 people knowing full well that if I messed up everyone would remember it for the rest of their lives and not broken a sweat. I’d have to have a certain level of confidence to achieve that.

If I hadn’t, the weddings where I dressed as Darth Vader and the one where I dressed as Elvis NEVER would’ve happened.

But once upon a time, I was a totally different kind of confident.

To tell this story correctly we’re going to jump back a long time. Back to when I was 18, when I graduated school my parents finally called it quits on their marriage. I’ll talk about this another time, it’s a LONG and mostly unoriginal story. The end of it being though that they split up, sold the house, and left town.

I crashed at my brother’s place for a couple of months before moving into a share house.

Luckily, I had a job so the entire thing while being epically changing, was not as quite as overwhelming as it could’ve been.

The job was Registration Clerk at a law firm, which is really fancy title for gopher. (as in ‘go for this’ and ‘go for that’) In other words: in a lot of respects I was a glorified delivery boy. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the office, as I was out on rounds at various other government departments and the different courts delivering and lodging documents.

Boring, I know, and that was a thing. For a long time, possibly even six or seven months, I lived a pretty solitary life. I’d occasionally see friends twice a week but I’d pass on hanging out on weeknights because of work.

And in my job I was never in one place long enough to get to know other people. I was lonely. And one day (walking along the intersection of Alinga St and Moore St for the locals) I came to a decision:
This had to change.

I couldn’t just make friends with people at the office, I mean I was trying but I was shy and like I said, I was never there. So I decided to make friends with EVERYONE. Everywhere I went. I went to the same places on my rounds a lot. And the only way I was going to survive was to make friends with the people wherever I was.

So I did.

It seemed simple in retrospect, but I remember awkwardly trying at first. As I walked into the bank branch I visited 8 or 9 times a day (we did all of their property settlements), moments after having this thought, I walked up to the bank teller. Her name was Katie. She was one of the tellers who served me everyday.

“Hey, there’s a whole bunch of people gathered outside from upstairs. Like the entire building. Any idea what it’s about?”
Katie smiled at the interaction.
“They’ve all got their sandwich punch cards for that sandwich place. Gotta get that free one,” she joked.

And that was it. Katie (who’s last name I’ll leave out but I honestly don’t think I ever knew until I just looked her up on facebook just now) would never know the positive impact she had on my life in that brief moment. Katie’s pleasant reaction to my first attempt at a friendly human interaction helped make me the person I am today.

Seeing how easy it was with Katie I did this everywhere, sometimes you’d get one or two words responses but if you went there enough times eventually I struck a chord with them and got to know them better.

The bank, The Land Titles Office, Births Deaths and Marriages, Supreme Court, Magistrates Court, Settlements, The Revenue Office, any other of multitude banks I went to I talked, I made friends. And I’m not talking about making friends for the sake of popularity so they’ll like me, I’m talking genuine friendships.

And with this ability the ‘confidence’ that I referenced at the beginning of this post formed. Because it wasn’t JUST people I saw every day at work. Everywhere I went I was able to strike up a conversation. That guy at the checkout at the supermarket, that girl serving me at McDonald’s, that bartender serving drinks at the local sports club we frequented.

It was so instinctual and so natural that I didn’t even realise I was doing it. It wasn’t until I was grabbing Frozen Custard from Goodberries with my housemate Craig that he noted I was flirting with the girl that took our orders.

But I wasn’t. I’d just been having a conversation. It was what I did whenever anyone served me.

For years, Craig referenced this at being surprised how confident I was with complete strangers.

It would seem, however, if I thought about it too much I totally crashed and burned.

At the time yes, I had a crush on a girl I worked with who was 9 years older than me, once again I’m not going to go into it here. You can find all about it in my book, I write a much more humorous retelling of it there, but the sad fact is at that stage I hadn’t even kissed a girl. (Yes, 18, schmeh, it happens)

So after Craig noted my apparent flirting with the Goodberries chick, I thought to myself “I can do this, I do this all the time, this is natural, this is normal.”

Every morning I had to open the mail with the girl in question, so that morning I walked in… okay ran in, late, I’ve always been late in the mornings, looked straight at her.

And caved.

And this would continue. Not just with Abigail (not her real name, but hey, it’s the name I used in the book so let’s stick with it), but with any girl I wanted to be more than friends with, I choked, the confident and cool Liam took a two hour trip Fiji and the lonely socially awkward high schooler returned. Barely able to form a decent conversation.

I even remember venting to my friend Sare one time that it was sooo easy to talk to anyone else, but the moment I opened up to Abigail (or Lana, or Emily, or any girl that I was remotely interested in) I choked.

If I wasn’t interested in them though, or at the very least they had a boyfriend so a chance of anything ever happening was there was non existent, I was golden and could talk to them like they were an old friend even I’d just met them.

It didn’t dawn on me just how many friends I had until I accidentally sent a glass bottle through my hand. No special story, I had a habit of keeping fit by going for a run to the shops every night to get a Red Eye (highly caffeinated drink) for the next morning. I was crossing a neighbours driveway when I slipped on some gravel and landed on the bottle, cutting up my hand real good.

I had surgery on it and was off work for two weeks.

When I came back the lady who ran the temp agency, who’d hired my temp replacement while I’d been away, called me. Apparently everywhere the replacement Gopher had gone, everyone had asked about me. So much so, that she’d mentioned to her boss, and the boss wanted to pass it along to me.

I remembered thinking back to that day I’d made the decision to make friends and smiled. I’d done it. It was awesome.

And then I got a new job and it briefly all went to hell only to come back in a much different form later on.

The new job was an office job, which yes, the last one was too, but this one was different, this data entry, at a desk. And early days I had to get to know my co-workers, which I saw all the time, and for some reason seeing them continuously for 8 hours briefly made me act like I did when I was trying to strike up a conversation with a girl I wanted to date.

Slowly though, instincts rose up and I started the casual conversations again. Eventually this lead to me forming good relationships with the people I worked with, who I keep in contact with even to this day.

I’m not sure when though, but at some point or another I got complacent. I avoided asking for help at shops to save having to make awkward conversation with one. I became awkward with strangers. Striking up conversation seemed effort when it had once seemed so easy.

The remnants are clearly still there. I have no problem taking phone calls at work because I can strike up a conversation with the person on the other end. (I worked on a help desk for a couple of years after the law firm). I wrote a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl I had a crush on. I became a marriage celebrant. Like I said before, these are not things you can do without confidence. If you show up to a wedding mumbling and unable to speak you won’t survive. Then again, you wouldn’t have got the wedding in the first place because the couple would’ve gone in another direction.

I’m wistful though (can you tell?) about the me that made the decision that day to make friends with everyone. When I thought about it earlier this evening I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to start being that guy again. I had simple go-to lines to use on customer service people.
“Are we having an exciting and thrilling day?” I’d ask with a smile on my face. It was normally enough to warrant some kind of reaction. Enough to break the ice.
If they were having a shit day they’d find it amusing, if they were having a good one it’d bring a smile to their face.
And sometimes, rarely actually, they just wouldn’t respond or care. Those times you moved on, not much you could do.

So since this unexpectedly long first blog post is about beginnings I figure I might have as well start now:
I can be that confident guy again. It wasn’t hard. (That’s what she said.)

I can also be me that I am now, So I aiming for the best of both worlds. The one who can strike up a conversation with anyone, including ones he wishes to date, and one who can confidently stand up in front of a wedding full of people dressed as Elvis and, in the worst Elvis impersonation voice known to man, declare the happy couple man and wife.

I foresee the those two of us combining together to become Uber Liam.

Wait, he sounds fat.

Ultra Liam?

Sounds lame.

Awesomer Liam.

Yep.

Nailed it. 🙂