The Amity Index
28 August 2003
As a result of a conversation with x in a North London pub, I have a fifth-part share in a friendship with Cory Doctorow. Cory Doctorow was at the time of writing not aware that a man who was formerly 70% of a friend of his has subsequently been reduced to being 50% of a friend of his, nor that he had just gained 20% of a new friend. After all, if he had been present when the transaction was being completed, then perhaps he and I would have hit it off naturally, and I might have found myself suddenly and without money, goods or services changing hands the possessor of perhaps 5% of a friendship with Cory Doctorow.
Although this may not seem much, personal friendship investments always have a higher potential for short-term cultivation. That 5% could, with some judicious emails, have been built fairly quickly up to a good third of a friendship with Cory Doctorow; a basic interest in how I am getting on, a vague sense that I am the sort of person he would like to know better if he had the time - all the trappings. Of course, the certificate value of the friendship might not quite reflect that, but these issues are usually dealt with by market adjustments.
"The thing about Cory," said x, quite rightly, "is that he is one of those people who is friends with everyone, and everyone is friends with him. Or at least, thinks they are. Look under the hood a little, and a lot of the measurements they make are based on emotion, self-importance or just plain misreading of a very friendly guy. He would ask after them from a mutual friend, sure, but would he drive across state lines to deliver their wife's baby when the snows had brought down telegraph lines? Quite simply, and with the best credit in the world, no."
Of course, this was a bit of a canard itself. He was talking up his own stock by talking down the others'. In fact, my broker had already notified me that he had good stock, but B-grade; Cory Doctorow would certainly pay attention to his thoughts, and even seek out his advice in certain areas, but he ultimately had very little power to change a resolution already arrived at. A comfy chair at the Cory Doctorow AGM doesn't mean all that much, in the final analysis. Not when serious issues are on the line.
So, 20% of a B-grade friendship, paid for with 10% of Ross Kemp (will listen to phone messages, but may well not get round to returning them, although will be genuinely happy to hear from you if you call when he's in and has nothing much to do) and a cash adjustment. Since the book, trading in Doctorow acquaintance has been frantic, and Kemp was a calculated risk; I had to throw in the reasonable expectation of a Christmas card before the scales were level. Then a celebratory drink, and across the Atlantic Doctorow was already quietly and suddenly pondering how long it had been since he had heard from both of us. These transactions help to keep stock vital.
From there, of course, it becomes a question of calculation. As a high-tech stock, the value of a friendship with Cory Doctorow can fluctuate wildly. The plan as it stands is to ride that for a while, and then move into minor celebrities. Less than one percent of somebody with even a whiff of the modern can secure anything from daily phone calls and backrubs to uninhibited albeit profoundly needy sex with most of the early 80s. Not that there's much of a resale value on that one.
I will miss knowing that Ross Kemp would love to meet up if things weren't so hectic, but it was still a sweet deal. Of course, the fact that I had bought just enough of x's trust the week before on the Tokyo exchange to engender a sense of mutual respect and a conviction that I was interested in a long and fair trading relationship didn't hurt a bit. Then I skinned him alive.
It's important to know who your friends are. Now more than ever.