Just like a superhero team or jewel thief gang needs each member to specialize in a different skill set, a good circle of friends also needs a wide range of useful skills. While a superhero team might need a guy who is superstrong and a guy who has a lot of gadgets, your friend team might consist of a guy who can get you discounts at the Best Buy and a guy who's totally cool with feeding your cats when you're out.
When I suggest assembling such a team, I'm not suggesting you go around preying on emotionally vulnerable people who can do useful things for you and pretend to be their friend. I'm just saying that if you happen to run into some cool people you enjoy hanging out with, who also own a pickup truck, don't take them for granted.
Sure, you can have friends that are just fun people, or that you are fond of for no logical reason, but that doesn't mean you don't also want to have friends such as:
The Friend With a Pickup Truck
Everyone has to move sometime, and even if you don't, you probably are going to go on Craigslist and buy a TV or a couch or a caged bear sometime, and have to pick it up. Sooner or later, you are going to reach the limit of what you can carry in the trunk with the backseats folded down.
This is way past it.
That's where the friend with the pickup truck comes in. You can take that IKEA box or bear cage that you've been unsuccessfully trying to stuff in your Civic for the past hour and just toss it in their truckbed.
This is a friendship you really have to be careful with, though. Pickup truck owners in circles of friends who mostly don't have pickup trucks usually tend to feel a little used, especially if they have trouble saying no. If you spot a look of terror in their eyes when you ask, "Hey, you have a pickup truck, don't you?" you might want to step lightly.
You can bake them some cookies or take them out to dinner, but you probably want to make sure you can pay them back with something that's equally hard on you and helpful for them, like helping them hide a prostitute they killed, or maybe just something else on this list.
If you're in high school, this can probably be expanded to just "the friend with a car."
The Friend Who "Knows About Computers"
This is the Internet, so I'm sure a lot of you are into computers yourselves, but there's also a lot of people like me who get bored to tears reading about technical details of graphics cards, processors, audio equipment and the like. It's not that we're necessarily too dumb to understand the principles, but I personally can't stay awake while comparing benchmark tests on Tom's Hardware or reading a debate on the best way to overclock something.
The coffee, it does nothing.
I do need to occasionally buy a computer or computer parts, in order to play a fun game or do some 3D graphics work, which, while also technical, apparently requires a totally different kind of brain than the kind that is fascinated by hardware specs.
"But you can get all that information on the Internet now," you might say. "Unless you are some kind of slow grandma type who doesn't know what Google is." But it's not exactly right at your fingertips. Outside of the occasional CNET or PC Magazinecomparison article (which is so occasional that the category you're looking for is usually a year or so out of date), there's nowhere you can go to find out quickly what's the "best" printer or monitor.
Is it the biggest one?
Tom's Hardware might have tests on three of the things you're looking at, while CNET has a brief comparison of five things from last year, only two of which are still on the market, while you have to piece together how good the other ones are based on a hodgepodge of single reviews from random other sites and some shitty, unreliable user reviews.
This is why I had Pat. Pat was a friend of mine who would read this stuff all the time and loved it. I could have made fun of him for enjoying something I thought was boring, or I could tell him I needed a new graphics card that could play World of Warcraft but didn't need to play Crysis (this was a while ago) and 10 minutes later he would send me a link of exactly the right thing to get, and I would learn to celebrate the differences that make us human. Making fun of people for liking different things can be a great time, but it does close a lot of doors.
Weirdo? Or someone who can teach you a valuable lesson in how to tell the difference between a woman and a "woman"?
Aside from purchases, obviously your computer-knowing friend can help you fix your computer if it's broken. Sure, you could take it to the Geek Squad, but you have to pay them money, and who knows what they're doing to your computer in the back room when you're gone.
I'm just saying, you don't know.
Just because you don't have to pay your friend, though, doesn't mean you don't have to show some gratitude. Computer-fixing friends can feel just as put-upon as pickup truck friends. If they don't need a murder covered up, maybe you could find something else they'd like. For Pat, I spent years helping him achieve a goal that was strangely important to him -- trying to understand "Yours til Niagara Falls" jokes -- because sometimes when you are really good at computers, you can be a bit behind on other things.
Don't shut this out if you're a computer expert yourself. There's bound to be some area of expertise you don't have a handle on -- maybe home improvement or cars or understanding a very narrow genre of corny jokes. I'm sure someone would be willing to arrange a trade.
The Friend Who Can Watch Your Kids or Pets
If you have kids, or pets, you might someday want to go to one of the thousands of places pets aren't allowed, or one of the millions of places it's inconvenient to bring kids. Since leaving them alone means you'll probably return to a destroyed house where everyone's been electrocuted by chewed wiring, somebody needs to watch the little monsters.
Or maybe they'll invite all their friends over for a cocaine party or whatever the kids are doing these days.
Just like fictional detectives, you often have trouble finding someone with both motive and opportunity. It's not that hard to find someone to come by and feed your cats -- but caring for a dog starts to become a serious chore, and taking care of kids is a full-time thing. Even if someone is willing, they've got to have enough experience to handle emergencies, and the kid or animal has to like them enough not to shit on their carpet or bite them. There is only one other person that's able to enter my house without my black cat spazzing out and running for cover as if the house is being raided by Nazis.
If you're lucky, parents or relatives can step in, if they live near you, and if they're not terrible people you're afraid to leave your kids with. This is the opportunity problem, where the people most willing to do it live far away from you or work full-time (or possibly are in jail).
"So, uh, do you think you'd be able to watch my dog for a week?"
If you somehow find a friend who isn't working, knows how to take care of kids/pets and is willing to give several days of their life to watching over your kids/pets, do not lose this friend. If they have an annoying laugh or say "irregardless" all the time, just let it go. You should even go watch The Notebook or Epic Movie with them if they ask you.
Otherwise you will never go on vacation again.
The Friend "In The Industry"
If you want a job in the movie business, you probably know that you've got to know somebody. This somebody will direct you to people you can show your script to, or boobs to, to get a job. What a lot of people don't realize is that it's the same way even if you're in an ordinary, nonglamorous industry, like insurance or accounting.
These days, you need connections to get a job mopping floors.
There's a commonly accepted myth that you get "regular jobs" by finding ads on Monster.com or on the company's website and sending in your resume, and then going through the whole interview and urine test circus. The truth is that something like 80 percent of jobs aren't advertised. Some are internal hires, but a lot are filled through referrals and networking, where someone turns in a resume for a friend, or a friend's nephew's tennis partner or something.
I've been in on a number of hiring decisions, and the part about how qualified you are goes pretty quick -- they just look at your experience and education and portfolio, if applicable, and take a reasonable gamble. What they're digging for in interviews and references is usually some kind of assurance that you're not crazy and you won't be a drama queen. If someone within the company can vouch for you, this really puts you ahead because a testimonial from a trusted co-worker that you aren't crazy is a lot stronger guarantee for the hiring manager than trying to read between the lines of your resume or throwing bizarre lateral thinking questions at you in an interview.
Maybe one of those things where there's two doors guarded by a brother who always tells the truth and a brother who always lies.
You don't just need an insider for the connections, either. From the outside, it's easy to be really misled about what kind of jobs in an industry are easy to get, which jobs you'd actually want and what jobs even exist. A lot of people going into CG claim to want to be an "animator" -- which is entirely the wrong title for a lot of the work they want to do -- and are picturing a creative, goofy environment with people riding scooters and shooting Nerf guns at each other all the time, when most of the entry-level jobs are going to be in what are basically first-world sweatshops.
Where you only get two massages a week. No, I'm kidding, they're actually sort of horrible.
Here is a story for you if you doubt the power of connections: I went to animation school with an asshole who gradually went insane over the course of the program. His animation was appalling, and when any teachers or students called him on it, he had a hissy fit and complained they were trying to sabotage him. However, he had a brother-in-law who was a lead animator at EA, and used him to get a plum animator job straight out of school. His brother-in-law probably regretted it, and apparently the EA folks had to spend some time beating some sense into the new guy, but he's still there. Next time you see some shitty animation in an EA game, remind yourself to try to make some friends in your dream industry.