Sometimes, even with our best friends, we need to keep our mouths shut. Don’t be too honest, and don’t tell them everything. That’s certainly the advice I should have given myself a number of years ago when torrential rains turned our backyard into a pond, suitable for kayaking.
Along with the rain came a power outage, lasting five days. It was a domino effect. The rains came down, the power went out, the backyard flooded into our basement and the sump pump stopped.
Our neighbor had a generator which he offered to us, along with a power cord that would reach between both houses. We could then hook up the generator to our sump pump. Without the pump the water would soon reach our furnace. One furnace – gone.
The only wrinkle in this scenario was the fact my best friend, Laura, and our neighbor, Gene, had been married once and were now divorced. Laura’s feelings toward her ex were of vitriolic animosity. In other words, she despised him. I agreed that the man was a louse and I refused to speak to him. My husband, Jack, was more agreeable for social contact, often reminding me that he was still our neighbor.
It was March, a very cold one that year. With no power, we had no heat. But we did have an air mattress that we could set up in our family room, next to our fireplace. But of course, we needed electricity to pump up the mattress. And here’s where my friend came into the picture.
Her power had not gone off. So, we shoved the limp mattress into our car and off we went to my friend’s home.
When we got there, she was in her basement sopping up water into buckets, using every towel she owned. Her basement hadn’t totally flooded because her pump was working. Although her backyard was more a lake and maybe suitable for a powerboat, her basement was a great deal drier than ours.
This was when I opened my big mouth. “We’re really lucky Gene offered us the use of his generator. “
“You’re actually going to use his generator, after all he’s done to me? How could you even talk to him, much less to agree to use….” She stopped talking long enough to wring out a towel into a large gray bucket. Then she began again. “Go inflate your mattress, then leave. I don’t want you here.”
“C’mon, Laura. It was Jack who talked to Gene, not me,” I blundered on, trying to explain our dire situation but she would hear none of it.
“So, basically, your furnace is worth more than our years of friendship? Is that what you’re saying?”
“We’ll, of course not, not exactly, but without his generator, we’ll lose the furnace.”
“I’m sorry about your furnace, but that makes no difference. You’re still using that bastard’s generator. So, go, get out.”
My husband was listening and cautiously ventured down the stairs into the basement. He tried to explain that Gene was the one who volunteered the use of his generator, that I had nothing to do with it. This fell on deaf ears, and so, with nothing left to say, we pumped up the mattress and went home.
In the days and weeks following the event, I tried talking to her. But she cut me off. I talked to friends to find out if I had done something so terribly wrong. The unanimous vote was that I had not, and furthermore, I had no choice. The cost of a new furnace was nothing to sneeze at.
In turn, according to Laura, her friends said that good friends would never do such a dastardly thing. Their verdict was in. I was not a good friend.
After about six long and lonely months, Laura called me. We talked. I apologized for telling her about the generator. I should have said nothing. She agreed, and eventually acknowledged that a furnace was costly and she could understand our need to use Gene’s generator. She wasn’t happy about it, but she could understand.
We are now back to our “pre-generator” friendship, closer than ever, and I learned a valuable lesson. Less talk is more and sometimes, nothing said is best.