The Joy of Cancelling Plans


The Joy of Cancelling Plans

Illustration: Sushant Ahire/Arré

“Heyyyy you, long time!”

There is no other combination of words in the English language that has the potential to scare the hell out of me more than this. Something about the extra three y’s in the hey and the nonchalant stating of how it’s been a long time without taking any responsibility for it. Yes, I know it has been a long time, I was there, ignoring you through the entirety of it, why are you ruining this perfectly good status quo?

Usually, there’s a catalyst to these messages and the deeper I foray into the woods of adulthood, the more I know that the catalyst is a bitch.

Oh, you’re getting married and you want me to meet you for drinks to talk all about your pre-wedding jitters because you’re afraid that you might be settling now? Or wait, you’re going off to college again and you want me to look over the SOP and edit it into something coherent for free because my time as a writer is a meaningless thing? Or the best one; you just got dumped and suddenly you remember that people outside of your now insignificant other exist and you’d like to be set up?

We are now in a magnificent, high-octane, living-through-screens, open-entertainment, free-market, marijuana-laced era of human history on the verge of nuclear collapse – time is no longer money, attention is. Ask Mark Zuckerberg and he will write you a sonnet about it. And after going through rounds upon rounds of aneurysm-inducing details of people’s weddings, break-ups, academic aspirations and sex lives, I no longer have the energy to commit to a conversation. At the end of the soliloquy, the artist never turns to me to ask, “and what’s up with you.”

I’ve developed my own mechanism of deflection which gives me as much joy as imagining a shirtless Idris Elba, running up and down an Imtiaz Ali-approved location, calling my name in anguish. I make plans with the Heyyyy Yous, I follow up actively on said plans with Heyyyy Yous, and then when the D-day comes, brighter than my future, I cancel plans with the Heyyyy Yous without batting an eyelid. Some people are great artists, path-breaking scientists, or cool something-or-the-other, but I am a chancellor plan canceller and it is a title I wear as a badge of honour.

When the Heyyyy You comes to you with a quandary of any sort, evaluate your priorities first.

For the introverted and jaded reader who wants to follow in my footsteps, here’s a rundown of how it’s done, son.

When the Heyyyy You comes to you with a quandary of any sort, evaluate your priorities first. First, you respond with a tepid, “Hi, you” and leave it open. The Heyyyy You will usually give you some context here, unless they’re playing a game of I-initiated-the-conversation-now-you-take-it-forward-chicken. In which case, take the out you’ve been given and get the fuck out! Once the context is given, you stall. Acknowledge the problem with a vague Oh shucks-esque response and schedule a hang-out proactively on the 12th of soon. Sated by your interest in their lives, the Heyyyy You will mostly leave you alone, make concrete plans with their real friends and forget to follow up, leaving you with the moral high ground of offering.

But the plot thickens when nobody chickens. On the 12th you get a, “So where are we going?” and your spine hurts. But do not, I repeat, do not blink first and cancel. Allow social Darwinism its due course and tell them you will be in a certain area around a certain time. If they follow up with an, “Excellent! Let’s meet after” you have T minus few hours to play the one card more brutal than the Draw Four in an Uno deck, but it saves friendships instead of breaking them.

An hour later, you reiterate interest by fixing up a spot and if they have still not bailed, you go for gold and say, “Dude, I’m so fucked with work. I’m sorry, don’t hate me, my boss is a colourful-expletive!” They will express disappointment, but say you will try in any case and let them know in an hour for sure. Two hours later you sidle in and place a meek “Still working” in their DMs, clap your hands like the maniacal evil genius you are, go home, binge-watch Mindhunter and wonder why you’re more attracted to Holden after he becomes an asshole.

While you promise yourself that the rules of flaking will never apply to a real problem any friend of yours might ever have, it’s important to also tell yourself that when you’re stretched sideways to Sunday, steeped in work and life, buying time for yourself is not the most selfish thing in the world.

Enjoy the joy of cancelling plans with others so you can make a few of your own. With Idris movies. And maybe a dildo.