The Lights are on but No One’s Home

I realize that someone I thought was smart is actually pretty dumb.

It’s a weird thing, when you talk to someone and look into their face and realize that they’re not comprehending what you’re saying.

I was harassed at the airport yesterday by someone who used to be a friend. Back when we were friends, I had a decent amount of respect for him. He’s good at what he does — he’s a pilot — and I thought he was knowledgeable about the regulations that go along with flying. (I turned out to be wrong about that.)

Then he terminated the friendship. I’d had a falling out with his best friend and was dealing with it by avoiding him (the best friend). Then one day my friend showed up at my office and said, “I can’t be friends with you anymore because you’re not friends with by best friend.” I laughed at first, then realized he was serious. How incredibly childish! After a huge fight in which I told him off, I never spoke to him again.

Fast forward two or more years. After unsuccessfully trying to talk to me on the phone about an incident that (1) is none of his business, (2) he did not witness and (3) he does not have accurate information about, he approached me at the airport while I was pulling my helicopter out of the hangar. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him. He then proceeded to follow me across the ramp to harass me while I took off the helicopter tow bar and ground handling wheels.

At one point in the conversation, I said, “Did you get permission from your friend to talk to me?”

That little bit of sarcasm was completely lost on him. His face was blank. I realized then that he wasn’t as smart as I’d thought years ago. He was trying to understand the meaning of my words and probably couldn’t figure out if I was being serious or sarcastic.

I knew then what I had suspected for some time: that the childish termination of our friendship was engineered by his best friend, a man who, although lacking in morals is not lacking in intelligence. This same best friend is probably responsible for most of this man’s thoughts, planting seeds for him to grow in the mildly fertile soils of his mind. As he continued to harass me, tossing meaningless threats my way, I struggled to communicate that he was wasting his time and that his threats weren’t scaring me.

Finally, he just turned his back on me and walked away.

I’m hoping that’s the last I ever see of him. But the image of that blank stare will stay with me forever. The lights were on, but no one was home. Why hadn’t I seen that sooner?

What do you think?