It seems like almost the perfect sentence doesn’t it? “If there’s anything I can do, just call.” It shows the other person that you care enough to help, accompanied with the relative security that they will never take you up on it. You look like a true friend, a hero, if you will, and you never have to left a single finger. It’s brilliant, actually.
Tread lightly, my friend. I’m here to tell you that it will occasionally backfire and when it does, you’re, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah, ‘SCREWED!
A close friend of mine, whom I no longer like, Benjamin called to say that he had to go to Florida on a family matter. I finished the conversation wishing him the best of luck. A few hours later, (translation: a few beers later) I called him back and left a message saying, “Hey Benjamin, if you need a ride to the airport, let me know.” See? I was the hero and never thought I’d have to do anything but put my feet up on the stool and watch the game. And just how many others do you think offered up their services? Correct: Nobody!
The next day, after totally forgetting about my extremely shallow offer, guess who I got a call from? That’s right: Benjamin. “Hey. Bob, thanks for the offer.” Oh crap! After a nervous gulp followed by heart palpitations and some rampant sweating about the forehead and nostrils, I said, “Um, no problem, Benjamin. You don’t really need me to do anything, do you? “Actually, we could use a ride to the airport,” he told me. Double Crap! I asked, ‘Where are you leaving from?” “We’re going out of Newark, Bob.” Triple crap! Thoughts of possible excuses poured through my head, like:
- I woke up with the measles.
- I went bowling last night and got gangrene from the shoes.
- I have a final exam in my basket-weaving class.
Newark’s a four hour round trip! I had big plans, damnit! Laundry, clean litter boxes, watch games, drink beer. Now the whole day is shot! But, hey, I’m the one with the BIG MOUTH! Let’s just suck it up and get this thing done.
So, you see what happens when you try to be a nice guy and make a thoroughly disingenuous offer? Sometimes, you have to pay up. Next time I’m going to be like that guy with the bumper sticker that reads, “YES, THIS IS MY TRUCK. NO, I WILL NOT HELP YOU MOVE. But, of course I can’t do that. Why? Because I‘m as nice guy, if not somewhat naïve. I’ll just simply say, “Hey, if you need anything, just let me know. But, if you DO call me, I’ll pretend I don’t know you and hang up. Good luck.