Saturday, December 9, 2017

Be Careful Who You Meet While Traveling

By Andy

Be careful who you meet while traveling. Actually, be careful who you meet. Period. I write this piece, fully aware that I am venting, based on some forgettable experiences, but it is only fair to warn others about certain types of people one encounters, even while traveling. There is one particular type of person that you should avoid at all costs, and that is the smartest person in the room.


Have you ever heard of or met this type of person? You know, the one who is highly intelligent, rarely lets you talk, resulting in one-sided conversations every time you meet because he or she is obsessed with constantly letting you know how smart they are? Has this person ever even listened to what you or anybody had to say, and as a result have they failed to listen to logic or reason? Has this person told you how stupid and wrong you are because they are so manipulative and smart to the point that they always have to be right, even when they are wrong? Has this person ever come off to you as a know-it-all by giving you unsolicited advice, especially outside their area of expertise, or have they ever demonstrated indifference by being inconsiderate of you and your time?

I had the misfortune of meeting (through a past job) and becoming friends with such a person. He had all of the characteristics of the smartest person in the room. We initially became friends because we found common ground and understood each other on a lot of things, and his lateral thinking opened my eyes to some things. But, things gradually went downhill after that. Not only did he profess to be the smartest person in the room, he was also a needy friend, which is a strange and awful combination.         

I recently stopped all contact with this person because he became increasingly needy, and just kept wanting more attention and help. Nothing ever seemed to be enough and it was obvious he didn't appreciate me or anything I did for him because he failed to see past his insanely high regard for himself. Additionally, he had no common sense, no listening skills, poor organizational skills and he hotly rejected logic or reason. Whenever we would meet, he would hardly ever let me speak and would constantly interrupt me. Instead he would ramble endlessly and usually into the late hours, and even when we were outside in the parking lot (after restaurant management had asked us to leave due to closing time) he would continue rambling both in triple digit heat and in near freezing temperatures.                                                                                                        

Aside from his poor time management and not knowing when to shut up, he beat around the bush. He could not answer simple 'yes' or 'no' questions, and always deflected the attention towards me or someone else instead. He also gave me unsolicited advice, most of it bad, contradictory and illogical. The advice he gave, he metaphorically shoved down my throat, and presented it in a way that he was an expert on, when in reality, it was outside his work background or realm of study. He was extremely manipulative, condescending, and treated me like a kid who had just graduated high school and was starting college.                                                                                                                                                                          
He had no respect for my free time, and had such poor communication skills that he thought my free time was his and that I should drop what I was doing for him at a moment's notice. Worst of all, he had no respect for me as a person. He was judgemental to the point where he questioned everything I did and said, constantly correcting me, stating I should have done things his way, and I should have said this, not that; just so he could make me feel guilty about making decisions on my own and for thinking for myself. In fact, on more than one occasion, he told me how stupid I was with remarks such as  "You're dumber than I thought" and "That is why you can't go too long until the next meeting with me. You make these bad, stupid decisions on your own. Hang out with me and you'll be fine." He once even broke me down psychologically and mentally, so that afterwards I felt worthless, and hadn't accomplished anything in life, only to turn around and say "I'm on your side. I will help you."                                                                                                                                          

Needless to say that one day I just cut contact with him, and blocked him on all platforms, because he had asked for help one too many times, and at the same time made one insult too many, and stated that my help wasn't good enough. Nobody wants or needs such a person in their personal or professional life. It's little wonder that this person I now used to know, left a trail of relationship havoc as I seemed to be the only person he talked to or relied on, despite the fact that he knew several other people through church, volunteer service, work, etc. During the time that I knew him, he struggled to balance three part-time jobs with volunteer work, and his living situation consisted of him moving from place to place; renting a room in someone's house or apartment, and ultimately in a cramped trailer camper on someone's rural property. He had stated that, before we met, he worked full-time for a big, reputable company, and owned three houses that he later lost when the housing bubble burst.   

I remember, though, when I reviewed his resume after he had asked for my help with that, noticing that he had hopped from job to job for different companies over the years. The longest he spent with one company, was three years, and the shortest was under a year. So, the average amount of time he was employed at a company, was slightly less than a year and a half. Unless he was in high demand all those years as he had a background in a very analytical field, that should be a red flag.  He definitely hit a glass ceiling at his last full-time job, and is no longer employed there because he undoubtedly stepped on others, and told them how to do their jobs.         

So, right then I knew that the act was over for him. My theory is that, for years he had probably gotten away with being a job hopper because he had irked higher ups and those he worked with, and either resigned or was let go because of his behavior. So now, with his age (which he never disclosed but it was certain he was older than me) having caught up to him, the word is out in the professional world about him and his reputation. Unless he adjusts his behavior and significantly changes his ways, he'll continue to be blacklisted from sane and successful companies that are hiring for full-time work. Otherwise, he'll continue to struggle with part-time jobs until retirement.   

I find it very odd that the smartest person in the room would be such a needy friend. It doesn't make any sense because they declare to know everything, so they should have all the answers. But, after some thought, I can understand why such people are needy. Such people definitely experienced a period of joblessness as a result of their behavior, and therefore need help with not only a resume review, but a job search. That makes sense as this person on more than one occasion, asked me for help with resume review, a job search that included me showing him how to fill out an on-line application, formulating a branding speech and designing a business card that he never ordered or had made because he thought the cost warranted haggling over the price.

That brings me to my next point: The smartest person in the room is very argumentative. They argue for the sake of argument. This stems from their need to not only let others how smart they are, but the need to be always be right and have the last word. Everything is a debate with them, and they are so manipulative that even when they are wrong, they choose their words and construct their sentences in a way that makes them sound right. In my former friend's case, he would start the debates by asking me questions about different topics, and then retort by telling me how wrong I was, and even when he was seemingly left speechless by some of my remarks, he would just repeat what I had just said, but with the words changed up a little, just for the sake of having his own opinion.

Not only is the smartest person in the room very argumentative, they are cheap. My now former friend became a cheapskate as a result of his job situation. Hanging out or going on road trips was like pulling teeth because he was always reluctant to do anything that wasn't cheap or free. But he set himself up for such a predicament not only because of his job situation, but he once told me that he had a few thousand dollars worth of uncashed checks from past jobs. When I asked him why he never cashed them in the first place, his response was, "Oh, I was extremely busy with work, and I forgot about them."    

This makes absolutely no sense. Why would anyone cheat themselves out of money, especially money they earned? In his case, he had to go through the state to get his unclaimed property, and that, he stated, was no easy task. When he finally did get that money, he needed every dollar of it for repairs on his jalopy. For such a high IQ that the smartest people in the room have, they are seriously lacking in common sense.

Speaking of which, this formerly needy friend/smartest person in the room once called me in the middle of Mother's Day weekend, while I was out shopping for gifts, because he had car trouble and he decided not to call AAA. When I asked him why he didn't call AAA, he said they take too long to respond, and "I can only use my membership so many times during the year." Huh? So, not only was there the common recurring theme of his lack of common sense, but the failure to show empathy towards me was blatantly obvious. He had no problem wasting my time as long as it benefited him.

He was obviously a time waster who literally babbled on for hours and hours which demonstrated poor time management skills that undoubtedly led to him not being able to hold down a job for a long amount of time. This also explains his mixed up priorities and a failure to focus and stay on point and the task at hand. A perfect example of this is when he was asking me for help in searching for a job, and later, places to rent/stay. He clearly stated those were his top priorities, but, typical of a needy friend, would always wonder what I was doing on holidays or my days off. I figured out why he was always asking me for help and to hang out; because he had chased off everyone else that knew him with his behavior.

Another glaring issue about the smartest person in the room is the fact that they are indignant. They are upset more than a lot of other people at the fact that they hit a glass ceiling in their career, and that things didn't go their way. More often than not, they are negative and complain endlessly because things are not how they want it to be; it's not their way. What I noticed was that this rocket surgeon would give me unsolicited advice that was only setting me up for failure. For example, he gave me housing advice even though he had no background in real estate and lost multiple houses when the housing bubble burst, and financial advice when he previously cut himself off from large sums of money in the form of unclaimed checks.

In his case, the smartest person in the room is nothing but a selfish asshole who is out to control people and use them for their own benefit. They may claim to help you, but they are just putting up a facade just to systematically drag you down to their level, and are wanting to share their misery with you. I'm convinced I was seen as a threat because I was the competition in the work world, and being younger and at earlier stages in my career, I unintentionally caused some jealousy. This case is a prime example of a needy friend coming as a result of the smartest person in the room hitting a glass ceiling in their career and being exposed and subsequently blacklisted for their behavior. There is a cure for this sort of "syndrome", but people like this have to struggle to improve their own lives without everyone else's help and without dragging down others. 

In the case of travel, you need to avoid this type of person at all costs. They may come off as down to earth, but that is just a hook to lure in their version of a friend, because for obvious reasons, they have no friends. You'd think they would learn their lesson after repeatedly chasing off friends over the years, but they are too set in their bad habits, and are just waiting for the next prey. It doesn't matter if you're at the airport, bus station or train station. Regardless of how you travel to your destinations, if this type of person is seated next to you, and starts talking to you, do your very best to not fall into such a trap, and bring headphones or ear plugs with you.

This may seem contradictory because travel is a way to meet new people, but unfortunately, the wrong types of people to associate with are everywhere in the world. I'm not saying to be rude or completely ignore the person, just know when to walk away. If you're in a tour group and meet such a person, tread lightly. For example, if they ask you to meet for lunch or dinner after the tour, or they want to explore a city with you, exercise caution. Accept the proposition, but be aware that if you find yourself hearing them talking most of the time or asking you for favors, it's time to use common sense and quickly figure out an exit strategy.

If you have a needy friend or know the smartest person in the room, and aren't brave enough block them out of your life, then you need to make yourself less available. Don't answer that phone, and DO NOT, under any circumstances, let such people take you to or from the airport. They will talk your ear off, and you will not hear the end of it. You will miss your flight, and they won't care because they brought you down to their level of misery, and did so with a big smile on their face. No such thing happened to me, but I had the foresight enough so that I did not allow such people to interfere with my free time, especially my trips.

Can you imagine if you allowed such a person to pick you up after you returned from your trip? Not only would they come at you with a plethora of problems they need your help with, they would make you feel guilty about taking a trip by insulting you, and making you feel remorseful because you didn't buy this souvenir for them or you didn't do or see what they suggested. But, like a petulant child they mimic, they'll be begging to see all the photos you took and they'll want to hear your stories because they want to live vicariously through you. In fact, this type of person probably won't leave the parking lot because they don't know when to shut up and just drive you home. On top of that, their cheap nature will lead them to ask you for money besides the gas money you offered to give them.

Now that I think of it, a needy friend and the smartest person in the room would not last long overseas. The argumentative nature of the smartest person in the room would most likely lead them to criticize and question authority, and have them end up in jail overseas. A needy friend is the weakest link in the group, and the smartest person in the room...never mind, you get the idea. Their needs only drag down the group and when it comes to itineraries, they only cause delays. Example: "Oh, I need some money for a train ticket" or "I can't cover my end of the hotel costs."

These are just some of the reasons why I travel solo, but that is another story and to each their own. I say do not befriend or travel with needy people or the smartest person in the room. You don't need toxic associations. Be careful who you meet, and most of all, use common sense. Happy travels.