I missed a friend's going-away bash the other day. She's going to England, where most career-minded young teaching graduates are going this year. I haven't struggled to resist the temptation to join them. Various horror stories I've heard, coupled with my deep suspicions as to why English schools need to recruit so aggressively over here mean that I'm reluctant to go over there and live in Rutsford-under-Lyme while young Wayne and Chanelle throw chairs and chewing gum at my proud Paddy beard every day. Besides, leaving your beloved behind on the Auld Sod while you go off to earn a few pennies in Blighty: bit 1972, isn't it?
So anyway, I failed to make it to her farewell do. I had other friends I wanted to see that night, and I decided I really couldn't be ringed leaving my group and heading to a pub in an entirely different part of town just to do the token "just sticking my head in" gesture. I felt slightly bad about it for a while, until I started to think about how I have loads of friends of about the same level whom I haven't seen for ages, and am unlikely to see any time soon. Just because, really.
There's something about moving to a different country for a while that makes people want to round up every fucker they've ever met so that they can bid their adieus. I've experienced this feeling on trips to Kenya, Tanzania and South Korea. On no occasion was I gone for more than a month, yet I found myself unusually keen to let all of my acquaintances know I'd be away and I found myself crestfallen when there was no sign of a government delegation to greet me upon my return.
Yet that nagging feeling of guilt remained, until I decided to seek a scientific solution to the problem. It wasn't a think tank that was called for, it went beyond that: I needed a cognitive cabal. Comprising the world's most scientific brains from fields such as geophysics and quantum mechanics, the group was spearheaded by that most legendary leader of men and outside-the-box thinker, former Cameroon striker Roger Milla (not to be confused with King of the Road crooner Roger Miller, who I've always found to be utterly useless in such circumstances). Their findings may forever change our perception of social guilt. The cognitive cabal have devised an ingenious an utterly fool-proof formula for calculating whether or not one ought to attend such functions.
It goes as follows: (TxL)+(DxR)=S.
That is to say: (Time x Liking)+(Distance x Rarity)=Size of obligation.
Need that broken down further? Fine.
The number of years you have known the person is multiplied by how much you like them on a scale of one to ten (ten being your bestest BFF and one being the guy who used to wipe his ear wax on your jumper in French class when you were fourteen). My respective figures for this half of the formula were 0.8 x 6.8 (which equals 5.44).
Second, you rank the distance they are moving away on a scale of one to twn and multiply it by the rarity with which you expect them to return home (ten means they'll never come home, one means they'll be back to stock up on six-packs of Tayto most weekends). My figures for this side of the formula are 1.2 and 1.7 (which multiply joyously into 2.04).
You then add these two final figures together to work out the precise size of your obligation. Mine weighed in at 7.48. But don't fret! My boffins inform me that anyone whose final figure falls under 11.7 should not feel remotely compelled to attend the send-off for the person in question. Huzzah!
Though further testing is still required, this formula looks set to be proven a reliable and important one as it offers a way out to those who:
(a) like the person just fine but have only known them a matter of weeks and/or
(b) have known them forever but secretly can't stand them and/or
(c) adore the person in question but think that moving from Rathmines to Ranelagh is hardly the catalyst for an emotional send-off.
So now you know.