The Death of Accountability

Are you a flake? Shep Rose examines the epidemic of flakiness in the 21st century.

This post very well may come back to haunt me. We’ve all had moments and experiences where we were less than earnest, and we wish we could go back and do the right thing. We’ve all over-promised and under-delivered. But it’s getting to a point where actually doing what we say we are going to do is becoming the exception, not the rule. 


One of my favorite movies is Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Max Fisher is the precocious, enthusiastic, and peculiar young protagonist in this hilarious and touching film. It’s quirky and brilliant, traits that are wrapped up in Max. In one scene, Max gives Mr. Bloom (played by Bill Murray) the option to have one of his two pins signifying awards Max received at the prestigious Rushmore School. They were for perfect attendance and punctuality. I loved that he had earned these awards. He might be unpredictable and eccentric, but he showed up and was on time. Unfortunately, I believe these traits are in short supply lately during a time when technology should make it a whole lot easier to keep plans organized and to prevent someone from over-promising and under-delivering. Shouldn’t flakiness be on the decline from the human population? Well, it isn’t. It’s trending, and I’d like to eradicate flaky behavior.


But it seems as though I’m facing an impossible uphill task.


In Rushmore, Mr. Bloom chooses the punctuality pin, and I identify with this choice. I might not show up all the time, but if I do, it'll be on time or I’ll call or text with an explanation. Perfect attendance seems a little out of reach and borderline desperate.



Photo from here


People who say they’re going to do something and not only pull a no-show, but don’t even bother explaining themselves or apologizing are called flakes. I have several very close friends that are flakes but I love them. I’ve just learned to begrudgingly accept them, but I’ll always admonish them for their behavior. I doubt I’ll ever make a dent, but I’ll continue to call them out. The most common explanation is, "I need 'me time.'" I understand this, it's nice to occasionally be alone with my feet up watching TV.


But not if I've already made plans.


I might not be 100 percent committed, but damnit, I’ll rally because I’m a man of my word. And if for some reason I absolutely can’t make it, I’ll send a message. I might be in a dark cave with the covers pulled up to my chin watching Law and Order: SVU on mute simultaneously watching uninspiring porn on my laptop, but I’ll tell you to have fun without me and that I’ll make it up soon. Because chances are you're a good friend, and the thought of letting a friend down would multiply the amount of anxiety I was already feeling, creating a tornado of guilt and despair that might cause me to un-mute Law and Order and cry into my bowl of cereal. That’s why I don’t understand true flakiness and never will. If I let someone down, it kills me. But I feel these flakes are usually driven to this radio silence by a level of anxiety, and the constant texts and calls from friends wondering where they are doesn’t seem to phase them a bit. Honestly, I would never want to hang out with someone who doesn’t want to hang out with me, but it’s just the principle of the whole thing, and the perceived lack of respect and love for the flakee.


It’s telling someone who was looking forward to your company that you don’t give a shit about them. 


That’s why I wonder if the phenomenon isn’t some sort of deeper innate trait that the flake (the culprit) can’t help and that the flakee (the victim) will never truly understand. This total emotional detachment from certain situations in which the flake doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone else is almost like a self-preservation state of being. Some feeling of total isolation and remorselessness, close to being catatonic or frozen, but still alive.


The halcyon days for flakiness must have been pre-mobile phone and internet. Oh man, how easy was it to let the phone ring and just be invisible? There were also so many more excuses available days later when the flakee finally caught up with them.  “Man, I had to run to the office,” “my friend showed up I hadn’t seen in a while,” “my grandmother’s bunion got inflamed…again.” A flake’s paradise. Now we can find your location if your cell phone is on.


We can hunt you SOB's down. 


Till now, I’ve talked mostly about friends who are flaky. But an entirely separate category should be reserved for girls and guys trying to play games via text that bring flakiness to a whole other level. I’ve been somewhat guilty of this in the past, but I’d like to think that I’m getting better, or trying to at least. If you text and ask what I’m doing, I’ll let you know. I might give you a more palatable version of the truth, but a truth just the same. And if I make plans to see you, then…well, read above. I’ll stick to it or cancel with plenty of notice for you to make other plans, or whatever.


These days, trying to get a girl to nail down plans takes an act of God.


Aziz Ansari does an amazingly funny and sadly true stand up on the subject (my point is made by 1:44):




The alternative to the type of girl that Aziz is talking about is just as frustrating, the over-communicator. The OC can just suck the enthusiasm right out of you. And it makes you feel bad, but you have to cut off or somehow slow down the text frequency, and this is through prolonged silences. Which isn’t exactly a capital offense in the world of flakiness, but it qualifies.


What a mess.


Front graphic from here