Jeff is the rare “3 AM friend”, if I called him at 3 AM he would be there for me (he has). When he called me last week and invited me to play Poker I jumped at the chance. The prospect of playing cards with him was worth the 2-hour drive.

I met up with him at noon on Sunday and we headed out to get snacks and drinks for the game. We arrived at our friend Justen’s place on time. Jeff and Justen were the only ones I knew, but as a believer in “a stranger is a friend I haven’t yet met” I immediately became friendly with 3 of the 4 new guys. The fourth set off my “Spidey-Sense”, I didn’t like him at first impression.

My senses were accurate, not long into the tournament I concluded that he acted and played like a Dick. But I put up with it.

As the game wore on, players began to drop off. Our Texas Hold’em tournament was 1st and 2nd winners only, once you were out you were out. It had come down to me and the Dick. After a showdown in which I bet and he made a huge raise, I was forced to fold. As I threw down my cards he laughed and talked some trash. I ignored him.

In Poker, if your opponent folds you are not required to show your cards. It is an unspoken rule. When he threw his cards in, I scooped them up in preparation to shuffle and deal the next hand. In the process I accidentally flipped his cards up. He immediately reacted, accusing me of looking at his cards. I assured him that it was an accident.

It escalated. I stood up and told him that if he didn’t stop we were going to take it outside and handle it a different way.

That is when Jeff stepped in.

“Dude”, he said to the Dick. “Bill wouldn’t do that. If he says it was an accident it was, he is one of the finest people I know. Sit down before he kicks your ass.”

The Dick sat down. He and I finished the game. He won, I took second place, doubling my buy in. He took his money and left.

Soon after, Jeff and I left also.

“Thanks for getting my back, brother” I said to him.
“No worries, bud. I meant what I said.”
“Finest people I know?”I joked.
“Bill, you are an amazing human being. One in a million, maybe a billion.”

I was floored. I was unable to offer a response other than to thank him.

Soon, I was on my way back home with 2 hours of quality “me time” ahead of me. I love to drive, I do my best thinking behind the wheel. I can’t count how many blog posts came to me while driving.

This ride, I was thinking about what Jeff had said. What about me made him say that? I’m a pretty laid back guy, I try to be honest and kind-hearted, I’m not judgmental and try to be nice… But I’m nothing special. Then a word popped into my head.
Basic is a urban slang word, like fleek, lit, woke, bae,. Etc. Words my kids use that drive me crazy. Basic is a derogatory word denoting one’s lack of spark, of being of no particular interest. Not a nice thing to be called. But it’s a great thing to be and people seem to admire it.

In the last two years I have embarked on a spiritual journey to find myself. By applying the harsh spotlight of self-evaluation, unwavering criticism and acceptance of unwanted but necessary truths I emerged as a person who, for the first time, could look into a mirror and like what he saw. I had stripped myself of pretense, hubris, ego, pride and the conventional measures of success. Isn’t all of that a fancy way of saying that I got down to the basics?

I’ve never been happier.

I am basic. Like a child. Remember when we were children?

We loved everyone because we did not know hate.We were friendly to all because we had not learned prejudice and bigotry.
We were honest because we had no reason to lie.
We were happy because we had not been taught cynicism.
We said the “darndest things” because we were too young to be censored.
We asked questions to learn, not to make judgments.

Then the world changed us.

Fortunately, I have restored myself back to “Factory Settings”. Not amazing, not particularly noteworthy. Pretty basic overall. Some people seem to like that so I think I will run with it.