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After saying goodbye to my students this afternoon, I spent the rest of the afternoon playing golf with a good friend named Phil.
I managed to beat him (again), but this time only by a single stroke, and only after having to call a PGA professional at another golf course in order to get a ruling on “casual water.” When there is unintended standing water on a golf course, the player is permitted a free drop. My ball plugged in a wet, muddy rut on the fairway, the result of an over-exuberant lawn mower and a recent rain storm, and I was therefore permitted to excavate the ball from the mud and drop it without penalty.

The ruling saved me the winning stroke, but a win is a win.

Phil finished the rest of the round attempting to invoke casual tree, casual rock and casual squirrel rulings, but I was having none of it.

A rule is a rule.

It was a great afternoon, but it was made even better by the fact that Phil and I were the only one of our usual gang of golfers available to play today.  As we waited to tee off on the sixth hole, I admitted to Phil that part of the enjoyment of the day came from the knowledge that while we were playing, one of our friends was trapped at an after-work company function, another was taking care of his two children while his wife went out for the evening, and a third was too injured to play.

“Knowing how much fun we’re having and how much they are suffering somehow makes the day even better,” I said. “Is this wrong?”

I suspect that most people would say yes and be slightly disgusted at my comment, but Phil immediately sided with me, asserting that personal happiness is often enhanced by the comparison between your own position in life and the positions of others.

Sad but probably true.

Either way, I love having Phil around. I can often express the meanest, basest, most self-absorbed ideas in his presence and only receive agreement and accolades in return.

Everyone needs a friend like this.