Tempo Friends Encyclopedia, Abridged


The following is an excerpt from the Tempo Friends Encyclopedia—a book used to describe those people who come in an out of our lives on a daily basis and manage to make an impression, however brief.

Tempo Friend [tem-poh frend]


  1. a person you only know for a short period of time; also referred to as short-term or new friends, though it is unlikely that such a person will ever elevate his or herself to old friend status.
  2. a friend usually made under specific circumstances whom you are unlikely to have spoken to, let alone befriended, in any other time or place. At the heart of this friendship is a person’s need to relate to another…you know, just not feel so alone. For the variety of ways in which a tempo friend might manifest please see: Related Forms.


RELATED FORMS (in order from most to least frequent)

  1. Post Office Friend


The post office is, debatably, the most likely place to make a tempo friend. All the elements are there: an ample amount of people placed in a frustrating situation. While you and your fellow patrons in line thought you were going to just run a quick errand on your lunch break, you find yourself waiting for a long stretch of time. Though there are several postal workers milling around in the background, it seems that only one of them is assigned to take customers and, of course, the person she’s dealing with needs every step of the package mailing process explained to him. With tension building, you exchange looks and shakes of the head with those around you, letting everyone know that you cannot believe this either.

Finally, one person will break the silence: “I’m just trying to get this care package to my son at camp.” And with that more people will share their stories. You’ll laugh together, occasionally mentioning the absolute incompetence of the workers at this particular location. No one will ever come back again, if they can help it.

When you finally get to the front of the line, it will take mere moments for your transaction to be complete. You’ll start to walk out, and then turn back and wave to the poor souls still left in line. Once you finally open the door and enter the fresh air you’ll sigh with relief knowing you’ll probably never see any of those fucking people ever again.


  1. Elevator Friend

win-win-elevator-amy-ryanDepending on how many tall buildings you visit, the elevator might be where you make the most tempo friends. While not as frustrating as the post office, the elevator is a small space, which can enable tempo friends to reach out to you more easily. Interactions are short—usually only a sentence followed by an agreeing grunt—and plenty.

There are two different types of elevator friends: the cheesy and the sassy. Cheesy elevator friends will feel a need to make light of a particularly lengthy ride: “Making all the stops, eh?!” This friend is looking for a laugh, though a nod and smile might satisfy him. The sassy elevator friend, on the other hand, goes after another rider. This is a conspiratorial tempo friendship. For example, if someone happens to get off on the first or second floor: “What? Are her legs broken?” A muttered, mildly irritated, “seriously,” will solidify you and your new friend as a team.

When you exit the elevator, you might have had a good laugh, you might have made a good dig. Regardless, if your elevator friend did his job correctly, you’ll feel satisfied by the journey.


  1. Public Transportation Friend

subwayIf you live in a city, you’ve made many a public transportation friend. There are several kinds, some helpful, some overly friendly, some on the train, some on the bus.

When you are traveling a new line, you’ll likely encounter a PTF in front of a map—sure, you’re already on the train, pummeling toward a destination, but maybe you should just check one more time to make sure it’s the right one. There, a PTF will be to ask you where you’re looking to go. He’ll assure that though you didn’t choose the quickest route, it’ll take you to where you need to go. Just make sure you transfer in three stops. Similarly, someone on a bus, probably an old woman, will notice your concerned face, neck craning to check street names as they pass quickly. She’ll set you at ease. Both of these friends will also give you several warnings that your stop is coming, despite reassurances that you’ve got it. They’ll both need to be thanked each time they say something or things will take a turn for the negative.

Should you have a friendly face, whether or not you have headphones on, you can possibly make a chatty PTF. This friend will do most of the talking. He’ll ask questions, expect answers, and then use what you say to fuel his next tangent.

Finally, public transportation is full of crazies: dancers, musicians, and preachers of the good word. You can bet that when one of them is on the train or bus, you’ll make a silent PTF—the person sitting across from you with whom you make eye contact amidst the performance and share an eye-roll. Some people, right.

All of these friendships can only be terminated by one of you leaving. To avert your glance and try to move on before that moment is too awkward to be sustained. Don’t even try.


  1. Hairdresser Friend

Mans-best-friend-and-hairdresser-What-300x225There are people who visit the same hairdresser for years. They are likely truly friendly with the person who cuts their hair. However, there are others who seek out a new salon or barber for each new coif. This person will have several hairdresser friends over his or her lifetime.

This tempo friendship can be fairly low-impact and sometimes comforting. It just requires that you sit in a chair, let someone mess with your hair, and talk at you. Since a hairdresser is helping make you look presentable, the least you can do is help pass the time: raise and lower your chin, let out the occasional “yeah I know!” or “very cool!” or “weird!” You might be prompted to tell where you come from and what brought you to this particular place at this particular time, but don’t worry, short answers will suffice. Hairdressers are used to doing the heavy lifting, conversation wise.


  1. Online Dating Friend

internet-friendsA rarer form of tempo friend, the online dating friend, can only be made if you have an account on OkCupid, Match.com, or another dating site (though probably not Christian Mingle or eHarmony—those are sites for people with their eyes on the prize).

While most people visit dating sites to find someone to date or, at the very least, feel-up, some are there for friendship…kinda. This type of person will reach out to you. You’ll exchange emails; it’ll seem really promising. Then he’ll ask for your screen name. You’ll chat often. When you suggest a meeting, he’ll be surprised, as if he didn’t realize that was a possibility. The meeting will be fine, mildly pleasant even, but that’ll be the end of it. Well, the end of the in-person portion. You’ll still make small talk over gchat daily.

This friendship takes a bit longer to end because even though you tell your actual friends that the guy was kind of a weirdo, every time a box with, “sup?” pops-up on your computer, you’ll still feel compelled to answer, “not much, you?”