When I was an undergraduate in college, my friend Anna needed a mattress. She asked me to go with her because she wanted company, and like I joked, friends don’t let friends buy mattresses alone. We grabbed drinks, talked on the way over, debated the merits of various mattresses, then drove home with the sense of a job well done. I always thought this was the sort of normal thing that normal people did. You need to do some mundane task, you phone a friend. Overseas it’s called an “errand hang”:
This is very normalized in my culture. The first time I asked an American friend to errand hang with me, she was so shocked I felt like I did something wrong. That’s when I learned in American culture, expecting company for mundane reasons is considered not independent enough. pic.twitter.com/qGkcNkzCcI
— Cindy Wang Brandt (@cindywangbrandt) June 7, 2021
Apparently I am either unAmerican or very strange. So are most of the moms I talk to.
I errand hang all the damn time, at least pre-COVID, and before all three of my best mom friends moved away in the same year. And even in the post-COVID wreckage, I somehow still manage to do it. The errand hang is alive and well in America, friends. How else do people hang out? I have a life. My friends have lives. Those lives are busy as hell. Who has time to plan out a special date with wine and crap? I can’t manage that with my husband. My kid-free time is devoted to junk I need or want to do.
But I’d rather not do said junk alone. So I call someone. Need to pick up some crystals and candles? I’ve got a friend for that. He probably needs some of those, too, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be glad for me to pick his ass up, buy him a sweet tea, and drive him around. Then he’ll help me pick a selenite tower and some tapers or whatever the hell ever. He’ll make some decent suggestions. We’ll talk. We’ll catch up on life. We might stop at the thrift store. That’s an errand hang.
Moms Errand Hang All The Damn Time
I miss having mom friends mostly because I miss errand hanging with them. We all had kids we needed to get out of the house, and we all had crap to do. So I could always call them: hey, do you like, need to go to Target for some shit? Because I like, need to go to Target for some shit. So we’d meet in the Target parking lot with lists.
“Okay, you need makeup and some fruit and a new shower curtain, and I need makeup and contact lens solution and washcloths and a bathmat. I also need a new bra, and I need to check for new ‘Dogman,’ ‘Catkid,’ and those ‘Narwhal and Jellyfish’ books. Also, I would like to root around in those back clearance bins because remember that one time I found that amazing hardback David Bowie notebook for three bucks?”
And Steph or Rebecca or Sophie would smack at me and say, “You never let me forget that damn notebook” or something, and we’d laugh, load loadable children into carts, order walking children not to walk in front of carts, and keep each other on task while we talked our way through the store. We’d mostly be able to leave the store without buying too much more than our lists, because that’s fucking teamwork. That’s the errand hang.
And I would help her pick out her new shower curtain, and she would help me pick out my bra, and we’d see these little slivers of each other’s lives, these small moments that make up a whole. Later I’d go to her house and I’d come out of her bathroom to say, “Your shower curtain looks good.” Or I’d lean over and whisper, “Dude, I’m totally wearing that bra, and you were so right to tell me to go without the underwire.”
I’ve Done This Post-COVID
My BFF Joey and I errand hang all the time, because he’s an important-ass lawyer and I’m a busy-ass writer. He picked me up one Sunday and we drove round doing his political stuff: visiting people, sticking in some yard signs, collecting other yard signs, stopping for gas, driving through residential areas so he could match them to neighborhood association maps. This would have been boring as all fuck alone. We listened to a playlist and talked while vaping CBD all afternoon instead, and the errand hang transformed his afternoon from a total yawn into BFF time.
We had another errand hang recently when he bought a washer. Before you jump to conclusions: he did not bring me along because he needed help. Joey is a grown-ass man and knew what kind of washer he wanted, how much he wanted to pay, and the various merits of various brands on the market. He didn’t need me to chicksplain laundry. He just wanted company while he located said washer, stood around waiting for a sales associate, stood around waiting to sign incomprehensible things, stood around waiting to pay for everything, then finally stood around before someone came to arrange delivery of his slightly used Whirlpool. So I stood around with him, leaned on appliances, and laughed about that one time in college I got so stoned that I woke up stoned and cried, because I thought I’d be stoned forever (note: Joey never got high. He only babysat me).
I pronounced his washer a good washer, though what the fuck do I know about washers, except my husband picked ours and it works. He enjoyed my company, and we had a chance to hang out. That’s an errand hang. You probably do this. Most moms do. When and how else are we supposed to see our friends? We have no free time. So when we do something, we phone a friend. That friend probably has the same shit to do that we do, so they come along, and that trip turns into an odyssey, complete with Starbucks. Hell, even Joey and I ran the gas station for energy drinks.
So I’m with Cindy Wang Brandt. She says that in Mandarin, they call the errand hang “陪, ‘pei,’ to accompany someone for completely frivolous reasons.” I like that. Sometimes we Americans combine our own business with someone else’s (see my mom friends and me), but other times, we just cruise around with someone else because they have something to do and it’s convenient. I’ve had friends come with me to buy dresses, to pick out paint, and to look for Christmas presents for people they’ve never met. It’s a chance to talk, to hang, to do something without doing anything.
We need more errand hanging in this world. And if your friend looks at you strangely when you ask them to errand hang, they’re fucking weird. Who would say no to standing around with a drink in one hand while debating the merits of mattresses or washers or Christmas presents for people they’ve never met?
With a stranger? Weird. With a dear friend? An errand hang.