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When I found a brand new lap-top for half price on eBay, I told my friend and musical colleague Spencer about my bargain of a find. He was worried: "Usually when something's too good to be true …"

"I know," I replied impatiently, "but the seller has a 100 percent approval rating."

"Be careful," warned Spencer.

"Of course," I assured him, annoyed. I wasn't born yesterday.

I sent the seller $1,300 and discovered in very short, sickening order that I had fallen prey to a classic scam. A fraudster had hacked someone's eBay identity in order to relieve easy marks like me of our money.

I felt an absolute fool—and didn't want to tell Spencer. The next time I saw his number on my caller ID, I didn't answer. I could just imagine his "I told you so."

Soon, I was avoiding Spencer completely. And I started to resent him. Why did he have to be so judgmental? Why couldn't he be on my side? Why was I ever friends with that jerk?

Eventually, we had to fly together to perform at a concert. "Whatever happened with that computer thing?" he asked an hour into the flight. Cornered, I finally confessed my foolishness, dreading the inevitable response. But as soon as I told Spencer about my mistake, a strange thing happened. The enemy I had turned him into evaporated. Spencer turned into Spencer again, my teasing but deeply empathetic buddy.

As embarrassed as I was by my eBay error, I felt even dumber about the way I had allowed my shame to distort my perception of a best friend. If my hand had not been forced, I would have remained estranged from him indefinitely.

I've always considered myself perceptive, but the longer I live, the more I discover my susceptibility to misinterpretation. This is true of the way I view my friends, truer of ...

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December 2009

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