TACOMA, WA—Having spent years making excuses to avoid socializing with friends and acquaintances, local man Eric Shulman's explanations for why he can't hang out have grown more and more sophisticated over time, sources confirmed Saturday.
Shulman, whose routine brush-offs of invitations were once vague and somewhat predictable, now reportedly offers highly detailed, plausible-seeming, yet entirely made-up reasons for his unavailability anytime a friend asks what he's up to this weekend.
"Up until a few years ago, Eric would just mutter something like, 'Sorry, but I got this work thing I have to go to,' if he didn't want to come out for a drink," said Alex Huynh, who has known the 36-year-old software analyst since college. "But these days he launches into these complex, multilayered excuses with precise times and places, names of all the people involved, and a complete backstory explaining why it's an obligation he can't get out of."
"Then the next time you talk to him, he'll follow up on his initial fabrication with a carefully constructed second excuse that adds a rich authenticity to what was already a nearly flawless social evasion," Huynh continued. "The level of detail is truly Dickensian."
Having long ago learned to accept the slim chances of their friend ever actually taking them up on an invitation to hang out, members of Shulman's social circle said they have recently acquired a deep appreciation of their friend's advanced level of excuse-making craftsmanship, which many claimed has become more refined with each passing day.
In addition, a number of Shulman's friends said recent excuses involving friction with his visiting in-laws, as well as a troubling series of migraine headaches he claims to have seen three different doctors about, are light-years beyond the crude excuses of "girlfriend issues" and tiredness he once presented regularly.
"When I invited him to my birthday party, he immediately launched into this long, involved story about having to get up really early the next morning to work on a Saturday even though they don't pay him overtime, and how that's bullshit because he's been with the same company for five years and he's one of their most valuable people," said close friend Janet Paulson, adding that Shulman later managed to vividly describe his weekend workday later to her, despite the fact that it almost certainly never took place. "He not only created this entire scenario, but somehow became so emotionally invested in his own excuse that he actually appeared to be genuinely upset that his employers were treating him this way. It was a really amazing performance, I've got to say."
"There was a time when he would have just said he had some family shit he had to do and left it at that," Paulson added. "But Eric is on a whole other playing field now."
Paulson confirmed that Shulman's not simply telling her the truth was slightly hurtful on a personal level, but said she was nonetheless eager to know what would take place next in his increasingly dense web of lies, having become engrossed by its thoughtful characterizations and unexpected twists.
While Shulman's excuses for blowing off friends are often convoluted and seem to have been made up on the spot, those close to him stressed that he in fact goes to great lengths to keep his stories straight.
"I'm convinced he has everything written down somewhere," said Michael Cueva, another longtime friend. "Last summer he told me he couldn't come to my barbecue because he had to fix a leak in his roof. I'd completely forgotten about it until three months later, when I finally saw him at his place and he pointed to this random part of the ceiling, talking about how he'd patched the leak, sanded the surface, and carefully matched the paint color so well you couldn't even tell it had ever happened. Ingenious stuff."
Cueva also stated that before he left his friend's home, Shulman had already laid the groundwork for three or four more excuses he would no doubt use to put off seeing him until well after the New Year.
"Usually when people don't want to hang out with me, I stop making the effort, but with Eric, I just want to see what he's going to say next," said Cueva, explaining that Shulman really seemed to be going somewhere with his current storyline. "Still, I wish he'd spend half as much time hanging out as he apparently does inventing reasons why he can't."
"I guess the guy has a lot on his plate right now, though," he added. "His cat does have ovarian cancer, after all."