Lying on life insurance applications

I don’t like to lie, I’m not good at it. But there are times it’s expected, even when they insist you tell the truth, like on life insurance applications. Lying is expected but never out in the open, never outright, not unless you’re in politics or border control.

I did my best to answer the questions in the life insurance phone interview truthfully and comprehensively, but I also had plans to make dinner.

And on the forms — the addenda to the original packet of forms that come piecemeal and require scans and back and forth and so on — there’s a supplement asking for more details on your drug and alcohol history, and very small comment fields to elaborate on times when maybe you exceeded the amount you checked off in the previous question, to please explain. And this could be the basis for a 50,000 word memoir, were I telling the truth.

No: the truth is not absolute, it runs on a sliding scale. Like when I applied for my project management professional certification, to just take the entry exam you had to spend about eight hours on an application detailing out the number of hours you’d spent within each of the five phases of project management, from Initiation to Close-out, and then within the seven subject matter areas of project management, sign and attest you are telling the truth and then get three people you’ve worked with who can also vouch for you and sign and return the sealed envelope for you to mail: they sign and seal and return to you for you to mail so there’s no way you can forge their signature, sacrosanct: they have flow charts documenting how all this works, the process to apply.

I’m in the Petco giving them my Loyalty Number but it turns out my number only works at the PetSmart because I’ve confused the two, which is easy since they both have the word Pet in them and they’re about a mile from one another in some anonymous strip mall, both with red and blue in their logo and a little dog and cat, and they look the same because they’re fucking pet stores, there’s not much room to distinguish yourself, and so the girl says there’s no one with that name in our system but there is a Cecilia Pierce, should I just ring you up under her name?

And my instinct is of course not, that would be lying so I say no. But she does it anyway and just looks beyond me as she scans my things because she’s got a line and is making that face like I’m a retard, because I am: I’ve gotten to that age I can’t tell the difference between chain pet stores in the suburbs, can’t remember where I’m a member. I’m unemployed, flustered by small tasks.

I call the auto glass place to have my windshield repaired and they ask what date they should report for the claim and I say it was at least two years ago, I can’t remember. She says it has to be within the last year otherwise they get nervous and you don’t want them to investigate trust me, so I say fine: March 17. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, a day I can remember and she says great. There’s nothing to see here, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

We’re coming back through the airportĀ from Germany and on the landing card I put down yes, we are in fact transporting soft cheese. And so they politely gesture us to a different line and a specialist comes out from Customs who looks a bit bothered: she says we’re just not used to people telling the truth about this so let’s go ahead and see what you’ve got.

And then when they ask if we’ve been to a farm I say, why yes! We were at Eberhard’s mother’s farm where the kids were petting the cows, weren’t we honey? And they all look nervous with their uniforms now and maybe some eye-rolling even: they ask if I can specify how long ago it was, how many days, and start half-heartedly inspecting the bottoms of our shoes, and was it even these shoes we were wearing or the ones we’ve packed?

And finally it gets to where the truth is too hard to manage and they just wave us on.

Lying is an important skill in child development and necessary once you reach the teen years, necessary for both the child and the parent. Do I really want to know if she’s been smoking pot or would I feel better if she said no dad, it’s just allergies?

It’s a white lie if you can defend the logic of the lie for its non-threatening impact or for some altruistic purpose, like pretending you love the dress your husband got you when really you don’t, you’ll find an excuse to return it. Telling the truth would hurt his feelings.

Or complimenting someone by saying nice house even when it’s not, but you’ve just met them and don’t know what else to say and it’s expected to say that, everyone does.

For our first house, the bank made a mistake and processed a large check I wrote but never took the funds out of my account. After some time I called them because it was the right thing to do, and I didn’t want it to come back to haunt me after I’d spent the money.

But the woman was short with me and implied maybe I needed help balancing my check book, and her tone changed with me just like that woman at PetSmart or Petco, it went to a mechanical processing place like I was a child, so no, there’s nothing else I’ll be needing help with today fuckyouverymuch.

Our friend Laurent discovered a brick of French Francs renovating his kitchen in France, reported it to the people who sold him the house, whose aged mother had stashed it during the war in a moment of forgetful paranoia, and then the family seemed put out they had to make arrangements to come meet him to retrieve the money, asked he not say anything so they wouldn’t have to report taxes on it, and didn’t offer to give him any.

I’m still waiting for the underwriter to finish with my policy. I’m betting I’ll die and they’re betting I won’t, that it will work out better for them based on my risk level. The joke is on them and the truth is unknown; it’s on a sliding scale and no one really wants to know the answer, it would take too long to get there.

Categories: Humor

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18 replies

  1. convenience lying. it’s in it’s own category almost.


  2. You’ve just hit the nail on the head


  3. Got an offer on the house and the inspection is Monday. I’m pretty sure the stuff I bought killed the mold on the bathroom ceiling. And the paint definitely covered it. I didn’t mention it on the disclosure, and I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt me in the form of legal proceedings. It was just a little bit. And I’m pretty sure the stuff killed it. It was expensive stuff.


    • Well ain’t that another category altogether, w/r/t full transparency is what you disclose in those transactions. I had a neighbor working on our house before we sold it and he started telling me he’d discovered something of note and I told him stop, I don’t want to know. Congratulations to you and your family though, Walt. Tell me more when you have a chance.


  4. The inconvenient truth. I always tell the truth at Customs locally because most of them are my friends and also God is watching.


    • I’m realizing I could write a book about all my lying despite the fact I’m an honest guy. I don’t get it. I’m going into my hammock now to snooze with the birds and the lawn mowers. My work is done.


  5. I think you’ve stumbled onto a metaphor for — I don’t know… life? We’re groomed to tell the truth, because the consequences of lying are supposed to be terrible, and yet so much of getting by is in the constant, trivial lying. Just avert your eyes and whistle a happy tune, and you’ll be fine.


    • I like that Kevin: the trivial lying, just avert your eyes and whistle a happy tune. “Everything is awesome!” Everything is better when you’re part of a team…


  6. I laughed when I read about the pet stores. I really hate shopping where there are customer club programs. I just want to buy some damned enzyme crap to clean up cat piss – do we really need to swap phone numbers?
    I got a pet store card in the mail one year. It was addressed to someone else and I used it for 8 years, confirming the info on the screen as mine every single time. Then, I met the person it was intended for in a parent group! I knew her for 4 years before I mentioned that we’d gotten her junk mail. It felt like confession. She didn’t care and I’m still using the card.
    Somehow lying to invasive corporate a-holes doesn’t bother me as much as it used to – surveys, forms, questionnaires, screenings. I will lie my ass off if it will shorten the process and get someone to stop talking to me. And yet, I still consider myself an ethical person. I think it’s a dichotomy born of modern living, where the simplest task can be turned into an arduous process.


    • Marvelous story, Michelle. Yes, there is some great dichotomy in this I think, how we allow ourselves the freedom to lie and still regard ourselves with integrity based on how we reason the lying. It feels good lying sometimes, like donning a Halloween costume maybe. The club programs drive me up a wall: and funny, I worked on one of the first loyalty programs at Starbucks in like 2006, when they were wanting to go beyond the punch card idea to something digital, and oh what joy it was to tie together disparate databases and systems to make it all work, my free drink. And I tell you that’s not as interesting now as the walk I’m going to take around my neighborhood with the chirping birds right now. Enjoy your day and happy week to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I just finished my taxes and I couldn’t lie. Man did I want to, but I just couldn’t. I also had a phone call from Social Security asking how much rent my son pays, well he doesn’t pay rent, but they tried four times to get me to say he did so he can get some SS money for his time off work. I ended up telling them, “I’m not going to lie just to get $200.” I think they thought I was an idiot. It does make me think they spend their entire day hearing people lie, and I was annoying because I wouldn’t play the game. (Your pet story reminded me of a time I called my favorite Chinese restaurant and insisted ordering curried rice even though the cook said they didn’t make it. I said, “I get it there all the time.” As I was driving to pick up my food, I remembered that it was the Thai place that did the curried rice…felt like an idiot, nothing new there.)


    • Ironic: writers who have a hard time lying, when that’s what you have to learn to do best, it seems. Lie like a cheap rug, you. This is a great story about your taxes…another category for enabling lies. I could get myself pissed off about this if I wanted. Like people put the accountability of the truth on you but only if it fits into the box of what they expect. Whatevs. Like the story of the curried rice too. We’re getting funny in the head I think.


      • Yes, I don’t have any probably stretching the truth when I write. Sometimes people I know will say, “It didn’t happen like that,” and I’ll say, “I don’t care, it makes a better story this way.”


      • That’s right. Cheers to that Jon. It’s all about the story: reality doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? One too many syllables to get down in one gulp.


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