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 airport 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.