Isn’t the truth good enough?
For some people, maybe not. I knew a young man once who worked in a French bakery. He, Italian girlfriend one-point-oh, and I, hung out some. And he told us how he played guitar in a band on “the Vineyard”—where he came from—but he didn’t have his guitar anymore. He also mentioned one time that he studied Kung Fu. I didn’t think anything of either of these declarations, because they seemed perfectly normal.
And then one night he was supposed to come join us for dinner at our apartment, and he was very late. Eventually he showed up, and said he had a problem with some driver who tried to run him (a pedestrian) off the road. He said he jumped on the hood of the guy’s car, and kicked in his windshield. Wow. I was impressed. It was Boston after all, and I had my own run-ins with the idiot drivers, so it really didn’t seem over-the-top. Not quite. Almost. The part about kicking in the windshield…he was wearing sneakers, and they didn’t seem the worse for the wear. Just how could a soft foot in a sneaker break a windshield? But I didn’t think too much about it at the time.
I had my guitar out, and I offered it to him. He hesitated and then picked it up carefully, and spent ten or 15 minutes touching it delicately, carefully, as if it were made of fine glass, without ever fingering a chord. How weird. “Just play it if you want.” I suggested.
“No, no, I have respect for an instrument. I just want to examine it.”
Okay, so he went on like that, it was painful to watch, and we eventually broke off and had dinner. He left, and I mentioned to Pal, my girlfriend, how odd he had seemed that night.
She looked at me matter-of-factly, and with a resigned sigh said, “He can’t play guitar.”
“What?” I asked.
“He can’t play guitar, and he doesn’t know Kung Fu.”
“What? Why would he tell us all that?”
“He’s chronically late. He made an excuse about kicking the guy’s windshield. It’s all bullshit, to distract us from the fact that he was over an hour late.”
“Really?” I couldn’t believe it! I just couldn’t understand why anyone needed to create such an elaborate story around something so minor as being late.
“Yea,” She continued, “He dug himself into a hole when he told you about ‘his band’, and when you handed him your guitar he had to improvise, but not on the guitar, because he can’t play.” She finished with a smile, revealing her slightly crooked front tooth. Adorable.
Jeez. Anyway, I was skeptical about everything the guy said from then on. I lost track of the guy, but he was the first of several “pathological liars” I have known. It always surprises me how gullible I feel when I realize afterwards how obvious it is that they are lying. How easy it is to believe them, and how bizarre it seems that they create this stuff, inevitably, to enhance their own image, or escape their own human frailties.
I was working retail, selling computers. There was a guy in the service department, and I used to hang out there and chat, waiting for things to get assembled, installed, or fixed. (In those days, a personal computer had to be “built” with certain options – type of video card, amount of RAM, type of drive – were all optional. I know kids, it’s hard for you to even imagine what I’m talking about – we’ll discuss that in some future post.)
This guy, I’ll call him “Bob”, was a little older than me, but not much older, a big guy, maybe six-four, over 225 pounds. No matter what shirt he wore, his belly always bulged over this pant waist. He was generally very friendly and upbeat. And out of the blue one day he started telling me about his time as an Army Ranger. I didn’t even know he had been in the Army.
“Yea, it was pretty good. I know how to use a knife, and I was a sniper.”
“Really?” I asked, in awe, “That must have been quite an adventure!”
“Yea,” He said, “The worst thing was when I got this infection.”
“Yep, snipers can’t move for days. I was camouflaged, on my belly; I had to pee in my pants. For days. My dick got all infected. When I finally got back to the base, the doctor had to slice me open to let out all the puss.” He was very matter-of-fact about this.
“Right,” He said with a sniff, “From the base almost to the tip! Like a hot dog. That’s why I can’t have kids.” His words were even more descriptive than this, but I will spare you.
“Shit!” I said.
“I was serving America. Shit happens. I have a scar to prove it.”
I didn’t ask to see the scar. Six or eight months went by. Bob married his girlfriend. She got pregnant. I wondered how that happened. I mentioned it to Bob’s boss, who I also hung out with. “How did Carol get pregnant?”
“The usual way I would think,” Roger replied.
“I mean, with Bob’s injury and everything. Did they have a sperm donor?”
“What injury? What are you talking about?” Roger asked.
“From the Rangers, when he was a sniper. Don’t you know about that?” I figured he must, they worked pretty closely there in the service department.
“He told you that story too? It’s bogus, I called him on it. He was never in the Army, and certainly not the Rangers! He was having some fun with you.”
Yea, ‘having some fun’. A gross story with pretty elaborate detail in the effort too. And never cleared up the mess. I’m glad I didn’t ask his wife about it! And from that day forward, I didn’t trust anything that Bob said.
Maybe I’m just gullible. Or trusting. Or Carraway-esque? There were a few more big liars in my life, and I’ll tell you about them when I get a minute.
Dude! It was just a merge!
To the guy in the Pinto wagon who followed me twenty miles across New Jersey. Oh sure, when I first realized that you really were angry, and you were honking and shouting at me (with your window up), I thought I should pull off the road and kick your ass. My second reaction? This guy is obviously nuts, and might have a gun or other weapon, or at least, be someone who would get some weird satisfaction from smashing my window with a brick. Yea, that would be fair retribution for pulling ahead of somebody when the two lanes merge.
But most of my male defensive rage disappeared not long after you stopped honking your horn – which I remind you, you must have had going for a mile or two at least, from one backed up stop light to the next, down 206. So how could you work so hard to hang onto your anger? I started to become rational—even compassionate—very quickly. You must have had a pretty bad morning, or a pretty bad life, up to that point, to be so angry with a total stranger who just pulled in front of you at a merge. And then to follow me? And glare at every intersection? You had plenty of opportunity to pull ahead and get where you were going faster, if that was really what was important. But you stayed angry, and kept shouting obscene threats to your closed window, and kept following me. I got to experience a fear. What if this guy is more than a little nuts? What if he’s a Psycho-killer??
Then my survival instinct kicked in. If you were going to follow and attack me, sucker, I was gonna make damn sure you’d pay for your insane craziness. Oh yea. You stay behind me? I’ll pull into a Starbucks parking lot and see how committed you are. I’ll wait until you pull in behind me, then I…do something. Drive away, run you over, call the cops, or the baristas. But you know, once you start thinking about this, letting your imagination run, you can just go to incredible extremes with it. What if this guy gets my license number? Manages to find out where I live? And so on.
At that point I figured it out. Take the iPhone, take good picture. Get a record of the guy’s face, of his car. And I did. And make sure he sees me taking the picture. For extra measure, I might tweet it. Internet to the rescue. Sort of.
Because really, he was in the slow lane. I was in the fast lane. The lanes merged. He pulled forward, I pulled forward. He backed off his accelerator, I didn’t. It was just a merge. Dude! It was just a merge!!