When my children were living at home, I harped on them to always tell the truth. No matter what. Tell the absolute truth the first time and you will never have to cover up what you’ve done with lies you won’t be able to remember you told. Just tell the truth. No matter how stupid it may look at the time.
I should have known that at some time, that little sermonette was going to come back to haunt me. It happened over 30 years ago, but the pain and embarrassment is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. It happened because of that new car. I had bought a brand new shiny blue car. It was gorgeous, and I loved it. Then, two days later, I had surgery on both wrists. For four weeks all I could do was stare at that car, wishing I could drive it.
Then came the morning after the casts had been removed and I was able to drive myself to work. In my brand new shiny blue car. Halfway to work, I saw the flashing red lights in my rear view mirror. Sure enough, I had been caught. That little truth-telling sermonette had come home to roost. When the police officer asked, “Do you realize you were doing 45 mph in a 20 mph zone?”
For just a split second, I saw an image of the faces of my teenagers making me duty-bound to tell the truth. The absolute truth. So I took a deep breath and out gushed the absolute truth: “I had no idea how fast I was going, officer. You see, I just got this car and I love it. My previous car was an old junker that rattled violently every time the speedometer approached 30 mph. But this car rides so smoothly and is so quiet, I was enjoying the drive. And it’s a gorgeous car, don’t you think? Besides, I just had surgery on my wrists and all I’ve been able to do for four weeks is stare at this car. (At this point, I flashed my wrists out the window so he could see the fresh scars.) Today was the first day I have been able to drive and I was so excited by the smooth ride and hypnotized by the smell of new car that I had no idea how fast I was going.” The officer said, “Likely story, ma’am” and took my license. I was going to get a ticket, but at least I had told the truth.
Would my friend, also a police officer, soon hear about this? I hoped not. A few minutes later, the officer retuned my license. Surprisingly, he had no ticket. Not even a written warning. And more surprisingly, he was laughing so hard he could hardly stand upright. When he took a breath, he said, “Your friend was at the desk and heard me tell your story over the radio. He told me that he knew you and he believed your story because he knows you really are that stupid.” That friendship is still under review at this time.
The incident was discussed at our supper table that night. The lesson was learned: always tell the truth. You might look stupid, but chances are you will be believed.
More about truth next week.