IT’S BEEN SAID that always telling the truth is best because it means that you never have to remember what you said previously. But there’s another good reason: folks may then believe you when the truth is really hard to swallow.
Such an approach might have helped me when I was running home from school one day, at the age of eight or nine. I’d just started wearing spectacles—big black, thick-rimmed contraptions that I hated for making me look even more dorky than usual.
I’d been instructed to take good care of them whenever I took them off—which was whenever I didn’t need to wear them to see what the teacher had written on the blackboard. So they were in a case, sitting on top of the gloves stuffed in my duffel coat pocket as I trundled back from Woodheys County Primary School.
I’m not quite sure what happened; maybe I was half-running on the curb. But at some point I must have stumbled, because the case popped out of my pocket, hit the ground, and skittered along the road before falling down between the gaps in a grid and into the drain.
When I got home with my tale of woe, Mom’s eyebrow arched in clear disbelief. They’d just fallen out? All on their own? I hadn’t dropped them on purpose? They hadn’t been snatched by a friend?
My protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears. To be fair, Mom had a good reason to be skeptical. I had a tendency to be what a British government official would years later call being “economical with the truth”—if not downright untruthful—when it came to my well-being. For instance, the wallpaper-tearing inquiry during which I finally wilted under extended cross-examination, admitting I was indeed the culprit.
On this after-school occasion, however, all I could do was stick to my story, unlikely as it seemed. Mom called the local authority’s waste service and we returned to the scene of the accident. I stood there miserably as workmen sucked up gunk from the drain and spread it out over the road.
My spectacles were not in the detritus, increasing the frown on Mom’s face. I shrugged helplessly as the work crew moved along to the next drain. Same thing. By the time we reached the third drain, we’d attracted a small crowd of onlookers from the surrounding houses, much to Mom’s clear discomfort. I could read her shoulders. Things were getting worse.
With four regurgitated drains in due course offering no results, I was bracing myself for what might follow. Clearly I had been making the whole thing up. So, what had really happened to the glasses, huh?
One of the workmen suggest trying one more drain. It seemed way further down the street than where I’d remembered losing the case, but it was worth a try. And there, in the sludge, was my case. Phew.
Maybe the relief was enough, or maybe my resignation finally convinced her, but Mom didn’t ask any more about what happened. But the helplessness of not being believed stuck with me: it was the day losing my spectacles helped me see more clearly. If you’re not honest, trust goes down the drain.
Photo credit: Theen … via Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA