I’ve been away for a while and in going back through older posts, I noticed a topic (by koshersalaami?) on sort of a writer’s call. It reminded me of an old conversation.
“The difference is, I lie for a reason.”
Tabitha, my colleague, friend, confidante and occasional nemesis, was questioning me about a series of lies I told while working on a messy political farrago where everyone was covering their asses. I had bluffed a couple into partial confessions by pretending to know more than I did. Word had gotten out and now some folks in High Places were pressuring our paper for my head.
“Bloody hell Dandy, everybody lies for a reason. More than I care to recall, I’ve told you your piece was good to go. When it wasn’t, you know. That’s because it was near the deadline, it was filler that few would read and it wasn’t worth the tumult of trying to fix it up at late hour. So I had a reason. Get it?"
As I was formulating my response she continued.
“Do you think that anyone lies cavalierly, wantonly, randomly? Aside from outright cuckoos? “
I sensed this question was rhetorical but as I was still working on my “Get it?” response, I let her continue.
When I go down for tea at the shop and the waitress says “your tea ma’am”, do you think it might be coffee but that she’s just lying for the hell of it?”
“Well…” I managed.
“Look, lying is a conscious act. It’s sometimes reflexive but never inadvertent or accidental. And if it were, it wasn’t really lying. More like a verbal blunder. Like when you knock over your pint, I know you aren’t trying to damage the table and drench everyone. That would make it willful destruction. Do you see where I’m going with this?”
I nodded and tried to look thoughtful. A look that while well-practised, wasn’t reliably convincing. But my thoughts were now occupied with wondering whether I was lying in feigning understanding. Too deep for me. Continued listening was safer.
“So you see, having a reason is essential to lying. You look like you don’t get it.”
That “get it” expression again. How I hated it. People used it when they were unable to articulate just what it was that some opponent didn’t understand. Lazy speech habit that led to lazy, ill-formed opinions or what passed for them. But I hesitated in calling Tabitha on that point. Too many painful experiences learned the hard way. I didn’t doubt that she could precisely articulate just what it was I didn’t get. And amidst these thoughts I was losing track of the topic at hand.
“But I had a very good reason for lying Tabs. Look what it got me.”
That look of slightly stifled exasperation. Well I knew it. “So very good changes the equation?”
“Doesn’t it change one of the variables?” I’d no idea if it did but it showed promise.
“Variables don’t affect this equation Dandy. The logic of your initial statement presupposed a distinction between a reason, good, bad, or very good, and presumably no reason whatsoever. And those politicos were no doubt lying to you and everyone else for reasons of their own. Can’t you admit you just went down the wrong track?”
I could admit it but I wasn’t so inclined. “Look, to say that one lies for a reason implies a moral approbation of that reason. So “very” ups the ante.”
“Ante? ‘Stakes” I should think.”
“One of the two. Or both. But since everyone has a reason for lying, stating that one has a reason can’t be merely an empty expression. One is obviously insinuating that one’s reasons are superior to those run-of-the-mill liars.” Whew, I was back in the game.
“That’s not what you said at first Dandy. But let’s consider your amended statement which is, I think, ‘I lie for better reasons than most liars.’ In that you may have a point. But you have to admit that I drew it out of you and your original boast was ill-considered and vacuous. Concede that and we can move on to the fun part of the evening.”
I reflected. I’d genuflect if I was surer what it meant. “You’re right Tabitha. Nolo contendere. I’m throwing in the towel. And now for the rest of the evening?”
You see, I do lie for a reason.