Guest Column: Honestly? Please Don't Be Truthful
"Who in his right mind would tell his boss this kind of thing?"
SHERMAN, Texas -- "Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard …" Really? My guess is that Billy Joel never worked a retail job. While there's no doubt I've heard my fair share of bizarre excuses and wacky whoppers in the last 10 years or so, I've been equally stunned by a slew of unvarnished truths that employees have exposed—all without prodding or prying.
I've always fancied myself a forthright person, though my dad thinks "blunt" is more accurate. My memory isn't enviable, so I figure being upfront is easier than having to remember my lies. But it turns out there are plenty of folks who have me beat handily when it comes to telling it like it is. These people won't lie to a co-worker about liking his new haircut if they don't, but they would volunteer their personal experience with adultery if the topic were to arise.
Years ago, our area supervisor called to ask how well I knew health-department regulations. Little did I know there was no exact code that addressed her specific question. A young fast-food employee called this supervisor to see if he could legally work if he had crabs. Instead of respecting the courage it took to report such delicate information, I thought, "Who in his right mind would tell his boss this kind of thing?" My imagination immediately went to work on the juicy tidbit. I envisioned the local pharmacy submitting the salacious story to the small-town newspaper for its weekly front-page article. Or, I wondered, had he used the only brain cells still active in his head to drive far out of town to buy crustacean-be-gone-potion?
All of the good lies for missing work ran through my head. Why didn't he claim to have stomach flu? No one would ask for proof of that. Or why didn't he say he was grounded, dumped or suffering from some other teenage affliction that had no scarring shame associated with it? And I couldn't help but think how dated the excuse was. Why wouldn't he contend E. coli or something from this century was to blame?
No Reason to Share
That one may go in the history books as a once-in-a-lifetime story, but I'm amazed at the number of requests we've had to get off early because "CPS [Child Protective Services] is coming today." I've been rightfully accused of telling people more than they want to hear, but even I have my limits. I'm certain I'd have dreamed up an urgent conference at the school before I boldly admitted my parenting skills were like those displayed on Cops.
Most recently, a candidate seeking a store manager job revealed, for no apparent reason, that he had suffered eight strokes and a heart attack in the past decade. I'm all for transparency, but even Dick Cheney would've been leery about this guy's chances. I pondered the reasons someone might share such history when it wasn't required or helpful to his quest. No good one surfaced.
And, although it happens annually, the entertainment value I get out of someone pooping her pants hasn't lessened with time. It's inevitable that an employee will tell her manager that she needs to leave work to go home and change clothes because her most embarrassing moment has just occurred at work. I can think of 20 fabrications I'd devise in an instant—the landlord phoned and said the pit bull is running loose, the neighbor called to say the kids are smoking pot in the backyard, my bra hooks just gave up and let go—before I'd cop to the catastrophically unfortunate act of soiling myself. I suppose there are some who would say we came into and will leave the world doing this sort of thing, so it's just part of the human experience. Not me.
I think that this kind of mess is the reason we have white lies. And don't act like you're exempt from these or feign concern that they're the gateway to guile. Minuscule misrepresentations should be categorized like pleasantries: meaningless and helpful in keeping informational exchanges comfortable and void of mental imagery that can stay with you for years to come.
So the next time you feel compelled to blurt out the reason you're late is because the Correctol you took last night didn't work like the TV ad implied, stifle yourself. Just say you overslept.
Diane McCarty is Retail Princess of Douglass Distributing Co. Reach her at [email protected].