Meredith C. Carroll: Honesty " it’s such a lonely word
February 21, 2008
My heart just did some figurative bleeding after reading about this poor kid from northern Nevada. A senior at Fernley High School held a press conference earlier this month announcing his intention to sign with the University of California, Berkeley, to play football.
As it turns out, though, the kid made up the whole thing. After he confessed, he said it was because he wanted so badly to play Division I ball that he fabricated the reality he craved after realizing it wasn’t going to happen. Clearly he had seen “Field of Dreams” about 47 times too many.
Still, I feel his pain and admire his chutzpah. You know, in a been there, done that kind of way.
My eighth-grade French teacher, Madame Sharpe, was like the human equivalent of nails scratching on a chalkboard. She had a corny, exaggerated accent that made her sound like a child going down a slide every time she sang out, “Oui.” She made it way too easy to avoid caring how to conjugate être and why it’s an irregular verb in the present tense.
Nevertheless, when report cards were passed out on the last day of school before the winter break, I was a little surprised to see I got a 75 in French. I knew I had enough talent to master this particular Romance language. And I knew even more it would be a tres blue Christmas vacation as soon as my parents saw concrete proof of exactly how much of that talent I had squandered. I spent the day panicking about my grave potential for being grounded when a friend suggested I simply change the grade.
Unfortunately both my parents happen to be particularly bright, so I didn’t really think they’d buy my 75 as the doctored 95 I made it out to be with the stroke of a pencil.
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They already suspected I hadn’t tried too hard in French class. Especially since I had once wondered aloud to them whether Brie cheese was named after our neighbor’s dog, not the other way around.
I went for it anyway. And then my parents heaped praise upon me that I found suspiciously suspicious. I was wracked with guilt for all 14 days of the winter break.
Fast-forward to the night before the first day back at school and the remorse kept me up for hours. Finally I appeared in tears at the foot of my parent’s bed and confessed.
(The timing of which was entirely auspicious, since my mom knew all along I was full of it and planned on calling the school office first thing the following morning to get my real French grade.)
That was nothing, though, compared to my piece de resistance in 11th grade.
I was driving back from lunch one day and miscalculated the width of the spot in which I was trying to park. As such, I made a significant dent in the rear driver’s side door of the school librarian’s car. I panicked and drove off, telling my parents later someone must have hit me, thus explaining my missing front right reflector.
No one raised an eyebrow until a few days later when I came home from a tennis team match and my dad was there. It was never a good sign when he appeared before dinnertime.
“Tell me again what happened to the reflector on your car,” he asked nonchalantly.
As I repeated the story, I grabbed a tissue from my mom’s nightstand and saw a piece of paper next to the phone with “Detective Reynolds/Mamaroneck Police Department” written on it. The heat rushed to my face and the rate of my heartbeat rivaled the frequency of Roger Clemens’ misremembrances before a Congressional committee last week.
“Interesting,” my mom said. “Because the police called and said a witness saw you hit another car and drive off.”
“That’s totally not true! I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I cried indignantly.
“Good. OK,” my dad sighed. “Then we’ll hire a lawyer and sue them. How dare anyone spread vicious lies about my daughter. They’ll rue the day they ever uttered your name in connection with a crime. Those worthless bastards will pay.”
My dad stared at me. I stared back. I had some amount of confidence that I could keep up the charade. After all, I was channeling George “It’s not a lie if you believe it” Costanza. But it was the mystery witness that had me sweating. I had to make a quick decision. I blinked.
The next several days weren’t a picnic, but it was way better than if I had stuck to my guns and called a press conference to herald my story to the world. Poor kid.