Pathological Liars Are Bad Investments

I use to know this guy that was a pathological liar. Most people tend to exaggerate things from time to time to make themselves look smarter, cooler, wealthier or thinner, than they truly are. And, there’s the pessimist who exaggerates their woes to elicit empathy. But pathological liars are a whole different breed of fabricators.

If someone said they found a twenty dollar bill on the ground, he found a two hundred dollar bill. If someone saw the World Series live, he was in the dugout advising the coach. If someone had a three legged dog that could climb trees, he had a no legged dog that could water ski.

There didn’t even have to be someone to compete with, he’d just start one-upping himself. One day I was sitting outside a Starbucks with three friends when we saw Aaron and, before I could stop him, my friend Ben, waved him over.

“Hey Aaron, how you doing?” Ben hollered to him.

Without even warming up, Aaron dove right in to his fake story like a rabid cable news anchorman.

“Going to meet a guy about an investment.” he said.

Investment? Doesn’t that require money? I wondered silently to myself, and which he promptly answered.

“Got an inheritance from a rich aunt.” he said. (I guess “rich uncle” would have been too obvious a choice.) “I’m gonna sink it into something big.”

“What kind of investment?” Gwen asked, unaware she was feeding his compulsion to lie.

“Aw, it’s big. I mean BIG. Mammoth. Can’t talk about it. Non-disclosure thing, you know.”

“Hey, has anyone seen the mammoth exhibit-” I began, trying to change the subject.

“You gotta promise not to tell a soul.” Aaron said drawing focus back to himself. Without waiting for encouragement he continued in a false whisper. “This company is going to be big. Everyone is going to want a piece of it.”

There’s something about our culture right now that causes people to believe stuff they know isn’t true. Although they should have known him well enough to know it wasn’t real, they still had to know what “it” was.

“Is it technology? Pharmaceutical? Energy?” Ben asked.

“Entertainment? Agriculture? Automotive?” Gwen queried.

Aaron continued to shake his head. A gleam in his eye and a small smile turning up the ends of his deceptive mouth.

“Shoes? Vapor rub? Hair plugs?” the waitress chimed in, as if we were playing charades.

“Let’s just say there’s nothing like it on earth.” he said. Presumably offering a clue.

“Space travel?” Ben whispered in awe.

Aaron let the brief silence speak for itself. They smiled at each euphorically, like children that had just been told they had inherited super powers.

“Isn’t Tesla working on space travel for consumers?” I chimed in, trying to defuse the illusion and give him a safe out.

“Can we get in on it?” Gwen pleaded, unaware I had said anything.

Ben, Shelley and Gwen, and now the waitress, nodded eagerly hoping he would acquiesce to the request. It was hopeless, they had all drunk the cool-aid and were oblivious to the fact that Aaron had never said anything true in his life.

I wanted to shout at them “Aaron lies about how much poop a bird dropped on his windshield. He can’t tell the truth, in the most trivial of situations!” but I knew it was useless. They continued to plead and flatter, while he continued to embellish his connection to the universe.

I couldn’t stand it any more. Suddenly I went listless and closed my eyes, dropping my head to the side just long enough for them to notice.

“Shay?” Gwen said hesitantly.

Suddenly I bolted up right. “How long was I gone?”

“Wh-what?” Shelley stammered, looking confused.

“I just disapparated into the future.” I said then looked Aaron right in the eye. “I’m going to be nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay I started last month.” I leaned towards him without blinking and got to my feet. “And Aaron, you go to prison for perjury! You better be careful of the things you say.” Gathering my things to leave, I paused to deliver one last line. “I better go work on that script if I expect to win an Academy Award in 2020.”

I’m not saying I would have won an Academy Award, but it was a near perfect performance. Except for nearly being hit by a car during my dramatic exit. I do hope, however, that it helped Aaron to see the error of his ways. My friends, on the other hand, now think I am the delusional one.

When Summer Help is Just Summer

“This job is so boring. You have to text me every three minutes so I don’t go crazy.”

Somewhere between having our first child and volunteering to help do anything at anytime for anyone, I began to get behind at home. In my defense, when you have kids in school, mountains of papers and projects begin to come home with them. The smaller they are, the more stuff comes home. You know what I’m talking about. Cute poems with foot prints, place mats with hand prints and discipline slips with finger prints. (Early practice for those going to juvie I suppose.)

After eighteen years of parenting, our house began to look like a hoarders and we hadn’t bought anything is six years. I am a fanatic about recycling and re-purposing, so every can and jar with a lid gets saved. Every stray piece of string and every stray dog, for that matter, are protected from the dump. So, I guess there is a bit of hoarding going on here. Fortunately, our neighborhood has a group email and a couple of teenagers posted their availability for helping with odd jobs during the summer.

I should have known it wasn’t going to work out from the moment our teen helper walked into the study/junk room and said, “How long is this going to take?”

She did have some nice things to say like, “I bet this house would be really nice without all this stuff.”

She also thought my grandparents ration book from WWII was “cool.” And asked if it was from “the Revolutionary World War or the Civil World War?” When I explained that the Revolutionary War and Civil War weren’t world wars, she said they teach it different now.

“I bought one of those multi-drawer organizers” I started, but then was interrupted by her reading a text she received. Not even aware that I had stopped talking, she replied to the text, then looked back at me.

“Just take all the stuff out of that right drawer-” I continued, only to be interrupted a second time. Again, she responded to the text like Pavlov’s dog to a bell.

“And then put them in the organizer drawers and label them in alphabetical order.” I finished.

“Uh-huh.” she said pushing send on her phone, which immediately buzzed again. “Oh, my gosh!” she said with an dramatic sigh. “This is so annoying.”

Tell me about it, I thought, but said nothing. She finished her text and looked at me waiting for something. “So…?” she questioned.

“So?” I queried back.

“What do you want me to do?” she asked, completely unaware that I had already told her.

I explained again, this time using few words and using gestures like an Indian from a bad western movie. “Put stuff from drawer in trays. Label alphabetically.”

“That’s it?” she asked as if I could have hired a pre-schooler, which in retrospect I should have. I nodded and asked her if she would like a glass of ice water.

“Oh no. I can’t drink water, it makes me have to pee. Do you have any coke?” she asked.

I assume she was referring to the drink, although her previous statement made it seem less likely. “No. How about lemon water?” I offered trying to trick her.

“That sounds great.” she said taking the bait.

It took her three hours to move one desk draw of stuff into the desktop organizer and label it. Whether that was because of the TEXT-BOOK she was typing in her phone (see what I did there?) or because she doesn’t know the alphabet and had to ask siri what “post-it notes” starts with, who’s to say. All I know is it took me another three hours to relabel the drawers.

I was able to figure out how she came up with “S” for the Scotch tape. But there were two items I couldn’t figure out and finally had to call to satisfy my curiosity.

“I didn’t see a drawer for the safety pins or push pins.” I said innocently.

“The safety pins are under ‘B’ because they were all BIG safety pins.” she explained. And the push pins are under “J.”

“J?” I asked.

“Yeah.” she laughed to herself. “When I was little I jabbed my finger with one and cried to my mommy that the “jabby thing stabbed me.” she said in a baby voice, which I’m sure her mommy finds adorable.

Ugh! Next time I need help I’ll get someone that speaks my language. I just hope, my mommy is available.

Smart Alecs and Slow Learners

                                   “Better to be silent and thought wise,                                                     than to speak and remove all doubt.”                               Ancient Proverb

I like people to think I’m smarter than I am. Maybe that’s why I like meeting new people. New people don’t know I’m not smart – yet. See, I don’t always get things in real time. Sometimes it takes a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes it’s weeks later when I’m sitting in church and, WHAM! I involuntarily blurt out “I got it!” Then everyone starts praising Jesus for my salvation.

Some people are quick. They think quick, they speak quick; they just seem to understand the laws of nature and rules of society. These are the people that end up going into politics because they are ahead of our thinking and lead the way to a better future for all. Unfortunately, they often become corrupt along the way and end up leading the whole society into a big mess. Tsk, tsk.

But some people are more slow to speak. They take time to carefully consider things more thoughtfully before responding. I’d like to be in this category.  But sadly I’m usually in the third category: the quick to speak and slow to think. Like the time I suggested we take a group of older pre-schoolers upstairs to play checkers with the seniors visiting from a nearby nursing home.

I underestimated the competitiveness of the “greatest generation” as well as the resourcefulness of the half pints.

“It’s your move, pip sqeak.” an old man said to the little boy.

I cringed as I watched the boy study the board, realizing the old man’s next move would take half of his checkers.

“Stop calling me Annie.” a little girl whined running from an old woman chasing her with her walker.

Eyeing a couple of older gentlemen who were playing cards, Robbie, a precocious five year old asked “How much you money do you have?”

“Now Robbie, that’s gambling and we don’t do that.” I gently explained.

“What if I don’t cheat?” he asked sincerely.

It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about spending time together without kicking each other.

Before I could answer, I realized the old man at the checker board had fallen asleep. Alec, I think was his name, politely coughed, waking the man. Sure the man was now watching the board, Alec picked up a black checker piece and jumped it around the board clearing all of the red pieces. He smiled so angelically the old man abandoned any thought of questioning how he had suddenly won the game.

And so it went for two hours. Kids playing for money, seniors playing for candy. Kids running from old people, old people running from children. Me, trying to keep the kids from hitting each other. Seniors trying to get kids to hit seniors they didn’t like.

I don’t know who enjoyed it more, or if any of them enjoyed it at all. When I asked the kids the next day if they would want to play with the seniors again, the general consensus was “No.”

“Why not, I asked?”

“Old people are worse than grown ups.” said Alec.

“Ah ha!” I exclaimed, having a sudden revelation and scaring the children and teacher.

“Thank you, Mrs. Shay” the teachers said stepping between me and the kids. “By the way, we won’t be needing your help anymore.  We have enough volunteers for the rest of the year.”

“I figure it out!” I said unfazed, my voice rising over the hubbub of little voices.

“You’re frightening the children.” she whispered to me, gently pushing me out the door.

“He turned the board around!” I explained. “Don’t you see? He waited for the old man to fall asleep and he turned the board around!”

“Okay. Bye, bye.” she said with one last shove and closed the door.

Looking through the glass I saw the confused faces of all the little pre-schoolers. All, that is, except for one. Alec stood to the side smirking! I suppose I could have gone to the authorities, but I believe everyone deserves a second chance. I just hope having gotten away with cheating one time, he doesn’t turn to a life of crime. Or politics.

Advice for the Suddenly Single at Forty-something

Being single in your twenties is great. No commitments. No restrictions placed on your time or your alcohol consumption. You are free to pursue or be pursued. In your thirties it’s okay too. Theoretically you’re all more mature and less likely to do things you’ll regret.

But in your forties and fifties, it can be embarrassing, painful and let’s face it, hideous. Kind of like getting pink eye. At least that’s how it seemed to our newly divorced friend, Ann.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to divorce him.” Ann said regretfully.

“He cheated on you for eight years. I wouldn’t say you were being hasty.” I reminded her.

“But dating, it’s just so…”

“Exciting!” I said, trying to be encouraging. “It’s a great time to be dating. Men in their forties are stable and have careers.”

“Men in their forties that are stable have wives. The ones that have never been married I wouldn’t classify as ‘stable.’” she said

“So find a stable divorced guy. There’s got to be plenty of those. If there’s no ring, go after that thing!” I said, trying to sound cheerful, but sounding more like a washed up cheerleader. “Look, you can go out with anyone you want!”

“I want Jeremy.” she pined.

“You just think you do. Once you find a nice guy that doesn’t cheat on you, or pee in the yard and has a separated unibrow, you’ll wonder why you stayed with him so long.”

“Thanks.” she said, although I’m not sure what she meant by it.

“Why don’t you look up old boyfriends on Facebook?” I said trying to sound enticing.

“They’re all married.”

“You could try one of those dating sites.” I said hopefully. “You know Bob and Kate met that way.”

“Bob and Kate? The swingers?” she asked dumbfounded.

“Oh, right. What about church? That’s got to be a safe place to meet guys.”

“You know I’m an atheist. Right?” she reminded me.

“Still? I thought that was just in the nineties.” I said trying to recall. “Oh, that’s right, the nineties were your Jehovah Witness/Prince period.”

“Prince!” she said bursting into tears. “He would have been perfect.”

After twenty minutes of trying to console her, during which I pretended to understand what she was saying through her sobs, I got her convinced being single in her forties was the best thing to happen to her. Well, I say convinced, mainly I just got her to stop crying. Or she was too dehydrated to produce anymore tears.

Then the doorbell rang, my dogs went crazy and a brilliant idea struck me. “Quick,” I yelled, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the door. “What about him?” I exclaimed yanking the door open to reveal the UPS guy setting a package on the front porch.

Everything happened really fast at that moment. Ann’s swollen tear streaked face, now had a decided look of fear and confusion. But not as confused and fearful as the UPS driver that was suddenly being pursued by my big snarling dog and handicapped by my little Chihuahua mix that had attached himself to his ankle.

Thankfully Chihuahua teeth are small.  Ann was able to nurse his wounds and convince him not to seek legal advice or call the dog catcher. She even got a date with him!

“No, he got a date with me.” she corrected me a couple of weeks later when we were revisiting the event. “I did it to save your butt. He is not my type.”

“Was it the unibrow?” I asked.

“No, I like a guy with a strong unibrow.”

“You should give him another chance then. You know what they say, see how a man treats his mother, because that’s how he will treat you.” I said wisely.

“He lives with his mom.” she said.

“You mean he takes care of her and she lives with him.” I said re-framing her statement.

“No. He never left home.”

“Oh.” I said, disappointed. We sat there quiet for several moments unable to come up with any more dating options. “Have you consider Catholicism?” I asked. “Not as a religion, but as a nun?”

Fitness Challenged

I tagged along on a business trip with my husband recently and ended up at a quaint lodge with walking trails that offered guided hikes.

“You should go.” my husband said enthusiastically. “Get out of the room and get moving.”

He’s like that. If we pass a lake, he’s like, “let’s go swim it.” A mountain, “Let’s go climb it.” Me, I’m more like, “There’s a hammock, let’s take a nap.” But, to make him happy I decided to go.

My first clue this was no stroll through the garden was the various stretching poses everyone was engaged in, not to mention the exercise paraphernalia. They had expensive sneakers, dri-fit work out clothes, Fitbits, weights, even water bottles.

“Alright everyone, we’ve got about another minute then we’ll head out.” the hotel guide advised.

Feeling uncomfortable about just standing there, I tried to look like I was stretching. Left foot in, left foot out, left foot in, shake it all about. While I’m doing this, I’m sizing up the group to see who’s likely to be a slow walker.

I stretched my way over to a heavy set woman in her early forties. “You here by yourself?” I asked trying to strike up a conversation.

“I’m straight she says.” quickly moving away from me.

“No. I didn’t mean…” I started futilely.

“You’re not going to wear those sandals are you?” a little old woman wearing a spandex outfit and Nike’s that reached half way up her calves, asked me.

“Oh, I, uh, no.” I stammered. Rather than expose my lack of athleticism to her, I lied. “TSA, they, uh, they lost my luggage. What are ya gonna do, right?” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“TSA doesn’t take luggage.” she stated flatly.

“Yeah, uh, the luggage belt thing… x-ray, poof, it just, wham, all my workout, uh, sneakers, just gone.”

She frowned at me like I was a lunatic. Then quickly scanning me from head to toe, she seemed to nod in agreement with herself.

“You don’t exercise much. Do you?” she scolded, sounding like my high school gym teacher.

Feeling a bit defensive, I responded “I don’t really need to. I’ve never had a problem with my weight.”

“I bet you don’t weigh nothing.” she began. But before I could feel flattered by her words she continued snidely “You got no muscle. Fat doesn’t weigh as much as muscle, you know.” she said poking my carefully concealed belly fat. “Why you’re just like the Pillsbury dough boy.”

Thoroughly insulted, I determined that I was not going to walk with her. Leave her to bring up the rear by herself. My smug sentiment was quickly replaced by panic when the guide hollered “Move out!” and everyone suddenly began to run.

Was there a snake? An active shooter? Why were we running? I wondered, zig zagging across the path, knocking into people and cactus in the process. As the runners pulled ahead of me, I could hear something gaining on me. Fearfully I snuck a glance over my shoulder expecting to see a wolf or bear. But it was a three legged dog cheerfully lumber past me with remarkable speed.

The old woman was nowhere in sight. I guess I had bolted faster than I thought. Had I not been reeling from the pain of my chafing sandals and cactus needles sticking out of my knee, I might have felt bad about leaving her so far behind. As it was I just wanted to get this over with. Due to my lack of preparation, need for water, and unaccustomed to the sea level elevation, I made the loop in what seemed like hours. Because it was. Four hours, according to the bellman who advised the rest of the group had been back for three hours including the “old woman” who, turns out is a famous marathon runner.

The self loathing didn’t hit me until passing through the dining room that evening when I caught a glimpse of people celebrating the marathon runner’s ninetieth birthday. Rather than allow myself to slip into depression, I came up with a plan of action. After all, I am married to a man who’s all about taking action.

I have since bought expensive sneakers, spandex work-out clothing and learned proper stretching exercises. Someday I hope to be motivated enough to actually work out and turn this cookie dough belly into a hardened fruit cake. Probably next week. Or maybe next month. But definitely before I turn ninety. We all need goals.