Little lies sown can

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 1999

reap big problems


Published Sept. 29, 1999

Email newsletter signup

Unlike beauty, truth is not in the eye of the beholder. If one believes what one hears from the White House these days, truth is relative.

Now that doesn’t mean relatives don’t tell the truth, but it does mean that some liars believe truth is what the teller thinks it is.

One of the basic truths is this: Lies, even little white lies, are nasty, credibility-eating rats that erode trust and breed like rodents. Of all people, the president should realize this.

"I didn’t inhale," sounds like an innocuous little lie as does, "Yes, Aunt Minnie, I like your hat." But wait.

Little lies lead to big problems. That little white lie we ask our 7-year-old to give to the

caller on the phone so we are not bothered teaches him lying is the way to evade a difficult situation. "Tell them I’m not available,"(availability is your choice) is much preferred to "Tell them I’m not at home," which is a direct lie. If mom did it, it’s OK forme, the child thinks, and next time we ask, "Did you break the piano," we’re liable to have a child who stands toe-to-toe with us and says, "No."

Little lies lead to big lies and parental lies to little children can lead to big liar offspring.

Telling it like it is can be like little white lies. It might make things worse.

Consider Janice Greer, a 32-year-old convenience store clerk who had the bad luck to share the name of a real-life juror during the Whitewater trial of Presidential friends, Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and the McDougals, James and Susan.

Our Ms. Greer’s telephone nearly rang off the hook during that time with media requests for interviews, despite her protests that, like the old Lily Tomlin/Earnestine sketch, ìI am not the woman to whom you are speaking,î and they wouldnít leave her alone.

So …

Next time the reporter called, she talked about a news article she read before the

Whitewater jury convicted the accused of fraud and conspiracy counts.

That’s a no-no, you know; reading about a trial while you’re on the jury. She also implied the article helped make up her mind about the guilty verdict.

Lawyers for the McDougals and Tucker had a field day with the media, hyping the story for all it was worth and Ms. Greer got even more calls, but she also felt she got revenge.

Because lying can be a crime in some cases, she also got a lawyer. And probably a book deal.

We all know anybody who talks more than three times to the press these days or has a sleazy story to tell gets a book "deal." Seems we, the outraged public, have no compunctions about rewarding sleaze with $19.95 to read all about it. The latest is the barely teenaged boy (13) and the pony-tailed, 30-something school teacher, now inmate, who have written a book about their "moving and tragic love story" and the babies they conceived while she was out on bail. Trash writing trash has a book deal.

But I digress.

A young man I know shared Ms. Greer’s limited patience with annoying phone calls and after collectors had contacted him for several weeks about an unknown party’s bills, my friend decided to retaliate.

"I kept telling them I wasn’t the person and didn’t know the person," he said, "but they just kept calling over and over. Responding to one call too many, young man expanded on his answers to include the fact that the callers were bothering someone who had nothing to do with the problem and to leave him alone or he would take action.

Ring! went his phone again. And so …

"Weíre calling about your $350 clothing bill, which is seriously overdue," the caller whined.

"I’m not going to pay."

(Nasally), "Then you will have to return the clothing."

"I can’t. I threw it away."

"You threw away our clothing! Why?" (Whining again.)

"I didn’t like it when I tried it on and I’m not going to pay for clothing I don’t like and so I threw it away."

(Outrage) "We’ll sue!"

"Go ahead. My lawyer’s name is (whatever). You can deal with her."


Upon hearing the story the Capricorn part of me forced me to ask, "But what about the schmuck that owes the money. You’re gonna get him sued?

"Fran, these bozos called me for weeks without ever understanding they had the wrong party. Do you really think they’re smart enough to track the guy down?

"But they might come to your house." (That was my Sagittarius-on-the-cusp logic, asking).

"So, I’ll tell them the truth. I don’t know that guy and he doesn’t live here. I do."

Fran Sharp is a freelance writer living in Alabaster. Her truth is that this is a repeat (no charge) column. E-mail complaints to