Intersections – Balls, lies, and left turns
By Nicki Salcedo
This has been a great week to see the word “balls” in the news. Balls are funny. Deflated balls are extra funny. Thanks to the New England Patriots and the deflated ball scandal of 2015, I giggled quite a bit this week. Then I got serious. Balls are funny, but cheating is not.
Each morning I drop my kids off at school and notice signs that say “No Left Turn” between 7-8am and 2-3pm, the hours when you drop off or pick up your kids from school.
No matter where I’m going, I always need to make the left turn. My work is left. My house is left. The coffee shop is to the left. Yet every day I turn right. The sign says “No Left Turn” so I turn right. And every morning I watch parents make the left. They are cheaters. If given the chance they would deflate their footballs just to get the advantage over the rest of people who do follow the rules.
There are two types of people in the world. The people who do wrong and know it’s wrong. They don’t care about the rules. Then there are the people who think the rules don’t apply to them. Group one might be criminals, but I’d rather be with them. The people in the second group think that they are above the law.
I make a mental note of the parents who make the left turn.
“No, son. You can’t have a playdate with Little Johnny. I’ve seen his parents make the left turn during right turn only hours. They can’t be trusted.”
I remember watching my mother in a department store as a child. The clerk had given back too much change. To my child’s mind, if someone hands you $100 when you should have gotten $10, the extra money is yours.
“It’s stealing,” my mom said. The employee was very thankful, and I remained confused. It wasn’t the employee’s money. Why did it matter?
“She could lose her job over a mistake like that. If the money doesn’t add up at the end of the day, even if it’s a mistake, she could be fired. It would be lying and stealing to take the money.” This is why I needed parental guidance. Finder’s keepers, losers weepers is a strategy of convenience even for adults.
I am no paragon of virtue. Once over dinner, a friend posed a question, “Do you ever lie?” He claimed to always speak the direct truth. I believe him. If I wear an unflattering dress, this friend might say so. He has a great vocabulary, and I think this affords him the luxury of honesty.
When they got to me, I also told the truth.
“I lie all the time,” I said.
I struggle with this. I would never lie at work. When I’m sick I’m sick. If I want to go to a baseball game, I say that. I value honesty, but still I admit to lying. To my kids.
My honest friend is child-free. Honesty is just like breathing to him. For me, I try to be honest. I’ve struggled with the Tooth Fairy. I waver between moments of truth and allowing magic.
We don’t say much about Santa Claus either way, but on the nights when homework is not being done, St. Nickolas rears his ugly head, and I shout. “Santa can see you.” No he can’t.
There are the lies of hyperbole. “You’re going to freeze to death.” We live in Georgia. This is unlikely.
And the lies of avoidance. “How babies are made? Well, there’s a penis and a vagina. Sometimes just sperm and egg in a test tube . . . and then a lot of hugging.” That’s the precursor to the truth.
Which brings me back to #deflategate and football. I think about that guy making the left turn. We are all guilty of excusing our bad behavior. What happens when we live like we are all above the law? Our kids are watching. Will they do what we do?
Is lying about Santa Claus the same as cheating? I don’t know. Is cheating worse than making the left turn when no one is looking? I don’t know. Is it okay just because it’s less wrong than another broken rule?
Now I say, “When you don’t put on a coat, you cough, and when you cough you get sick.” I’m less hyperbole. I bought a book that explains the part after the hugging. I’m finding ways to be direct and truthful even when I’d rather avoid it.
Leave it to the New England Patriots to ruin something funny like the word balls. Thanks to the Pats I’ve been in a morale quandary all week. As for the Super Bowl. Inside I’m still cheering on the Falcons, but outside I’ll be shouting “Go Seahawks!” That’s the truth.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.