14 April 2010

Slippery slope

I'm content to listen to the radio when I'm getting my hair cut or my teeth cleaned. Generally, I actually prefer it to getting swamped with questions I don't want to answer. If someone's really chatty, I'll ask him or her a question and then just let them talk.

Today I was feeling a bit more sociable, however, and my dental hygienist hit neutral mutual topics. The tv in the upper corner of the room for patients was playing FoxNews.

"Can you change the channel to something else or turn the tv off?" I asked.

"Oh sure. Let me get you the remote. You can put it on whatever you want."

I took the remote and said, "I don't know what comes on this time of day."

"You can surf if you like or turn it off. It's here for the patients."

I hit "2" to get it off FoxNews, thinking I'd surf upwards and see what was playing but after a few seconds, I turned it off. With the green safety glasses on and her work light sometimes in the way, there wasn't much to see anyway. The radio was on in the hallway, so I set my gaze on the ceiling and listened to music, DJ chatter, and the occasional ad.

"The quiet's nice," she said. "Usually the tv's on all day. Some people need it for the distraction because they get nervous. I can't stand half of what they watch though. I'm a reader, I don't really watch tv."

Right. She told me about a Diana Gabaldon book a few visits ago, I thought to myself. I let it go, instead mentally drawing the vent and fluorescent light fixture on the ceiling.

A persistent hum sounded nearby. A cell phone on vibrate. Is that me? No, my phone's not even on. Must be hers.

She continued working and said, "That's my phone. Usually I don't have it on me or even on, but we've got an American Idol pool going. It's up to $250 and there are a few people who haven't gotten back to me yet. They need to get their picks in today for the winner. Have you seen it?"

When she removed the mirror and pick from my mouth several seconds later, I replied, "I saw an episode or two years ago. I don't follow it."

She told me who she likes and why and then we discussed reality tv and the nature of celebrity. It was an affable chat.

Then she asked me something the answer to which I was embarrassed to say, so I sort of lied to avoid the typical follow up questions. My answer was true in a certain context, but it gave the wrong impression. Her immediate enthusiasm for my answer based on her perception of its scope made it a straight-up lie. I felt my cheeks burn and hoped her focus was aimed solely inside my mouth.

Her subsequent questions made me feel like a fraud, so I tried to walk back my initial answer to the proper context. I was half successful, but she responded with suggestions and support for me. I fear this will come up again in six months. With hard work and some luck, I hope it won't matter then.

To recap: a truthful answer would've made us both uncomfortable for a short while. The bent truth told to avoid embarrassment lead to the precipice of a fictionalized identity and still has me beating myself up for telling it. So, integrity is not always a picnic: there are uncomfortable truths and uncomfortable lies whether spoken aloud or not.

Feels like time to embrace silence again.

A year ago on TTaT: To sum up

1 comment:

  1. "there are uncomfortable truths and uncomfortable lies whether spoken aloud or not."

    So true.