Pants on Fire

You as a Bag Stranded reader might have asked yourself at some point during your adventures here whether the things that I write about really have happened. It’s alright. You can admit your doubt. Several have done so to my face, not the least of whom is my mother who calls into question nearly every facet of my life that I include in my stories. Sometimes it is difficult for me to believe that she reared me for so many years without realizing the bizarre, embarrassing, or crushingly sad situations I endured which would later become comedy fodder for casual virtual acquaintances.

The short answer is that, yes, I have actually experienced all of the situations that I detail in my little recollections here. I did once wash my hand’s in the zoo urinal. I did once place religious reverence on the name of Nicole Kidman (pbuh). I did once receive a flirtatious glare at Chuck E. Cheese from a mother with dolphins tattooed on her breasts. In many occasions, I only wish that I had made this stuff up.

I am a man who is cursed with being relatively honest in everything he does. I am sure that some of it has to do with my Mormon upbringing, where the fires of hell were constantly lapping towards me with every embellishment I spoke. But, more than just that, I think that when you get down to the bottom of my soul, and work your way through the charcoally bits and the parts that look like something out of a bad Andy Warhol movie, you would see the one very dimly shining character trait of my being an habitually honest man. That is not to say that I have not lied before. I have several times and been caught in the act. It is most likely because of the subtle “tell” that I have every time that I lie - my face flushes with red, my eyes, water, I giggle uncontrollably, and typically admit under my breath that I am lying. Very subtle. I have, however, gotten away with a few lies in my time. Right now, I can only think of two of those times, probably because I have managed to trick myself into believing the others.

The first occurred at the tender age of six while I attended Lake Ridge Elementary School, home of the Fighting Cougars and 47 days since the last syringe was found in the playground. My class was undergoing training on how to take care of our oral hygiene. I am sure that you remember these from one of the several desperate attempts that our teachers would make during our academic careers to ensure that if the United States could not surpass Great Britain, the Philippines, or Myanmar in testing performance, we would at least be able to surpass them in tooth count. These presentations featured demonstrations on the correct direction to aim your bristles while brushing. Occasionally, there was an educational video where the Super-Hero “Fluoride Man” would beat up green, squiggly-drawn tooth decay monsters. All of this was really just a ruse which eventually led to what every kid knew was coming. Plaque candy.

The presenter gave out small swag bags with Crest advertisements plastered all over them. Down at the bottom of the sack, each child would find small pre-packaged pink pills. These were of course meant for the children to chew so that the pink dye would color their teeth until they properly brushed it away. For me, as well as several other kids, these things were like Kindergartner catnip. During recess, they were traded like currency. I was a recreational plaque candy user, not like others who were found by their parents after school, passed out behind the bushes, eyes rolled in the back of their heads, and teeth stained a permanent pinkish hue. “Plaque heads” we called them.

After one such presentation, we were issued a challenge by our teacher. Each student would take home a chart where, by placing a small sticker in a spot on the graph representing a month’s worth of mornings, afternoons, and nights, we could keep track of how often we brushed our teeth. As we were promised a prize at the end of the month for keeping up with our brushing, a prize which I could only hope was more plaque candy, I was determined to do it. However, after several days, the busy demands of the typical work-from-home kindergartener caught up to me and I stopped brushing regularly. The night before the challenge ended, I saw the empty graph hanging in my room and worried about what my teacher would think of me if I showed her my shameful progress. I took out the sticker sheet and systematically placed one sticker on all three spots each day. “For the greater good,” I told myself. “For the greater good.”

My teacher was very proud of my alleged wonderful oral hygiene. At the end of the school year, the parents were invited to an award ceremony where children were rewarded for the various crap that they had done throughout the year. Near the end of the ceremony, my name was called up as the premier example of tooth-brushing commitment. I received a certificate as my mother and father shared a surprised glance at each other. I accepted the award and, smiling my yellow-toothed smile, I looked down at the award I had just been given. It looked very official, almost diploma-esque, except for the playful sticker which had been placed in the top right corner. The starburst shape featured a bug-eyed, smiling animated tooth holding a toothbrush with its anatomically improbable arms and a banner of text on the border of the sticker that read, “For telling the TOOTH.” Never had a such a clever pun been such a curse to me so as to cut me to the very soul. Yet, I was determined not to admit my lie as I did not want to loose face, though I was quite alright with loosing several teeth of that face.

Total plaque head. Sad, really.

More than ten years later, I had another experience with a lie that has guilted me enough to offer up a confessional to the collared priest which is you, my reading audience. Interesting analogy I just used there as this next story deals with me lying repeatedly and uncontrollably to servants of God. I was 17 years old and full of the spunky mischief of the teenage years. Being a 17 year-old, I was able to go on what is commonly referred to as “splits” with the Mormon missionaries that were in my area. Splits consist of two regular church members each working with one missionary for an evening, with the intention of both increasing the capabilities of those missionaries and foreshadowing many of the horrific experiences I would endure upon serving my own mission a few years later.

I had planned an evening to go with the missionaries but I had forgotten that I had also planned a very important event with friends on the same evening, something that I did not realize until that very day. The event happened to be the premiere of a movie that I and a few friends had created with a VHS camera and amateurish sketch comedy. Needless to say, it was a very important event. I talked with my friends and said that I would be able to figure out a way to leave the missionary splits (which started at 6:00) and make it to the movie premiere (which started at 7:00). I sat in the basement apartment with the Elders as they planned out their activities for me and the other member. I informed them, with all the regret that my years at Juilliard had prepared me for, that I would not be able to make it through the entire evening. Though I was not particularly asked for a reason why, I offered up a made-up excuse that my brain had conceived of only moments before, “My best friend’s aunt passed away and I was going to drive him to the funeral.” In hindsight, feigning illness would have been the best option, but that little plastic bird pendulum that dips it’s beak into water that lives inside my head and fuels my creative thought gets me into situations like this occasionally.

After reflecting on the problem, one Elder came to the conclusion that we would go about the normal business that we had planned for the first hour and then he would just come with me and my friend to the funeral. We then left the apartment and the little bird pendulum in my head dipped and swung at warp speed as I desperately tried to devise a way to get myself out of the lie I had created. We knocked on doors and taught the gospel, all while in my head I offered vain prayers to God mixed with attempted vows with Satan to help me create an even more elaborate lie. 7:00 rolled around and I began the short drive to a friend’s house. I knew that this friend would not be home as he was awaiting my arrival at the movie premiere. Before I pulled into the driveway, I carefully used the automatic lock to make sure that the missionary would remain in the passenger seat. “I’ll just run up and get him,” I casually informed him. His mother answered the door and I had a conversation with her that did not at all match the expressions that I was emoting for the sake of the watching missionary. I got back in the car and wiped the sweat from my head. “I guess his uncle came and picked him up.” And then, realizing the potential problem with this, I quickly added, “His other uncle, not the one who…you know…is now…a widower.”

I arrived an hour and a half late to the movie premiere, which many people had left without any real promise of my arrival being seen. Those who did stay heartily laughed at the comedy shorts that we had created, all while I sat in a fetal position in a chair knowing that I had better get used to the warmth of fire and the smell of brimstone for the hell that God was sure to send me to after this whopper of a transgression.

Flash forward to present day - yesterday actually. My dear sweet wife had prepared a moral lesson to teach to our three-year-old child. The subject was honesty and it was taught by me reading off several examples of honest and dishonest behavior for my son to differentiate between. “When I say that I will brush my teeth before bed, but then I never do, I am being ______.” This, along with other high-concept, pointed questions were hilarious for my son who answered each by intentionally giving the wrong answer. This has, as of recent, become his favorite pastime, offering a statement that is entirely contradictory to anything that we tell him. Even when scientific evidence is presented to him (“You see, even though you told me several times ‘no’, you actually did go poo-poo in your Buzz Lightyear underwear. I have the poo right here as a matter of fact!”) he still refuses to acknowledge his dishonesty. With time and, hopefully by following the example of his father, he will be able to exercise honesty, which is, arguably, the best policy. Or, if he does tell a lie, perhaps he can make a confession to a handful of people on whatever matrix-like thing the internet becomes once he is a father of his own, pushing middle-age, and suffering from poor dental hygiene and an aching need for some plaque candy.

By the way, I never did go to Juilliard. Just want to keep the slate clean.

"I know you pooed on me, Zachary. Why must you lie?"


Heather Sayer said...

I am a new-comer to Bag Stranded and an instant fan. I love reading all your comical experiences because I already know how funny you are in real life! Thanks for putting a smile on my face:)

Heather Sayer

Rob & Michelle Eberly Family said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane with the plaque candy. I had forgotten about them. Thanks also for clearning up any minomers that you may embelish your stories. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction