Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

When my wife and I were parents of two little boys, we drilled specific standards into their sweet heads.  Be kind to people.  Don't sass your parents.  Don’t feed bleach to the dog. Sex before marriage will cause your nose to turn bright yellow.  And, above all else, be honest and truthful.  You know the routine.

We tried to instill the beauty of truth and honor, and they listened and learned.  Our boys are good men with high principles and standards.  But, I have to tell you, as they grew up, went to college, and began to discover life — and brought some of those discoveries home — I adopted a valuable motto that got us through some of those "developmental" years.  My motto is hypocritical.  And very appropriate.  "Sometimes, truth isn't all it's cracked up to be."

Don't go morally ballistic on me.  I'm talking mostly about little white lies. And, yes, I know what the Bible says about any kind of lie.  However, I firmly believe I did not need to know everything my sons did in college.  And their mother could have gotten by knowing even less!!

One of our little charmers called us from college a few years back.  As a marine science major, he was taking a scuba diving class and was going to Florida for several days to get his diving certification.  We thought this was exciting.  His mother said, "That's wonderful.  Call us when you get back Sunday evening."

He replied, "No problem, Mom."  I firmly believe that was not an intentional lie.

Sunday at 11 p.m., Mom was restless.  At Midnight, she was wild.  I was trying to schedule a plane to fly her to Florida so she could check every beach and waterway in the state for evidence of her son, who finally called Tuesday and was safe and had a fantastic time.   

My advice to our son: Tell your Mother you are skipping classes for three days and won't be returning until Wednesday.  Surprise her by calling early.  Or don't tell her you're going at all.  Truth isn't all it's cracked up to be. 

Another son went to a summer rock concert three and a half hours away.  He told us he would be home about two a.m.  Stupid us, we didn't do the math.  There was no way he could drive seven hours both ways, attend a concert and still be back by 2 a.m.  The concert was over at Midnight.  He couldn't possibly get home until three thirty.  But, if he said he would be home at two o'clock, then he would be.  (Yes, parents can be terminally dumb.) At two in the morning, Mom was awake.  At two thirty she was furious because I was asleep and obviously did not love our son or I would be awake with her, pacing.  At three, she knew our son was dead and buried and was not in a mood to discuss it.

She:  "Call the state police."

Me:  "He's fine.  It's too early to call anyone."

She: (The quietest, coldest, most vicious silence I've ever not heard.)

I called the state police.  The lady on the phone verified there had been no traffic accidents or fatalities near the concert.  She also explained that there were so many concert goers that it was taking at least two hours to get out of the parking lots.  That makes five thirty as the earliest our son could get home. It was then three fifteen.  That's a long time left.

Me to State Police:  "M'am, I understand the traffic is so jammed it is taking two hours to get out of the parking areas because you have 60 million people wanting to leave at the same time.  And, I understand you have had no fatal accidents reported.  But, I promise to give a contribution to the State Police Fund if you will tell my wife that you personally spoke with our son 20 minutes ago and that he is fine.  My wife has convinced herself that her son is dead, and he won't get any better until she talks to him."

I had never had a State Police hang up on me before. 

My advice to my son when he returned.  Lie.  Tell you Mother you're going to leave the concert, bum around for a week without food.  Then when you get home early, she will be relieved.

Truth is not all it's cracked up to be.

One year for our youngest’s birthday, we bought him a ticket to a Grateful Dead concert in Atlanta, only four hours away from his college.  He had dreamed about attending one of their concerts for two years, and we were thrilled we could find the tickets.  After the weekend, we called him, excited to hear about how much he enjoyed it. 

“Did you have a great time?” his mother asked.

“It was fantastic.”

“Were your seats good?” I added.  I am so stupid!

“Actually, I was in the parking tailgating with friends.”

SILENCE on our end.

Realizing I would regret going forward, I asked, “Why were you in the parking lot?”

“I sold my ticket.  But, I could still hear them outside.”


“Honey,” I at last managed to say, “we didn’t need to know that.”  Truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

My parents did a fine job setting the stage for limited information exchange.  I knew NEVER to tell my mother if I was leaving college for a weekend, unless I was visiting her.  I knew NEVER to talk about dates and parties.  Mom did NOT want to know that the only reason I wasn't at Woodstock is because the car broke down in Pennsylvania and four of us slept in the car for two nights.  Our parents instinctively knew they didn't need to know everything.

But, in our fervor to raise such well-adjusted, honest children, we have taught the value of truth to a fault.   A) When we asked what he did over the weekend, he thought we wanted to know if he was going with friends to a party in another state, and he wasn't really sure what state. B) When we asked how the car was running, he thought  we wanted to know it was impounded by the local police because he had $125 in unpaid parking tickets. 

Children of the world!  The answers to above questions are easy:  A) Over the weekend, I tutored six young adults who are working on their GED certificates and hope to receive their high school diplomas in two months.  B) The car is fine.  But, I'm riding my bike a lot more for exercise.

Sometimes, truth isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Date of Blog Story: 
September 17, 2007

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