Sunday, November 23, 2008

¡Mis Pantalones Se Arden!

I'm a terrible liar, by which I mean I'm not particularly good at it.

I'm not talking about harmless lies, such as, say, backdating a blog post just to keep your posting streak alive *cough*. I'm talking about real lies. Bearing false witness. Perpetuating untruths for personal gain.

Sometimes, if I stand to gain nothing from the lie, I can pull it off. Stephanie insists otherwise, but I once suggested to her that perhaps I'm so Machiavellian that I only *pretend* to be a bad liar so she won't realize how adept I truly am. She didn't buy that one either, so I guess she has a point.

One problem is that I tend to repeat myself. A lot! Seriously. I've got some kind of mental deficiency that prevents me from remembering what I've told people before. So if I'm going to regale them with the same goddamn stories over and over again, I don't want to get caught changing the details. "Eddie Van Halen? I thought you said President Clinton gave you that VCR!"

So, for the most part, I stick to the straight and narrow. I have no horrible skeletons lurking in my closet, and I don't have to worry about Stephanie discovering that I wasn't one of the original kids on ZOOM.

That said, I have lied successfully in the past. One of my most nefarious prevarications was related in this post. I've convinced people that I was Jewish or that my dad was black, just to put an end to their racist diatribes. When I was in college, I told one of my fraternity brothers that I had never tasted pudding because my father was in prison, just to see if he'd believe me (he did). And when I worked at Chemical Express, I had the ladies in Accounts Payable believing that my beloved family dog used to unwrap Christmas presents, and then rewrap them so he wouldn't get caught.

But by far, my most elaborate falsehood was at Brinker International. For my first three years there, everybody thought I could speak Spanish.

I don't remember how that particular notion got started, but it probably had something to do with my propensity for Fake Spanish. I think somebody heard me blathering about the devil being in the bathroom with my things, and just assumed I was fluent. At first, I just went along with it, expecting I'd be busted in no time. But as the days turned into weeks, everyone remained convinced that I was bilingual. And I was curious to see just how long I could get away with it.

The closest call I had was in 1995, when we opened a Chili's in Polanco (Mexico City). My friend Sara had flown down there to get their computer system up and running, but she was having some problems with the modem. I came back from lunch and saw a Post-It note on my monitor, telling me to call the store.

"Oh, God," I muttered as I picked up the phone. "I hope Sara answers."

"What's the big deal?" my officemate Luann asked. "You speak Spanish, right?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess I speak enough to get by."

So the phone rang and rang and rang. No answer. Luann was looking at me kind of expectantly, so I perked up and pretended to have someone on the line. I'd say something, and then pause and nod as if having a conversation. I yammered on and on, stringing together random Spanish phrases and laughing jovially, as if sharing a joke with my imaginary international amigo. And the whole time, Luann was just staring at me in awe and wonder.

When I hung up, she started talking about how much she wished she could speak another language. She'd tried to take French in college, but it just hadn't stuck. By this point, it was starting to feel less like joking and more like lying, so I changed the subject.

I managed to keep the charade going until 1997. Luann left Brinker and I was assigned a new officemate, Brenda (whom you may remember as the woman who compared me favorably with the devil). Brenda, it turned out, had spent several years as an exchange student in South America and spoke fluent Spanish.

"Irb speaks Spanish too," said my friend Dave enthusiastically as he introduced us. "Don't you, Irb?"

So I smiled with as much confidence as I could muster, and I said, "La pregunta mas importante es, Quien es mas macho? Fernando Lamas o Ricardo Montalban?" ("The most important question is, Who is more manly? Fernando Lamas or Ricardo Montalban?")

Brenda just stared at me for about ten seconds, her head cocked to the side. Then she said, "Okay, in the first place, you didn't really say anything. And in the second place, your accent is terrible!"

And thus did my bilingual pretension come to an ignoble end. And even though I 'fessed up and admitted I'd been stringing everyone along for three years, it still took a while for the rumor to die down. As late as 1999, I had people coming to my office and asking me if I could speak Spanish.

"What? Oh, no. No. Not a lick of it."

"Really? Because I'd heard..."

"Yeah, I know. I have no idea how those rumors get started."

"That's weird."

"Isn't it? It reminds me of something my black dad in prison once said when we caught our dog rewrapping the gifts..."


Farrago said...

There's no way I could keep a straight face doing that. I don't have the balls to carry off that kind of lie. As a matter of fact, I don't even have balls. My sac developed a hole in it when I was 11, and they fell out.

Professor said...

I really thought everyone believed you could speak French that you learned while stationed at the foreign legion...

great story- and no pun intended.

Shelly said...

I'm still waiting to get caught on that same lie. I don't actually try to fake speaking it, but I stuff a lot of it in the blog, which I get from various places. I'm your basic Stupid White Girl (Chica Blanca estúpida) but have a strange number of readers who think I'm either Hispanic or at least fluent in Spanish. Oops...

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