Pontius Pilate will long be remembered for asking, “What is truth?” Clearly, the Roman governor didn’t believe the maxim that truth is its own reward. Perhaps he had a point. Because, in most human endeavors, the truth is a moving target.
Take commerce. A few weeks ago I called my phone provider about a bill payment. The engaging female voice said, “your call is important to us,” a point emphasized by repeating the message every 30 seconds. After a half hour, I began to doubt her sincerity. Just then I noticed a song playing in the background: I Won’t Wait For You Forever. The irony was too much. I hung up.
A few days later, I called the competition to check out their services. I was told that due to a “higher than expected call volume,” I should try my call later. Seemed reasonable. So I did try later. In fact, I kept calling until two in the morning. Their response? “We’re sorry! But we are experiencing higher than expected call volumes.” At two in the morning? Who else is calling? Some nerd playing Klingon Boggle? If you want my business maybe you should answer your phone. And please don’t say you’re sorry. I don’t believe you.
I wish I could say that the truth was more revered in the good old days. It wasn’t. Once, when I was a kid playing road hockey, my dad yelled. “Ray, you need a shot.”
“Are you getting me a new stick at Canadian Tire?” I asked excitedly.
“No. The doctor is going to help you with this shot.”
“The doctor’s getting me a hockey stick? Is there anything Medicare can’t buy?”
Regrettably, we drove straight past Canadian Tire and on to the health clinic where I learned two valuable lessons: First, never ‘moon’ your doctor. Because he promptly jabbed me in my Sea of Tranquility. And second, doctors always tell the truth. After sticking me he said, “There now, that didn’t hurt a bit!” Which was true. It hurt a lot!
When I was 12, my aunt made an extended visit from Holland. She was famous for her chicken soup, which she made several times a week. We didn’t like it and said so.
Mom was incensed. “You boys march into the kitchen and tell her you love her soup.”
“But that’s not true!”
“Maybe not, but you’ve hurt her feelings. Now move!”
We dutifully followed orders.
“Auntie Win, you make the best soup in the whole, wide world! We love it! Honest!”
Auntie Win seemed delighted. “You know what, if you like it that much, I’ll make it every day. Better yet, we’ll have it for lunch and supper!”
I looked despairingly at Mom who could only manage a wan smile.
Tante Win obviously understood the mendacious wiles of children.
Which just goes to show you. Even if you don’t think that truth is its own reward, a lie is always its own punishment.
Pass the soup.
— Ray Smit is a regular humour columnist for The News.