What do you do when you’re confronted with a situation wherein you’re suspected of telling a lie? Or, more specifically, it looks like you’re lying when you’re not, and you, yourself are the only one who knows it.
I had to mail a letter, an errand that I don’t normally go directly to the post office to do, but I also needed stamps, so off I went. The envelope was still blank; I figured I’d address it and stamp it at the same time. As you may or may not have read in a previous post, I’ve usually got a pen with me (I’ve since switched to a regular ballpoint).
At the post office, I asked the lady behind the counter for the appropriate stamps, and while she was getting them I took the pen from my pocket and began writing out the mailing address and so forth. As I wrote, a small jar of pens sitting on the counter caught my eye. Put there by the post office for customers to use, the pens would have appeared perfectly ordinary to anyone else, but I did a little double take when I noticed, to my horror, that the pens weren’t ordinary at all. Standing in the little jar were black, ballpoint Papermates—exactly the same as mine. I knew (and I think you do, too) what was probably about to happen.
The lady took my envelope and stuck the stamps onto the corner. As nonchalantly as possible, I put the lid on my pen and put it back into my pocket. “Those aren’t to keep,” she said, when she saw what I was doing. Now I had two choices.
Feign having succumbed to habit and sacrifice my pen in exchange for apparent honesty:
“Oh, sorry,” I would say. “Putting a pen in my pocket is just a reflex—probably from school, I guess.” I would drop my pen into the jar on the counter. She would smile.
“I do that sometimes, too,” she’d reply. “Only it’s my purse, not my pocket.”
Or, stand my ground and forever look like a pilferer in the eyes of the post lady:
“Actually, this pen’s mine,” I’d try to explain. “I brought it in with me.”
She would purse her lips slightly and give me a little glare that would surely mean to say “I’m not going to accuse you for the sake of something as trivial as a pen, but I know you’re lying to me.” She would then tell me that she’d put my envelope with the outgoing mail and walk into the back of the office.
I left the post office that day without feeling too perturbed by what had happened. As for whether the pen ended up in my pocket or in the jar on the counter . . . it was a quandary, to be sure. What would you have done?