The Honesty Dilemma

Sometimes people tell me things.  Things they shouldn’t.  And in places they shouldn’t.

Take, for example, Frosted Tips.  Frosted Tips was a guy whose name I never properly learned and, frankly, am happy I didn’t.  I was standing at a urinal, which I believe was how Hemingway started his first draft of The Sun Also Rises.  I was in a bar in San Francisco and peeing, in quite a carefree manner.  I feel safe in saying that this was a positively jaunty urination.

In came Frosted Tips.  He stood at the urinal next to me.  I say “stood” when really it was more of a drunken wobble.  This was all fine with me.  But then Frosted Tips decided this urinal looked remarkably like a confessional.  Which was when he told me something he shouldn’t have.

He said: “That girl I’m with is not my wife.”

I have no idea what he meant by that, but I assume that the girl he was with was not his wife, who probably wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing such him with her.

Honesty is a funny thing.  And lately I’ve struggled with it a great deal.  I don’t mean that I’ve been dishonest.  At least I don’t think I’ve been.  When asked a direct question, I believe in the best policy and tell the truth (except for this one time, which I’ll get to in a moment).  But lately it’s just been on my mind as to what it means to be truly honest.

Take, for example, this blog.  In my last post, I mentioned that I work at a school but was hesitant to reveal much beyond that.  Obviously, there are logical reasons as to why I don’t want to talk about where I work.  Teachers are under fire lately and I don’t want to take the risk.  I would never blog about my students anyway, because it’s unethical, but I don’t even want to come close to towing that line.  But, I digress: teachers walk weird line when it comes to honesty.  At my school, we’ve been encouraged to form bonds with our kids.  This means talking to them about their day, helping them when they need it, answering questions, giving advice, etc.  The “answering questions” is where I always get a little iffy.  See, when I first started this job I made a point to reveal very little about myself, including my age.  I didn’t want them to know how young I was out of fear that it would lead to disrespect in the classroom, which was already a big enough issue.  So I evaded their questions.  At one point, I was asked if I had a girlfriend and my brain did some sort of asinine logic cartwheel and I told the following lies:

1.  Yes, I have a girlfriend.

2.  Her name is Christina (after the secretary from Mad Men, played by Christina Hendricks).

3.  She works as a secretary (see previous note) at a company that makes video games.

There’s really no explaining why I did this.  It just came to me.  I fabricated three completely superfluous lies for no reason other than saying, “No, I’m single” sounded a little embarrassing.  The story gets even weirder when while talking to an entirely separate group of students, I said that Christina and I had broken up.  Yes, I invented a fake girlfriend and then broke up with her.  And, to top off the weird cake with a bizarre cherry, included the detail that the break-up was mutual.

Since “The Christina Incident” I’ve made a point to be more open with my students.  I tell them things about my personal life (including my age) and always keep it school appropriate.  Honestly, I feel that it has strengthened me as a teacher and allowed me to feel more comfortable in front of oft-judgmental teenagers.  Which is great, but once you start to pull on the “are you an honest person” loose thread of your persona sweater, it leads you down not-entirely comfortable path.

For example: the Frost Tips story?  Yeah, that never happened.  Ever.

I tell that story to people to illustrate an actual truth: people tell me stuff at weird times.  My bar stories are filled with people admitting random things, sometimes about their sex lives, sometimes about their infidelities.  But the specific details of Frosted Tips never actually occurred.

Stephen King once said: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”  So, if the Frosted Tips story allows people to see that, yeah, I know a lot of random secrets about random people, then I tell it.  But it didn’t actually happen.  Now, I suppose I could tell an actual story that actually happened, but, in a way, I couldn’t.  Because most of the stuff I know, I really shouldn’t know and usually people tell me stuff because they trust me.  And I value that trust each and every time they want to give it.

So then why is it so hard to return that trust?  I’ve always adopted the journalists position of: I ask the questions, not answer them.  This is sort of a great way to go through life if you’re (a) terrified if genuine human emotion and (b) selfish.

That’s another big part of feeling like you’re not honest enough: you constantly feel like you’re on the outside looking in, in a way.  There’s a certain amount of hesitation that accompanies human interaction, because people want to connect with other people. For some reason, that really scares me.  Chances are, if I’ve told you a secret, it’s a decision I over-thought for a few days beforehand.

Honesty is complicated.  Like, right now, as I type this, I feel like I’m being far too honest.  Who cares about some Guy On The Internet’s thoughts about honesty?  Shouldn’t I just make some Twilight jokes, post a picture of a cute cat, and call it a night?  I mean, isn’t that the point of facebook and twitter?  The sad fact is is that we all get annoyed when the girl from the third floor dorm you briefly knew for two weeks in college posts about how traffic is really bad or she failed at gardening or some such.  Because no one wants to know about your pity party.  Likewise, though no one really likes the “Everything is great all the time, bt-dubs I’m engaged again” person either.  Both of these people are simply being honest and both of these annoy me equally.  This could mean that I’m judgmental.

Or I’m just tired.

Thanks for reading.  I promise a cute cat picture in the next one.  Or at least a coherent final thought.

Have a nice evening, reader.

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The Zen Art of Laptop Cart Maintenance

It’s just item #Innumerable on the List of Innumerable Items that I have to do every day.  It’s no different or better or worse or difficult or anything than anything else on the List of Innumberable Items.  It’s just the one I’ve been thinking about a bit lately.

I work at a school.  I won’t say which one, because that, to my mind, is a dumb, dangerous, and God, I wish I had another “D” word here, wouldn’t that be great?  Damning?  Yeah, I think damning works.  I won’t say which school I work at because that could be a dumb, dangerous, and damning thing to do.  It’s a school.  No better or worse than the one you attended/are attending/will attend.  It’s also no better or worse than any you’ve heard of before.  I teach English and that admission will make any typos or word misuses even more, yes, damning, such as it is.

In my classroom, we have a metallic, blue cart of about 35 laptops.  I think every classroom on campus has one.  As part of the thrust into the 21st century, my students use laptops almost everyday.  It’s become the new norm–instead of running to the copy center every morning, I’m more inclined to create a Google Doc and share it with them.  Honestly, it feels futuristic, which sounds stupid since I grew up with technology.  But school without the constant stacks of papers cluttering up the room?  What’re we, Vulcans?  Anyway, I digress: my students use laptops everyday and, as a result, they are required to put the laptops back in the cart and charge them (the cart contains the chargers as well).  At the end of every period, teachers are required to reserve 6-10 minutes to observe proper protocols and procedures to ensure the laptops are put away safely.  This is all exposition and I have a point.

Despite enforcing and reinforcing these protocols and procedures, the cart inevitably ends up messed up at the end of the period.  Laptops are put away in the wrong slots, some aren’t fully turned off, others aren’t charging, etc.  Thus it follows that after 5 periods of use, the laptop cart requires some maintenance at the end of the day.  I usually spend about 6-10 minutes at the end of everyday sitting in front my cart and making sure that all the laptops are off, charging, and placed in the right slots.

Here’s the point: lately, those 6-1o minutes have been the best parts of my day.

This is not a slight on my students, who I love, nor is it a condemnation of my job, which is, honestly, the best job I’ve ever had.  But, if you’ve ever meet a first year teacher, you’ll be able to identify them by their physical traits–sleep-deprived bags under their eyes, wrinkled clothes, frazzled hair, and generally comparable to a recent near-drowning victim.  And if you can’t tell by our physical characteristics, you’ll be able to tell when we tell you about our day, which we will, even if you haven’t asked about our day, or our job, or are just some person at the bus stop or an unfortunate teller at the bank (side note: apologies to Vic from Wells Fargo.)

So, yeah, the job is stressful, obviously, but, then again, what first-year person at any job thinks their job isn’t?  We know we’re not that special, but that’s just what we’re going through.  And by “we” I mean “me” and I only said “we” because I’m either (a) crazy or (b) the correct answer is A.

What I’m saying is: as much as I love my job for all it’s tough times (which are numerous) and successes (which are the greatest friggin’ feeling I’ve ever experienced), sometimes it’s nice to have a menial task to do at the end of every day.  I’ve gotten to love my little blue laptop cart with it’s 35-or-so laptops and I’ve come to cherish those few minutes when I get to organize it.  Teaching has a lot of x-factors involved in it (especially for math teachers… see what I did there?) and you give a teacher a simple task, it’s almost like saying “here’s an early Spring Break”… almost.

Anyway, there’s no grand thought at the end of this post.  I just enjoy fixing the cart.

My name is Rory.  This is my new blog.  I hope to update it regularly.

I’m going to edit this now, but if I miss anything please don’t be a jerk about it.

Have a nice evening, reader.

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