No, Not One

“I just came in to look at the guitar strings.”

The young man walked in my door this morning just like any other customer.  I took him at his word and pointed him to the back wall which is covered with string sets of all sizes and varieties.

“We always sell them at half-price.  Let me know if you need any help making a selection.”  I said the words almost by rote, having repeated them thousands of times over the last thirty-some years.

I thought it a little odd when he only glanced at the wall full of strings and made his way back to the front of the store, so I asked if we were out of the ones he wanted.  Making a comment about already having new strings, but thinking about getting a different brand, he immediately changed the subject.

“While I’m in here, I’ve got this great new product I want to show you…”

Oh.  So that’s how it’s going to be.  First a falsehood, then the payoff.

I listened to his sales pitch and let him down easy, sending him out the door with no sale.

For me or for him.

No sale.

I thought it odd, a few minutes later, when my sister called out from the back room where she was working. She can’t see the sales floor, but the open pass-through window doesn’t stop conversations from filtering through.

“Were those two guys together?”

Two guys?  Curious, I explained that there was just one person.

“I’m sure I heard two different voices.  The guy wanting strings and the one trying to sell you that stuff.”

No.  Just one guy.

Or, was it?

I hate being lied to.  Hate it.

Twice more today, it happened.  There was the girl who was all bubbly about being in the store for the first time, even though she had been raised in this town.  She was waiting to meet surreptitiously with a cousin, one whose girlfriend was extremely jealous.  So jealous, in fact, that she chased this girl down the alley moments later, when she caught sight of her with her boyfriend.

Cousin?  Maybe not.

The other time, the painfully thin young man stood in front of me, twitching, telling me that he wasn’t using oxycontin or codeine anymore.

“The doctors wanted me to take it, but I won’t do that.  I hate drugs.”  He jerked his head toward the door as he said the words.

I seen enough people who are high and still looking for money for the next fix to recognize the signs.

Did I tell you that I hate being lied to?

It’s not only the salespeople, the cheaters, and the addicts either.

There was the pastor the other day.  He bought a harmonica.  To use in church he said.  That was on Saturday.  On Monday, he brought it back.  Sunday comes between Saturday and Monday.  I just thought I should remind you.

“We didn’t need it after all.  Could I get my money back?”

I cautioned him that we can’t take back harmonicas which have been played.  They can’t be sterilized adequately, so we don’t sell used harps.

“Did anyone play it?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Not one person.”

The package was open, so I looked at the harp.  It was covered with smudges from someone’s lips.  Slimy, even.  It was my turn to shake my head.  Telling him that it was obvious that it had been played, I handed it back to him and sent him on his way.

He was offended!  He lied to me, but he was offended when I wouldn’t give in to his larceny.

People lie.

I really do.  I hate being lied to.

Can we talk about the first man again?  My sister heard two people talking.

Two people.

How do we describe a liar, often?  What’s the term?  Two-faced?  That’s it.  Two-faced.

He speaks out of both sides of his mouth, we say.

Liars don’t always lie.  They also speak the truth.  When it suits them.  I just wish they would stop being liars.  I like honest people.

I’m just not sure I know any.

Wait.  Did I just say that?  Not any?

I remember the stories from Sunday School.  The angel comes to Abraham and tells him that he is going to destroy Sodom, so he’d better get Lot and his family out.  Abraham begs the angel to spare them.  Surely there are fifty good people there.  Nope. Forty-five?  No.  Thirty? Twenty? Ten?  The answer still is no.

Do you think Sodom was all that different than the the world we live in today?  Again, the memory strikes me from Sunday School days.  God is going to detroy the world he created because of the great evil, but there is one righteous man.  One.  We all know the story of Noah and his ark.  One good, honest man out of all creation.  Later, Job also was alone in his generation.

So it is today, it seems.  I’m surrounded by lying, scheming people.

Surrounded.
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May I shift gears for just a moment?  I need to talk about my vision.  No not that kind of vision.  I mean the kind my optometrist talks about.  You see, I wear glasses because I’m near-sighted.  I’ve worn them since elementary school.  Without the glasses, I can’t see much of anything at any distance.  They are the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I lay on my bedside table at night.

In recent years though, I’ve had a different problem.  If things are too near, I can’t see them with the glasses on.  Oh, I have the bi-focals to read with.  But, the really close things?  To see them clearly, I have to remove the glasses completely.
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And so it is that I can see them, the lying, scheming people with whom I’m surrounded.  Well, of course.  I have on my spectacles!  My spectacles of self-righteousness.  They help me to see everyone about me clearly.  Liars!  Manipulators!

None of them righteous.  No, not one.

I wonder what happens if I take my glasses off.

Hey!  How’d that other guy get in here?

Oh.

I think that’s all I have to say for now.

“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”
(Mark Twain ~ American author/humorist/satirist ~ 1835-1910)

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
(I John 1:8 ~ KJV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

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