I can remember every whopper I ever told. I told one in the first grade when Miss Shinn asked the 56 students in her class, "Who has been up in an airplane?" Of course, I raised my hand, not to be outdone by anyone else. I'm not sure, in 1938, if anyone in remote Powell, Wyoming had been up in an airplane, since World War II was still a few years away. Then came the killer question: "Where were you up in an airplane?" Choking with consternation, I said the first place that came to mind: "Chicago." Of course, Miss Shinn knew perfectly well I had never been farther away from Penrose than 24 miles to Cody but, bless her heart, she didn't call me on it.
The second time I told a whopper was in the second grade when Miss Black, ancient and stern and wearing black, required us to get up in front of the class every Monday and give a report on "What I Did Over Saturday and Sunday." After two or three weeks of this, Molly, the girl who sat across the aisle from me, and I decided to juice up our reports a bit with a few inventions. I don't consider these inventions truly whoppers, but, rather, rightful retribution to Miss Black for making us do this hated routine little speech each week. So, one day, Miss Black asked me to follow her, about six weeks into the school year, and so I dutifully followed her up the back stairs of the Eastside Grade School whereupon she plunked me down in Miss Joneson's third grade class, happy, I am certain, to be rid of me. Third grade was great because Miss Joneson assigned us little projects that required making up stories and fantasizing, more to my liking. Miss Joneson would have loved Calvin and Hobbes.
Unless I mis-remember, to use the current term for fibbing, I never told a whopper again in my life. I can remember most of the movies I saw when I was young, including seeing Gigi with Leslie Caron in July 1953 in Laramie, Wyoming with my wife and my sister Liz. I can remember moments of extreme elation and moments of embarrassment. I really wonder how much people actually deliberately misstate information and how much they actually misremember. Getting the facts right is, of course, a tricky matter, as any courtroom drama unfolds with different eyewitnesses each giving a different account of what they saw.
But we're really concerned here with deliberate misrepresentation to make us, or someone or something else, look either better or worse than they or we actually are. We're talking about making up stories either to make us look heroic or to defame someone else and passing them off as if they were the honest-so-help-me truth. We're not talking about just rounding the numbers off in a favorable direction; we're concerned with major fabrications passed off as factual.
So students cheat because they want to be smarter than they are and know more than they do. Companies cook the books to make their financial situation appear to be more favorable than the fraudulent position they are actually in. Product labelers mislead us about content, quality, and value. Biographers make up fanciful stories that they think will sell massive numbers of books. And on and on.
It's sad that we almost become totally cynical in listening to politicians, reading newspapers, listening to talk radio, or getting information from any other source, when we almost automatically ask ourselves, "Is this stuff really true; is this information reliable information; or, are we just floating some more hot air?" It would be nice if people, students, companies, politicians, writers, and everyday people would just simply tell the plain unvarnished truth.