Yesterday was Thursday and I was waiting to see if I was going to get a phone call or a text from a specific person down here in NZ.
The day came and went and I did not get the call.
Which tells me that I burned a bridge. Not a very important bridge, but a nice one all the same.
And it’s all because I am a BIG FAT LIAR.
Here’s what happened.
For about four months now I’ve been volunteering for an organization that runs literacy programs for children throughout Auckland. Every Thursday I drive to a primary (elementary) school about 15 minutes down the road. Two or three other volunteers and I work with three different groups of children for 30-minute increments. One volunteer reads from a chapter book for about 10 minutes while the children listen and then we break up into small groups, choose books, and work on the children’s reading skills.
It was nice. A bit disorganized a lot of the time, and the teachers never remembered to send the kids to us without reminders, but the little ones were a lively bunch with lots of personality and I just got absolutely enthralled listening to them read with their adorable little Kiwi accents.
So….about a month ago I wasn’t feeling very well and I completely forgot that it was Thursday and I had volunteering. That is until about 5 minutes before I was supposed to be there.
I didn’t go.
Normally I would text the volunteer coordinator way ahead of time and let him know that I wasn’t going to make it. But “way ahead of time” had already passed long ago so I just decided that I wouldn’t text anything. He’s only there about once every three to four weeks anyway so there was a good chance he wouldn’t even know I didn’t go.
Next Thursday creeps around and I was in a baaaaaaaad mood. I didn’t want to be around children, I didn’t want to offer help for free, I didn’t want to do anything but sit at home and be grumpy. About an hour before the volunteering started I decided I wasn’t going.
Right then I got a text from the volunteer coordinator that read, “You coming this week?”
I immediately felt guilty. The previous week had obviously been one of those rare times when he was at the school. There is no sign-in sheet for volunteers, no documentation of our presence so he’d had to have been there, seen I wasn’t there and that I hadn’t bothered to text him. And now he was reading my thoughts and knew I was planning not to show up again.
Now he was going to know that I was an unreliable person and a sub-par volunteer.
It takes a special kind of person to panic during a text conversation. I mean, you can take as much time as you want to respond…there’s not really any REAL pressure, right? It’s not like being under enemy fire or watching somebody choke or something. There was absolutely no reason to panic.
But I did.
And then I lied.
I don’t know why.
I texted him, “Oh, did you not get my e-mail? I wrote letting you know I’m in Vanuatu and wouldn’t be there last Thursday or today.”
Vanuatu is a tropical island about a three and a half hour flight from New Zealand.
I have never been there.
I don’t know why I chose Vanuatu. I think maybe Tom had mentioned it before or something.
Either way, the moment I pressed send on that message I immediately thought, “What the HELL?! Why did you do that?!”
There was absolutely no need for me to lie. All I had to do was say, “No, I won’t make it today.” And he would have said, “Okay.” It’s a volunteer job…he can’t fire me. Plus, I don’t think he really would have cared all that much.
Sometimes I really don’t know why I do the things I do.
Anyway…he responded and said, “I did not get your message. I just got a new laptop and there’s a problem with my e-mail set-up. I’m not receiving everything.”
Sweet. His new computer purchase worked perfectly to corroborate my lie.
Then, later that afternoon, out of the blue, I got a text from him that read, “Do you have two phones?”
I was confused by this. I wrote back, “Nope, just the one. Why do you ask?”
He never responded.
And suddenly I knew the jig was up.
First off, the speediness of my response to his texts, both that morning and that afternoon were cause for suspicion. If I was on a tropical island somewhere the likelihood of me responding to his texts in a matter of minutes was slim.
Second, I suddenly thought his new laptop had some fancy new GPS/spy software that allowed him to pinpoint any person using their cell phone signal.
He knew I was in Auckland.
I had to resist the strong urge to write another message which read, “Wait, did you mean do I have two New Zealand phones? Because no, I don’t. But I have an American phone which is in a drawer in my desk back at home. It’s got a really strong location signal.” I don’t even know what that means, but I was thinking about texting it anyway.
But I didn’t. My bullshittery has some limits.
When I picked up Tom from work I told him, “I have to tell you something. You might not love me anymore.”
I proceeded to tell him the story and he simultaneously laughed and shook his head at me in amused surprise.
“Why did you do that? Couldn’t you have just said you weren’t going?”
“I don’t know!!!” I wailed. “But he knows I’m lying. He asked me that weird question and then never responded. He knows.”
“Well,” Tom said, “You better research Vanuatu. And forget to bring your phone with you a few times so he doesn’t ask to see pictures. And you might want to go and get a spray tan or something.”
That sounded like a lot of work.
Instead I decided to just never go back, ever again.
Since that fated day, the kids have been on school holiday. Yesterday was the first Thursday they’ve been back at school. So I was waiting to see if that dude would message me to ask me if I was going.
He doesn’t want a liar, and a bad one at that, around those children.
I’m a terrible person.
Those children will probably be illiterate because of me.