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The Joys of Lying

I reassess the act of lying

I used to be proud of telling the truth. As a political candidate, truth-telling was my special thing. However, those values have become compromised. Worse yet, I have recently discovered a certain joy in fabricating statements - lying, if you will. Since I do not intend to run for public office again, this article will now be used to make a confession.

I have felt pressures to lie as a landlord in Minneapolis. Here is the situation: There is a particular tenant whom I wish to evict - because of criminal behavior, failure to pay rent, whatever. It’s safer and easier to get the tenant to move voluntarily than to obtain an unlawful detainer (UD) and then have the sheriff forcibly remove the person from my apartment unit. The tenant is more likely to go peacefully if another landlord is willing to rent to him or her.

So I get a telephone call from a landlord or a screening agent. Did Ms. X rent from me? Yes. How was she as a tenant? Did she always pay her rent on time? Yes. Were there any lease violations? No. Did she keep her apartment looking neat? Of course. Would I rent to her again? Yes, I would.

By this time, I was becoming ashamed of myself. But I was also no fool in giving honest answers if I wanted this tenant to move. This was not me as a person dishing out all those lies; it was me in a certain occupational role that is not especially respected in our community. After twenty years of doing this sort of thing, my nose like Pinocchio’s must have grown quite long.

I have recently gone through a difficult divorce. I used to think that lying in court was forbidden. But then my wife, or her attorney, decided to go after my non-marital property by claiming that she had spent thousands of hours doing maintenance work in my rental properties. In truth, she had hardly set foot in any of them. The judge saw through her claims but, instead of calling them “lies”, he said only that she had a weak case.

What about me? I criticized the judge in my post-trial motions for failing to provide a fair trial. Among other things, I said that the judge had given me much less time to present my case than the other side. “ Before addressing his specific concerns,” wrote the judge in the opening paragraph of his response, “I need to discuss my serious concerns regarding Respondent’s veracity.” This he said despite hard evidence in the record to the contrary.

Let’s call a spade a spade. This judge was accusing me of lying. But, if I was an inveterate liar, would I be honest enough to acknowledge that fact? (a little philosophy here)

Frank, Chris, and Amelia

At this point, I went over to the other side. I found that lying can be fun. Oddly enough, this revelation happened during a broadcast of the local news on WCCO-TV. Here was the situation:

Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello are the regular news anchors on this station, channel 4. Married in 1999, they are a picture-perfect television couple. Both are handsome and deliver the news in a crisp yet friendly style.

Frank came to WCCO from KARE-TV in 2006. When interviewed, he said he was “extremely excited’ about the move. “What he’s not quite sure about,” the report added, “is whether his wife will turn out to be a perfect co-worker or how they will deal with those not-so-perfect days that all married couples have ... ‘That really is the troubling question,’ Vascellaro said. ‘This will be interesting ... There are days when husbands and wives are arguing about things, and you’re happy to get away from your spouse for a while. But for better or worse, we’re stuck in this thing together.’”

Imagine my surprise when, one day in the first week of March 2013, I turned on Channel 4 news and saw a report on the Birkebeiner cross-country-ski tournament in Hayward, Wisconsin. There were Amelia Santaniello and WCCO’s weather man, Chris Shaffer, reporting from the scene. Boy, they looked chummy together. Why wasn’t Frank there? The reason why is that Frank was back home in the Twin Cities anchoring the evening news by himself. He really looked forlorn. What was going on here?

I called my wife in the other room and asked her to come and take a look at the news. Here were Amelia and Chris galavanting around northern Wisconsin, whooping it up with the race spectators, while poor Frank was stuck at home. There must be something going on behind the scenes. Was Amelia tired of Frank and stuck on Chris instead?

Yes, I decided, there must be trouble in WCCO-land. Frank and Amelia are human beings subject to the regular human foibles, not storybook characters. What if Amelia’s eyes occasionally rove? And who could blame Chris Schaffer, the weather man, for being paid attention to by a gorgeous woman like her? Yes, this was probably a lie; but what a fun lie! Believing it made watching the local news much more interesting.

On or around the night of Frank’s solo anchor, there was a report that a close relative of Twins catcher Joe Mauer had been caught in a police prostitution sting. So I went with another lie. I decided that Frank Vascellaro must have been caught in the same sting. The Minneapolis police had decided to go after high-profile males. They did a sting operation catching Joe Mauer’s relative and perhaps Frank as well. Sitting at home by himself, he was lonely and, indeed, rather resentful that his lovely wife was up in Hayward, Wisconsin, galavanting around with their colleague, the weather man.

It was only natural that, when the offer of promiscuous sex presented itself, Frank Vascellaro might have succumbed. However, WCCO-TV protects its own. It had a gold mine in the picture-perfect couple, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Vascellaro, and would naturally not want that image to be disturbed. So the WCCO brass put on the brass knuckles and put it straight to the Minneapolis police chief: Lay off Vascellaro or we’ll stop reporting your side of the news. If the police have any skeletons in the closet, you can be sure the public will know about all of them if you turn Frank over to the prosecutor. It worked. The news program outed only Joe Mauer’s relative.

Well, Amelia came back from northern Wisconsin. Soon afterwards, she and Frank were seen sitting together in a cosy love seat. Then they went back to the regular anchor desk. Chris was back to delivering weather reports but I looked closely to see if he would occasionally cast a longing glance at Amelia.

One weekend, there was an attractive female delivering the weather report. “Come here,” I shouted to my wife. “Chris has been fired. Someone else has replaced him.” Evidently the WCCO big-wigs relented. Chris Schaffer was back at his old job the following week.

If I were not such a liar, I would not have watched WCCO news so faithfully that month. Maybe it was cabin fever or maybe it was that media-savvy people like me love to read between the lines of television-news reporting. I just had to come back each night to catch the latest episode of the drama involving Amelia, Chris, and Frank. Who was up, and who was down? Who was whose heart throb this particular week?

Recently, Chris and Frank were sent on assignment to cover the fishing opener in Park Rapids, Minnesota, while Amelia stayed home to anchor the news. Since the Minneapolis police don’t do prostitution stings involving high-profile females, there would probably be no significant events that weekend. Or, maybe I was wrong about Amelia in the first place. She really is stuck on Frank and would never stray.

my new course of action

Having tasted the sweet fruits of lying, I have recently concocted a new scheme to whip up truthless excitement. I graduated from a prestigious college out east. In the many years since graduation, I have seldom if ever submitted personal-news items to the class secretary. Either I had nothing to brag about or nothing newsworthy to report. Now, having gone through a painful divorce that involved two arrests for domestic abuse, I felt this might be the time to make a confession of sorts. But I did not feel like complaining or explaining. Lying was more my cup of tea.

Therefore, I sent in a brief report to the class secretary mentioning some of my recent woes. “On the bright side”, the report ended, “I have developed a brisk business in the metal-recycling industry.” This was a lie. Either my old classmates, who include a U.S. Senator, would think of me as a tycoon in the waste-management field or one of those guys who, in his old age, walks through alleys with a bag or shopping cart fishing aluminum cans out of the trash. They would not know which. In truth, it was neither.

The lesson is: Lying can be fun. Try it some time. Some of our society’s more prominent individuals in politics, business, and, I dare say, the law do this regularly.


Note: This is a mean-spirited fantasy rather than a story that is entirely true.


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