As of late, our family discussions have revolved around duplicitous people. You’ve met a few in your lifetime, I’m sure. You know the person who pees on your leg and tells you it’s raining. The person who pulls you in for that tight embrace moments before shoving a knife into your gut. The person who tells you they are praying for you as they run tell anyone who will listen all the stuff they know about you. The boss who tells you what a terrific job you are doing right before they hand you a pink slip.
You know people like that, right?
Sweet Jesus Almighty, I have known my share of people like that, and I swear to Little Green Leprechauns if I am still not stunned every time I encounter another one. It’s like I have this magnetic energy strip that zeroes in on People Most Likely to Bullshit Others.
I did not inherit this flaw from my mother, I can tell you that. My mother’s BS detector had one setting: High Alert. She didn’t suffer fools or their foolish ways. No one ever betrayed my mother more than once. Mama didn’t believe in second-chances for the guilty and unrepentant.
I don’t know whose DNA I got but I traipse through the world happily believing that most people want to do right by each other. There are exceptions to that rule, of course: Politicians, War-mongers, Prosperity Gospel Preachers, and Reality TV personalities.
My family and I were bemoaning this genetic flaw of mine over the weekend, while one of the grandsons was having a complete and utter melt-down because
1) He was hungry
2) He wasn’t hungry
3) He didn’t want anyone else eating his food that he didn’t want to eat
Or at least I think that’s how it went.
One minute my grandson is throwing his arms around his mama’s neck telling her how much he loves her and how wonderful she is, and the next he’s holding up his hand telling her that “All mothers have to stop talking.” (He may not be the first male to wish he could shut his mother up by holding his hand out).
Pistol Pete can be exuberantly joyful one minute: Thank you, Granny, for bringing me here. That was very nice of you.
And completely devolve into frightening fits the next minute: I want to go home to Washington! I don’t want to be here anymore.
That boy’s ability to morph from joy to terror in a matter of seconds would make Mother Teresa’s head spin like Linda Blair’s.
My daughter is amazingly adept at handling his supersonic mood swings. She’s persistent and rationale. I, however, tend to cower around toddlers with mercurial temperaments, which is to say, all toddlers. I’m pretty sure parenting four toddlers is how I became a writer to begin with – escapism.
While getting gas in the car during the pouring rain the other night, the station attendant noticed my tire was low. He instructed me to pull the car up to the air hose and he would fix it for me. When I pulled the car around, my grandson called out from the backseat, “What are you doing, Granny?”
I explained to him the tire problem and how the nice young man was going to fix it for us.
“That fellow creeps me out!” my grandson called out.
“But he’s helping us,” I replied.
“I don’t care!” he hollered back. “He creeps me out!”
Though it wasn’t true of the gas attendant, it is often true that the person who seems to be the most willing to help us out will turn out to be that creep whose real intent was to harm us all along.
When our son was a toddler and threw fits like his nephew, Tim and I would jokingly say our boy had the Holy Ghost Power. Every time our toddler threw himself on the ground crying over some perceived offense, we would say, “Slain in the Spirit again.” Laughing at the irrational acts of children is the right of every person who has reached adulthood.
However, it isn’t the least bit funny when a grown-up, who only moments before was praising our every step, suddenly, unexpectedly drops their drawers and dookies all over our shiny patent leathers.
It is shocking. It is terrifying. It is the act of a person unstable in all their ways.
And, unfortunately, as any three-year old can attest to, it is almost always a person bigger and meaner than we will ever be.
It’s enough to make a Christian woman cuss and wish that Jesus was still in the slaying business.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Burdy (Mercer University Press).