This afternoon, after we’d finished our meeting, my colleagues and I sat around regaling stories from our past. Stories of partying way too much, getting arrested, failed marriages, and times we got into trouble as kids and teenagers gave us a bit more insight into one another, shocked us, and made us laugh. One of the stories I told was when I was 18, crashed my new truck, and lied about it.
It was the summer of ’99 and I had recently turned 18 and graduated from high school. My gift from my parents was a beautiful 1996 Chevrolet Z-71 Extended Cab pick-up truck in electric blue. It suited me perfectly. When you’re a teenager with a driver’s license and a vehicle, you have freedom like you’ve never known before.
On this particular Friday night, my best friend Nicole was spending the night, as she often did. My parents were out with friends but were due home soon. “Nicole, hurry up, we have to get there before they close,” I said on my way out the door. It was close to 11:00pm, and Blockbuster was going to close soon. If we wanted to get a movie for tonight, we’d have to be quick. Jumping into the truck, the latest hiphop song blaring on the radio, I threw it into reverse and pushed down on the gas pedal. I know I would have used my rearview mirror, but I clearly miscalculated. Our driveway was long, with telephone poles on either side, making it imperative that you back out carefully and straight. As you can imagine, in my haste, I hit one of the poles. Hard. Nicole and I both experienced a bit of whiplash, alerting us to the major accident I just had.
“Oh my gosh! What just happened?!” Nicole shouted. We immediately hopped out and ran around to the back of the truck, and my hopes of it being a minor issue quickly dissolved. I’d managed to hit the pole smack in the middle of my tailgate, as evidenced by a concave U shape in what was once a perfectly straight piece of metal. My bumper, which was previously at a 90 degree angle to the tailgate, was now bent down, forming a 180 degree angle.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…” I cried, with my hands on my head, as I stared in disbelief at my truck. “My parents are going to kill me!”
Nicole, who was hearing me cuss for the first time since 8th grade (when I made a New Year’s resolution not to curse and miraculously kept it for all of high school), smiled and excitedly said, “You cussed!!” while jumping up and down and clapping.
“That’s not the point! Look at this! I can’t let my parents see this. They’re going to be home any minute now. Get in the truck.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, wondering what had gotten into me and where we could possibly be going.
“I don’t know!” I barked, as I precariously backed out of the driveway and drove away from home. My mind was reeling, wondering how I was going to handle this situation that was sure to put me in the grave. My nerves were wrecked and I needed to calm down. Almost on auto-pilot, I drove to the nearest McDonald’s, where I ordered us both hot fudge sundaes. As we sat in the parking lot, letting the sweetness of the ice cream calm our nerves, I hatched a plan.
“I’ll just tell them that someone must have hit my car while I was at work,” I told Nicole.
Looking at me like I must be crazy, she asked, “Do you think they’ll go for it?” knowing full well they wouldn’t. While I knew they wouldn’t, I had no other options. The option of telling the truth was not an option in my mind, as I couldn’t even begin to fathom the wrath that would come down on me if I told my parents that I’d crashed my new truck that they’d just given me less than a month ago.
Steeling my nerves, I slowly drove home in silence, the beating of my heart almost audible in the cab of the truck. I parked on the street and took a few deep breaths before walking into the house. Nicole, who was supposed my wingman in this lie, didn’t say a word as we came in and saw my parents watching TV in the living room. “Mom, dad, someone hit my truck,” I quickly said, the words running together.
“What?!?” my mom shouted. “What happened? Where were you? Are you okay?” dad added. They were both already getting up and walking out the door.
“I’m not sure…It must have happened while I was at work…maybe someone hit my truck while it was in the parking lot…I didn’t notice since it was in the back…didn’t see it until later tonight…” I stammered, trying my best to keep up with them as they barreled down the sidewalk toward the truck, Nicole following along behind us.
My mom started wailing, in shock, yelling about how bad it was and what on earth could have happened, while my dad took one look at the damage and calmly said, “Jennifer, you hit a pole.”
“What?!?” feigning dismay and shock. “I would know if I had hit a pole, dad. I didn’t hit a pole. I don’t know what happened.”
“You hit a pole,” he repeated, turning back toward the house. “I’ll be inside when you’re ready to tell me the truth,” he said flatly, leaving me, my mom, and Nicole out by the street.
Bless my mom. She wanted desperately to believe me. “Jennifer, are you sure you didn’t hit a pole? Now that he’s said that, it looks like you did.” I concocted some far-fetched story about how a big truck with a pole sticking off of it must have hit my truck in the parking lot of the Cinemark movie theater where I worked part time. While I know she didn’t really believe me, she was on my side, thinking that I wouldn’t lie to her.
With my parents, I held strong to the lie for the next week, embellishing the story more and more. However, inside, I was eaten up with guilt. The more I held to my story, the more my parents believed it. I had even convinced my dad, who had been hell bent on the pole theory.
It wasn’t until one afternoon, a little over a week after it had happened, that the truth eventually came out. My dad and I were inspecting the tailgate again, assessing the damage for the umpteenth time, when he noticed some wood chips stuck into the plastic part of the bumper. “Look at this, Jennifer. There’s wood stuck in the bumper. You hit a telephone pole.”
Unable to keep up the facade, the floodgates opened. Crying uncontrollably, I told him the truth. He hugged me, and I knew it was going to be okay. He told me that I needed to apologize to my mom for lying. She believed me and I needed to fess up. I drove to her office, but I couldn’t face her. When I finally told her the truth, she started crying, upset that I’d lied to her for so long. We both had a long talk and a good cry.
After that, I kept waiting for the punishment that was sure to follow, but it never came. When I asked them about it a week or so later, they said the guilt I had was punishment enough.