When I show up to see my CPA at tax time, Clare clears her desk so I can spread out all my shoeboxes filled with receipts. First, she asks how much income I had last year. That’s when I say: “It’s always about money with you people, isn’t it?”
When I walked in this week, she said, “Well, if it isn’t Brian Williams!” I was flattered, and not surprised that she mistook me for the dashing NBC reporter, but my ego was soon deflated when she explained the reference. “I saw your column in the paper, the one where you claim that you never procrastinate. You even boasted you completed your 2014 taxes in January.” Then she directed the tip of her well-sharpened number two pencil at the huge stack of papers I had piled on her desk. I got the point. I must have turned red because Clare jotted down something on her legal pad. Any reference to being in the red has to be carefully documented.
I told my wife about my experience with Clare, and Mary Ellen said that after reading my columns over the years, she noticed that a disturbing of pattern of deception had clearly developed. “Like Brian Williams, you have become very adept at manipulating the facts to benefit your own career. Of course, Brian is way better than you at it,” she said, “by about 9.94 million dollars a year.”
I thought that ended the discussion, but Mary Ellen then added: “I think you should go back to every one of your 800 columns and print a retraction for each exaggeration and flat-out lie you told. Here’s your opportunity to correct any references to me where I do not appear to be anything but the intelligent, loving wife that I am. Oh, and a superb cook.”
I was going to have a lot of work to do.
To test the waters, I flipped to a random newspaper humor column I’d written where I recounted how our camera had been stolen at the Bermuda airport and with it, all our vacation photos. I claimed that the thief saw my attached ID tag, and emailed the photos back to me along with a critique of my picture-taking ability. He even commented about how lovely my wife was. It was a little creepy, but he did offer some good advice on a more flattering hairstyle for Mary Ellen. The camera being stolen? Yes, that was true. The rest? Not so much.
I read another column. In this one I claimed I went into the garage one night without any clothes on to get a can of diet soda. The door locked behind me and I spent the entire night sleeping in my car, naked. Here’s the truth: I was actually getting a can of beer. Okay, I feel better now.
I think Brian Williams should tell the public that even if it makes his stories less interesting, he will from this moment on always be 100 percent truthful. Personally, I’m not ready to make that promise.