So my friend and colleague, Martha, turned 30 last week, and as far out of the realm of possibility as this sounds, I was enlisted by her older sister, Chrissy, to help lure her to a surprise party.
Turns out I am a skilled liar.
Let me just introduce her to you a little bit before I expand upon the dirty deeds: Martha was formerly a reporter in my newspaper and we've remained close friends even though she's gone on to more lucrative and rewarding exploits in the North Country. (I'm not bitter).
She has been a truly generous and caring friend.
Exhibit A: She gathered my unruly, unkempt hair into a pretty twist for my wedding.
Exhibit B: She is always the voice of reason in my jittery life.
Even now that we are both columnists and bloggers -- we trade columns before they're printed to get each other's opinions: You know, for the Does-this-work? Could-this-be-funnier? type of feedback -- the friendship seems to have just deepened.
So when her sister called to ask if I'd get her to the appointed restaurant, I didn't see much of a problem. ... Other than the lies I would have to tell to have an audience with the birthday girl on short notice (usually, you see, our get-togethers are planned several weeks if not months in advance).
Lie one: "I will be in Saratoga Saturday, and I was wanting to talk with you. Do you have time?"
Since I know she sees me as a hypochondriac basket case, I knew she'd worry a bit about the sudden request, and I wanted to assure her it was just ... that. I . wanted. to. talk.
The reporter in her was immediately curious: "What brings you to Saratoga," she asked.
Lie two: "Well, I have to deliver some papers to my cousin who lives in Vermont, and the Saratoga area is a nice half-way point."
"Why don't you just mail them?" A perfectly obvious solution that LIARS don't really consider.
Lie three: "Well, they're legal papers and I really feel as if I should hand deliver them."
After assuring her for the second time that nothing was wrong, we proceeded with the plans, which were a bit muddied with things like her husband getting the day wrong and planning to take her shopping on the party day. Luckily her sister fixed that quickly enough. (There was a picnic table involved ... but it's too complicated.)
What time ... hmmm. Her sister wants to meet later, but Martha tells me she's got dinner plans with her husband later so the earlier she can meet me the better.
"How about 2 p.m.?" I ask Chrissy. "Ok that sounds good."
"How about 10 a.m.," says Martha?
Uh. ... Lie four: "We'll ... I have to meet my cousin around 11 ... how about if I meet you at 1 for lunch ... I'll come get you."
How about we go to this really great crepe place I know of? she says.
Lie five: Oh but I have this gift certificate to Fridays, and it expires in December.
Except now that I'm meeting Martha at 1 and the party is at 2, I'll have to stall her for an hour.
Not to mention that at the last minute, Jed had to work and I had to bring Annabel who is just starting with the sneezing, scratchy throat thing. AND ... Annabel is ready to leave at 11. Which means I need to kill and extra hour in drive time. (I had already contemplated my next lie, which was to leave late and call her from the road saying I'd been delayed) when I just realized that I really wanted to SEE her too. I mean why waste time driving around the back country with a sleepy kid, when I could spend the same time chatting with Martha?
So I came up with Lie six: My cousin was hoping to meet us for lunch but couldn't be at the restaurant until 2 p.m. Could we kill an hour of time before then?
Of course we could. Martha is an accommodating and trusting soul. She steered me to a little playground and we chatted and played with Annabel on the jungle gyms for about 45 minutes. (Martha, I swear, everything I told you at the playground was the truth).
We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after 2 -- perfect. Everyone was there to yell "SURPRISE."
Well, everyone except my cousin. And I think Martha was a little disappointed that she wouldn't get to meet her.