“I’m leaving. There’s no challenge here.” My colleague shook his head in disbelief after easily convincing me (three times in a row) that a more senior colleague was getting all manner of instalments in his newly renovated office including a big screen TV and a bar fridge for his beer. My job was to manage the boardrooms near his office and perks like that weren’t inconceivable to me. That’s the problem, nothing is inconceivable to me; I’ll believe just about anything.
I don’t feel comfortable telling stories to others that aren’t true so I guess it doesn’t intuitively occur to me, at any particular time, that others have a lot of fun with it. My son Jeremy has two best friends D & S who tell stories prolifically. I can only assume it’s typical for their age and Jeremy, like me, believes every word of it. I’ve gotten used to asking “Who told you that?” and stating “I think they were telling you stories”.
One day, I overheard Jeremy’s friend D telling him how he went fishing with his Uncles. During that conversation, D also mentioned in passing that he had a boat licence. I’m embarrassed to say that I believed him. I pictured D being one of those kids that has camped since he was born under the wing of his commando Uncles who taught him how to survive in the bush. I temporarily forgot that some privileges are age-dependent and 7 yrs of age is way too young to get a boat license. D thought it was hilarious that I believed him. Pretty soon D will be saying “There’s no challenge here”.
Most of the time, I don’t consider ‘telling stories’ as harsh as some forms of lying. Telling stories are almost in the same class as ‘white lies’ in that they are a more mild form of lying (if done without intent to harm). Telling stories is so common in Australian culture that casual phrases such as “Are you serious?” “No way!” “Really?” “Are you kidding?” are regularly used in everyday conversation in response to being told something interesting. In fact, I’ve noticed that I use “Are you serious?” so much that my son Damian has recently taken to adding “I’m serious!” to the end of his sentences when telling me something exciting.
When I was Jeremy’s age I recall a classmate recounting to a group of us the terrible tragedy of the death of her younger sibling who had drowned after being strangled by the slimy weeds in the local lake. My reaction must have been extreme (concern, anxiety or horror, I can’t remember which) because she looked at me disgustedly and spat out “Rachel, it’s just a joke”. Most people laugh with me when I get fooled but sometimes people can be cruel and laugh at me or imply that I am stupid.
The strange thing is that I’m a gullible sceptic. I’m sceptical about ‘pyramid schemes’, complementary and alternative medicine, psychics and anything claimed by salespeople or promised by politicians. If I ever receive a ‘You have won’ envelope in the mail or by email, it immediately goes in the trash, unopened. That’s not to say I haven’t been scammed.
Twice I lost a small amount of money on purchases, once over the internet (even though I used PayPal) and the other through a known (not known to me then) fraudulent cars salesperson. However (in contrast to those rare occasions) friends, family and colleagues will often have the upper hand with me. Why would I doubt what someone I trust has to say?!
Fortunately, most of my experiences of being gullible, although sometimes embarrassing, have been amusing such that while I despise the word ‘stupid’, I am fond of the word ‘gullible’. I associate being gullible with qualities such as trust and belief, not a lack of intelligence or general knowledge.
I’m almost 40, I’ve seen and read about many things in my time, things you could hardly believe that have happened (like how the hell did Tony Abbott get into power). Although, something may be very unlikely to occur, on a small-scale such as everyday human activities (there are about seven billion of us, all of us different) to an arguably infinite-scale such as the Universe, I believe that very unlikely things could still happen and I don’t see why they couldn’t happen to you.