The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Bullshitters, A Breed of Storyteller


You probably know who you are. I’m not a bullshitter. No shit. I’m not able to bring to life or color details to attract and entertain an audience. I don’t have that animated demeanor that reels in the audience. It’s a skill. But they are just a strata of the storyteller. I know a few of those likable bullshitters. Their stories hover between fact and fiction, and the listener between belief and disbelief. There is always enough truth in the story that you cannot scream foul. And you’re entertained like reading a good book so you don’t really care if it’s true. Who does it hurt? But you hold a little distrust in that person’s veracity.

I went to school with a bullshitter. The stories were far-fetched for 8th graders. I wanted to shout out, “Liar.” But, the strangest things happen and that nugget of possibility keeps you silent. My sexism believes that bullshitters are predominantly boys and men, but my schoolmate was a girl.

The bullshitter often lies in that murky region of storyteller and outright liar. The news reported a 16-year-old girl claimed a man tried to lure her at the bus stop in North Versailles. It was a lie. My mind immediately pulled up my son’s court case. People asked, “Who would tell such lies?” The prosecutor averred, “Sixteen-year-olds know the difference between truth and lie.” How did they catch this girl in her lie? Visual proof from video that showed no such encounter. No physical proof? Belief rests on the storyteller and demeanor. If the story doesn’t convince you, then demeanor and appearance lends a hand. My son, the grown-up looking older than his 27 at that time and his abrupt answers relying on truth. No physical evidence left us with the storyteller.

The bullshitter is more likely to have me opening my purse on the street, like my recent encounter with the fender bicycle man. He did more than just ask for money. He drew me in with his story. He was a bullshitter telling me what seemed to be a truthful story. I left him with the money as much for the link of humanity and his story as his claim of homeless destitution and his assurance that the money wasn’t going for drugs and alcohol. My son who seldom hands out any coins to the homeless on the streets and corners was attracted by the appearance of a senior citizen who reminded him of my mother. He said it could happen to anyone. Last summer I listened to just one of many stories of the senior homeless in California. The woman was living with her possessions in a car because of the shortage of senior housing in California. She obviously had some money but no home. She moved her car from parking lot to parking lot. Open-door churches and Walmarts. We parked in a Walmart parking lot with the camper one night. We were not alone. My daughter lived for a while in her car in Lancaster. She was a bullshitter assuring me she had a room in a recovery house lined up and friends to crash with. Bullshitter or liar?  You are very possibly one life change away from the street.

Bull-shitters. My friend and I talked about writing a book. We heard some seemingly absurd stories in our job in HR. Again, we laughed at the seemingly implausible that a small voice kept saying, “It could happen.” You hold your tongue from spitting out, “Liar.” The bullshitter hooks you and reels you in. Who does it hurt? Often, no one. Sometimes, everyone.


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