She tried to bribe me; I told the lie.
It was Friday morning at the Mercantile, and members of a large family from Indiana and Illinois staying in the campground were shopping. The parents of one family were probably in their early 30s, and they had four kids—three boys and a girl. The oldest kid was probably 10, the youngest 5. The kids ran around touching things and playing with puppets while receiving practically no supervision from either parent.
The mom of the family noticed the WiFi networks on her phone, or maybe she had noticed it before she stepped foot in the Mercantile. Do you have internet here? she asked. Since she must have known there were networks available, what she really wanted was the password so she could utilize one.
I shook my head and made a sad face. No, I said, then realized her phone was telling her otherwise, so I added, not for public use.
At least once a day, someone asked about accessing the store’s WiFi. If I didn’t think they’d seen the networks on their phone, I just said no. If the visitor already had a phone out, I’d say the internet wasn’t available for public use, and maybe I’d add it was only to run the cash register, which was a fib in and of itself. All of the company employees in the area had the password to one of the networks and connected to it to so we could access the internet. Still, I used the only for the cash register fib when I saw that a visitor was not going to simply give up on the idea of using the internet while near the Mercantile. Most people were obviously disappointed but didn’t push the issue.
I tried to help people by finding out why they wanted to use the WiFi. Most people told me with panic that their GPS wasn’t working. They didn’t seem to feel any better when I told them that no one’s GPS was working on the top of the mountain, but I could usually give them directions to where they wanted to go. For the people who wanted to post pictures or check their social media, there was nothing I could do to help.
It seemed like the mom on this Friday morning was going to let the topic of WiFi drop, but then she brought it up again as her family piled their souvenirs on the counter on front of me for purchase.
Couldn’t she use the internet for a few minutes? she asked. Couldn’t we just give her the password? I’ll pay you, she offered.
I knew what was going to happen if we gave her the password. She would go back to her extended family camping on three sites and brag that she had access to the WiFi. Maybe her family would beg, or maybe she’d hand out the password with no coaxing, but I was confident she’d share it and all the adults in her group and the older kids too would be on our porch, logged in to the WiFi.
She offered to pay me, but I just said no. That’s when I told the big lie.
I could tell she wouldn’t give up if I simply said no again or told her it was against store policy to share the password. I knew she’d promise not the give the password to anyone else or even tell anyone she had it, but I was confident she wouldn’t be able to keep such a score a secret. I knew I had to tell her something that would make an impression on her. That’s when I told her the big lie.
I’ll pay you, she said, and I said, No. If I give you the password, I’ll get fired. You don’t have enough money. I shared this information flatly, matter-of-factly, no smile on my face, not like I was joking.
I knew I probably wouldn’t get fired if I gave her the password, even if The Big Boss Man somehow found out about it, but I knew if The Big Boss Man found out I’d done such a thing, he would not be happy with me. At the least, I’d get a stern lecture. At worst, if I gave the password to this woman and she shared it, her extended family could use up our monthly allotment of internet access or crash our system from overuse. Why would I want to bring any negative consequences on myself for what I’m sure would only be an offering of a .few bucks?
I don’t like lying and I try not to do it, but in this case, as I suspected it would, my lie shut the lady down. She quit asking for the password. Perhaps she didn’t want my job loss on her conscience. Perhaps she realized I wasn’t going to give her the password no matter what she offered or how much she begged.