I cannot tell a lie … but a language error? That’s OK
Aspen, CO Colorado
Years ago, I was lying in a hospital bed after a knee operation. The anesthesia had mostly worn off, and I was doing some serious suffering, desperately hoping someone would come along and offer me a shot of morphine.
That’s when the surgeon who had done the operation stopped by to tell me everything had gone well and ask how I was doing. I gave a pathetic groan. The surgeon nodded, as if I had said everything was fine. “Good,” he said, encouragingly, the way surgeons do. Then he gestured at a shadowy figure by his side and added, “This is Dr. Pain. He assisted in the operation.”
Dr. Pain? Did he really say Dr. Pain? In my addled haze of suffering, I found a moment to wonder how in the world someone named “Pain” had thought it would be a good idea to become a doctor.
That’s the same feeling I had this morning as I read about an Aspen official explaining why costs for the Burlingame housing project were running about $75 million over projections.
It wasn’t that I was feeling pain. I was feeling amazement that the city spokesman’s name was “Crook.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that Barry Crook, assistant to the city manager, is a very honorable man.
But let’s stop and think. Voters have approved a project based on a city brochure that said the public cost will be a tad less than $15 million. Now it turns out that the actual public cost is more than $85 million ” and heading for $90 million. That is not a trivial difference.
OK, now you’re choosing someone to explain to the voters that all the numbers they were given before voting were wild fabrications. Do you really want to choose a man named Crook?
Does the Catholic Church send Bishop Pervert out to deny that anyone has been molesting altar boys?
Does the president pick a press secretary named Fred Bullpuckey? Or Harold Pantsonfire?
Is the Pentagon’s spokesman named Major Blunder?
So why does the city of Aspen, in all its wisdom, send out a man named Crook to tell us about a $75 million “miscalculation”?
And why do they make this poor man explain that there was a “language error” that somehow skipped over a mere $25 million in expenses?
That “language error” was the fact the brochure gave a project cost that didn’t include land, infrastructure or design and engineering work.
In other news: “Ford spokesman Arthur Defect explained that a language error had resulted in ads listing car prices that didn’t include tires or engines or seats.”
Meanwhile, back at City Hall, Mr. Crook’s job of explaining the language errors in the brochure was not helped by another city official who said, “The brochure was a marketing piece. It had no basis in reality.”
That, I should point out, was not a language error ” it was a judgment error. When caught in a lie, never tell the truth about the fact you were lying.
That second official, by the way, was an assistant city manager, while Mr. Crook is an assistant to the city manager. They do love to play word games over there, don’t they? The little games that don’t cost $75 million are almost amusing. Almost.
In any case, poor Mr. Crook had to take a moment to stress that city officials are not trying to be deceptive.
Oh, OK. Um … is that the good news? That they led voters astray by $75 million without trying to be deceptive? Are we supposed to be pleased that they weren’t trying? Or impressed at the thought of how badly they could have screwed everyone with even a little effort?
In other news: “Hospital spokesman Melvin Slasher said that a language error had resulted in surgeons amputating the wrong leg from the wrong patient.”
And while we’re on the subject, poor Mr. Crook had another confession to make. The $74 million in construction costs they had planned on had gone up by almost $33 million over the past four years. That’s an increase of 11 percent a year. But that rate of increase, said Mr. Crook, is not unusual.
Which leaves one wondering this: If it’s not unusual, why the hell didn’t they count on it?
In other news: “Army commander General Chaos said his troops were caught by complete surprise when the enemy attacked. But, he added, that kind of attack is not unusual.”
Meanwhile, back at City Hall, perhaps it’s time to announce a new designation for official statements: Language in Error.
To be known, of course, by its acronym, LIE.
Now can I please get that shot of morphine, Dr. Pain?
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