There are three basic principles of lying.
The first, and most important, principle is this: NEVER LIE.
The second: IF YOU DO LIE, DON'T LIE ABOUT ANYTHING THAT ANYONE CAN CHECK. In other words, you may be able to get away with making untrue subjective statements such as, "I think your hair looks fine." You shouldn't say, "Penn Avenue doesn't run through East Liberty." Someone will pull up a map and catch you every time.
The third basic principle of lying is: IF YOU DO LIE, NEVER ADMIT TO ANYONE THAT YOU HAVE LIED.
I am about to violate that third principle.
I recently required hospital treatment. During the tornado warning a few weeks ago, I was sitting on my cellar steps, watching empty laundry detergent bottles float around in the water that was flooding into my basement, when I began to experience severe chest pains, accompanied by shortness of breath and nausea. I stayed where I was until the tornado warning was over, then I went upstairs and vomited for awhile. When it became clear that this was not going to resolve itself on its own, I called 911 and was taken to Shadyside Hospital by ambulance.
One of the first questions I was asked upon arrival in the ER concerned the severity of pain: "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you can imagine, how severe is your pain?"
That's a trick question if I ever heard one.
I am a writer. The worst pain I can imagine is really, really bad. Level 10 pain would definitely cause me to lose consciousness. In descending order, the levels of pain, as I imagine them, are:
9 Fall to the floor screaming and writhing uncontrollably.
8 On the floor, moaning and shaking.
7 In fetal position, whimpering.
6 Unable to think of anything except how bad this hurts.
5 Able, with concentration, to form a coherent thought.
4 In severe pain, but generally rational.
3 Able to push the pain into the background.
2 Able to ignore the pain some of the time.
1 Able to ignore the pain most of the time.
0 Not in pain.
My level of pain was around a 5 on my scale, but I know from when I tore my Achilles tendon that if you tell medical personnel your pain is around a 5, they respond, "It's not too bad, then." They must not be able to imagine very severe pain.
I admit it. I lied. I told the ER staff that my pain was at level 8 or 9 and they admitted me.
After extensive testing, which included a cardiac scan and the removal of what seemed like gallons of my blood, one vial at a time, they determined that I hadn't had a heart attack. It turned out that a gallstone had gotten stuck in a duct; they were able to go down my throat with an endoscope and unstick it. Problem solved. Still, I'm convinced that if I had characterized my pain as level 5, I might have been sent home with instructions to take Tylenol. Sometimes, imaginative writers really have to lie.
So, fess up. What have you lied about? And how do you feel about pain?