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Robert Sproule

To Tell The Truth

3 posts in this topic

Based on actual events

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

"I do."

Carl Savinski stepped up to the witness stand.

Carl's parents had immigrated to Canada when Carl was one year old. They had

started a small grocery store and had built it over the years into a major supermarket.

Carl now worked there full time. He helped with receiving, at checkout, did

accounts payable, and after a busy day helped restock the shelves – often until three

or four in the morning.

He liked working at his parent's business; it was an honest business. He had

been brought up to be honest, to tell the truth, and more – he knew that there was

such a thing as truth. He had never heard of reducing an argument to an absurdity as

a method of proving the falsehood of a particular proposition – none of his high

school teachers had ever taught it. But, a year ago, his homeroom teacher had said

in front of the whole class:

“There is no such thing as truth.”

Carl Savinski had stood up and said, "That would make your statement false."


"That would make your statement false," Carl had repeated. "If there is no such

thing as truth, then your statement is not true. To say that there is no such thing as

truth is absurd – you stupid bastard.”

Carl was expelled from school for two weeks. He didn't go back. He joined

his parent's business instead.

In the past year he had learned that to be honest was not only the right thing to

do but also the practical thing to do. He saw how his parents had built this business.

He saw that they had made reasonable rules for the staff and employed them equally,

without favouritism. The staff liked working there, and his parents had gained a

competent work force that cared about the future of the company. "The customer

is always right" was not company policy – they seldom were – the staff knew

what they were doing.

His parents had gained more customers by treating them honestly, by being fair,

by giving them more value for their money. If produce was too old, they threw it

out; they didn't sell three-day old bread as fresh. Their butcher trimmed more fat

off the meat. And they hunted for value; they didn't handle sixteen-ounce cans that

had to sell for more than twice the price of two eight-ounce cans.

They stuck to terms with their suppliers: if payment was required in thirty days,

they paid in thirty days. If a supplier accidentally shipped more than they were

invoiced for, they paid for the extra; if this happened too often, they changed

suppliers. They built up honest relationships with their suppliers. And they

gained: they were first to be offered a commodity in short supply, and first to

receive a discount if a supplier was over stocked.

In the past year Carl Savinski saw with his own eyes, in his day-to-day job, that

being honest paid. He saw that to be reasonable, to be honest, to tell the truth was

practical – that one did not suffer a loss by being honest, but made a gain.

"Your name is Carl Savinski?" the prosecuting attorney asked.


"Do you work at Savinski's Supermarket?"


"Do you recognize the defendant?"


"Please describe the events of October twelfth that led to these proceedings."

"I was restocking shelves near the front entrance to our store when the sensors

at the door set off the alarm. I stopped the defendant and asked her to step back

through the sensors without her bags of groceries. The alarm went off again. I

asked her to come into the office and to empty her pockets and her purse. In her

purse was a tube of toothpaste still in its box. The defendant said she had no idea

how it got there, that she was sorry, and offered to pay for the toothpaste. I said

that she could not, and called the police."

"The prosecution rests, Your Honour."

His Honour was bored. This would be just another shoplifting case. It had long

been the practice not to saddle shoplifters with a criminal record. Instead, he would

order her to watch a movie whose message was that it was not nice to steal, that

she should feel shame, and go away and never do this again.

"How does the alarm work?" asked the defence attorney.

The defence attorney looked slimy, thought Carl. Carl did not consider his first

impression, good or bad, a valid means of judging a man's character – he wanted

to know what a man said and did before forming an opinion. But still, the defence

attorney did look slimy. This was the first person Carl had ever met that he disliked

on sight.

"There's a tag on some of our merchandise. The tag sets off the alarm at the

door unless it has been deactivated at checkout."

"Is it possible to have a false alarm?"

Carl thought that this was irrelevant since this was obviously not a false alarm

given the fact that the tagged toothpaste that had set it off was in the lady's purse.

But the defence attorney had not asked if this particular alarm could have occurred

in error. He had simply asked if it's possible to have a false alarm, so Carl, who

always told the truth, simply said, "Yes."

The judge, who sat higher than anyone else in the courtroom, sat up straight –

there was something about this witness that was beginning to interest him.

"Is it possible for the checkout staff to miss deactivating a tagged product?"

Carl could not understand this line of questioning – it seemed pointless – and

he was beginning to get angry. He thought that the toothpaste had not been de-

activated because it had not been paid for, that it was not listed on the defendant's

receipt, and she knew it, or she would not have offered to pay for it. He thought

that the real reason the toothpaste had not been deactivated was that the lady had

it in her purse!

"Yes, it's possible," Carl answered calmly.

" Describe the checkout process."

"The customer puts their merchandise on a conveyor belt. The checkout

person passes each product over an electronic device that reads a bar code. If an

item is tagged, the checkout person drops it in a bucket, presses a button, and the

tag is deactivated. The merchandise is then slid down a shoot where the customer

bags their own groceries."

"Is it possible that the toothpaste was under, let's say, a loaf of bread, and was

passed down the shoot without being registered on the bill or deactivated?"


The defence attorney seemed to have a smirk on his face – this witness was

supposed to be a witness for the prosecution, but he could not have asked for a

better witness for the defence.

" Is it not then possible that the defendant, instead of putting the toothpaste in

her bags with the rest of the groceries, thinking it had been paid for, put it in her



Something is not right here, thought the judge – the prosecution's witness is

just allowing himself to be made to look like a fool.

"If this is, in fact, what happened at Savinski's supermarket on October

twelfth, then the defendant could not possibly be guilty of shoplifting. That would

be a contradiction, wouldn't it?"



"It would be a contradiction."

There it was – out in the open – “It would be a contradiction.” But there can

be no contradictions, and everyone in the courtroom knew it. In some form they

all knew that it's a law – a law of reality – there can be no contradictions. There

was a certain uneasiness in the minds of most people in the courtroom – as if they

had been put on the spot and were now being asked to choose – guilty, or not

guilty – she could not be both.

Carl Savinski had simply said it, "It would be a contradiction." and thought:

there you go, there are no contradictions, it's your problem, you deal with it.

The defence attorney was dumbfounded. "Huh" was all he had managed to say.

He had expected the witness to concede the possibility of his client's innocence. He

did not know what had gone wrong, why the problem had been thrown back in his

lap, or how to deal with it. What he did know was that it was his turn to speak, that

all eyes were on him, and that with each passing second, it was he who looked more

and more like the fool. Knowing no other course of action, he started out again.

"Ok," he said, cupping his chin with his hand in a manner that suggested he had

given the problem some thought, "isn't it just possible that my client had her purse

open in the shopping cart and the toothpaste just happened to fall off the shelf and

into her purse?"

Carl Savinski ignored the question and turned to the judge, who had been

watching with great intensity:

"Your Honour, do I have to engage…?”

The prosecuting attorney would not have to cross-examine the witness today.

He would not have to point out the contradictions in the defence attorney's

“toothpaste under the bread” story – why of all the dozens of items the accused

bagged that day was the toothpaste the only one she put in her purse, and if she had

put it in her purse, why had she said that she had no idea how it got there. He would

not have to point out that the “toothpaste falling into the open purse” story was

beyond any reasonable possibility.

The judge, in all his years on the bench, had had his will prevail. There had

never been anything that a couple of thunderous blows with his gavel would not

fix. He had always been in control. He had always rendered his decision after

careful deliberation and in his own good time. But now, it was he who had been

put on the spot, and he didn't like it one bit.

"You don't have to do anything!" screamed the judge.

Even Carl Savinski was startled.

The judge was livid. He looked as if Carl Savinski had physically pushed him

into a corner and then slapped his face – the problem had been taken from the

defence attorney and thrown at the judge.

The judge tried to calm himself, tried to regain control of his thinking:

“Yea, how did the toothpaste get into the purse?” he said out loud.

The attempt failed – and without a glance at the accused, the judge lashed out

at the defense attorney. Pointing straight at him, he yelled, “She’s guilty! She

has a criminal record!"

"I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” were the

words Carl Savinski had always lived by. Today, walking out of a courtroom,

he marvelled at how well it works.

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.

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Thank you so much for brightening up my day/week ! So I'll forgive you for playing with my feelings in the beginnings of the story...

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Thank you so much for brightening up my day/week ! So I'll forgive you for playing with my feelings in the beginnings of the story...

I'm glad my story brightened up your day/week, but I don't understand your comment?

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