A few weeks ago at work there was a customer standing in line staring intently at my arm, which given that I have multiple tattoos on each, isn’t that uncommon. I figure she was either trying to read one or decipher the meaning, or she was ranting in her head about how America and traditional values were being desecrated by my generation, you know with our tattoos and punk rock. When it came time for her to order she looked at me and pointed at one of the tattoos on my right arm. It’s an anchor that my wife and I both got on our honeymoon (extremely classy I know) with our initials on it and our wedding date under it. Seeing as the woman pointed at that one I figured she wanted the story, the meaning behind the date and the initials, but before I could tell her about it she started smiling and turned her phone case towards me, to reveal anchors on the back. Great, we both like anchors? I smiled, nodded, and tried to match her excitement, which was tough because she was really, really, happy. Then things took a weird turn.
The woman scrolled through her phone for a minute before showing me a picture of a tombstone. It too, had an anchor on it. She told me it was her son and that he had died fighting in the Navy. Trying my best to say the right thing I told her how sorry I was for her loss and that’s when she began to cry. I have nothing against crying, it’s a good thing that is necessary sometimes but in that situation I had no idea what to do. When she finally calmed herself down she told me how lucky I was to have made it back, then reached across the counter and gave me one of those high fives where you grab the hand and pull the other person into a hug. As this was happening I began to comprehend the situation; this woman thought I was in the navy and we share some special bond because her son, the one that died, was also in the navy. She thanked me for my service, paid for her coffee and left, and I haven’t seen her since.
It all happened so fast and by the time I realized what was going on, I felt like things had gone too far for me to clarify at that point that I got my anchor tattoo for like a hundred bucks in Orange Beach, Alabama, not for choosing to sacrifice my life for the country, like her heroic son. I think just going with the lie in this case was the best option, especially given her emotional instability at that point. What good could come from telling a crying woman that thinks you share a special bond with her son, that you in fact do not? Generally honesty is the way to go, and I didn’t tell a lie here, but I did let her believe her own assumptions she’d made about me, and I think that was the right thing to do. I appreciate all past and present US military personnel and the sacrifices they make, and I’m sure their parents are good people, but I’m kind of hoping I don’t see this mother again, because if I do I might be compelled to tell her the truth, and nothing good will come of that.