Crooked: (adj) dishonest, not straightforward
There are certain things you remember:
The first time you rode a rollercoaster.
Your initial encounter with peanut butter.
How about the premiere kiss?
An award given in front of an applauding audience.
An amount of money that crosses your hands that’s more than y you can imagine.
But I also clearly remember the first time somebody called me “crooked.”
I was so pissed. I didn’t consider myself crooked. I thought I was being thrifty. I viewed my efforts as ingenious.
For you see, I checked into a motel room with three other friends. We could only afford the single rate, so I purchased it for me alone. Then the other three arrived, scurrying around the back of the establishment to my front door, laughing that we had pulled off our little decoy.
Matter of fact, I think we were still giggling, high-fiving each other, when there was a knock at the door. I quickly silenced everyone in the room and motioned for them to go into the bathroom. I would handle whatever the intrusion happened to be.
When I opened the door, there was the front desk clerk. He demanded entrance. I acted offended. “What do you want?” I asked.
In broken English, he clearly exclaimed, “You bring more people in room! You lie! You cheat!”
Not sure what else to do, I invited him in, thinking he would walk around the beds, and see nobody else in the space—never believing he would actually open up the bathroom. So when he headed in that direction, I had to decide whether to deter him or just let it play out.
He was too fast for me. He was already opening the door. The bathroom was empty. But he was a persistent young man. He quickly pulled back the shower curtain. There were my three friends, standing in the tub, trying desperately to imitate invisibility. Finally one of my buddies burst out laughing—frightened nerves.
The young desk clerk exclaimed, “You must leave room now!”
I reached for my wallet to offer him the extra funds that would cover the four of us, but he would have none of it.
“No money,” he said, pushing my wallet away. “You lie. You cheat. You go.”
He headed toward the door, and I spoke, hoping to rationalize my actions. “Listen, man,” I said, “we were just trying to save money. We’re just kids. We’re broke. You know?”
He turned, looked me right in the eyes and said:
“You not kids. You not broke. You crooked.”
He immediately stepped out of the room and disappeared, coming back five minutes later to stand next to our van, to make sure we loaded up and left.
As is often the case with a quartet of individuals, there were four different takes on the event: one scared, one acting like he wasn’t part of it from the start, one indignant—wanting to go buy a dozen eggs and pelt the place.
And then there was me.
I was quiet, chilled to my soul.
I was bruised by being called “crooked.”
I didn’t view myself as deceitful, just clever.
But I learned that night that clever is crooked if it’s not honest.