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My brother-in-law lied to get out of a favour

The question

My brother-in-law works for an airline and receives eight one-way "buddy passes" per year that allow family and friends to fly for $35. He constantly brags about this job perk, so when we had to travel across the country for a wedding this summer we asked about the passes, and he said he could give us four. Several months went by, however, and no passes. Then, two weeks before our trip, he said his wife dropped a bag off at our place with the tickets inside. It was an awkward exchange punctuated by differing accounts between my brother-in-law and his wife. She said she did not remember what type of bag they put the passes in, or when she dropped it off or to whom she gave it. All she knows is that she left a bag at our house. My wife and I are hurt, not because of the $1,000 extra expense but because of the childish charade. My wife feels sad for her sister, but I don't want to see them for a while - I'm that upset. Is my response justified? (We live two city blocks apart.)

The answer

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I would say you have every right to be upset.

Obviously, you do not buy their dropped-off-a-bag story.

And I can't say I blame you: "She said she did not remember ... when she dropped the bag off or to whom she gave the bag."

That statement is so fishy, one is tempted to batter and deep-fry it and serve it slathered with tartar sauce and a side of fries.

So, employing the principle of Occam's razor (basically that if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck that's probably what it is), perhaps we should not mince words and simply say this: Obviously, the only bag they dropped off at your house was a bag of lies.

And since you're grilling them about what type of bag, when and to whom it was dropped off, and so on, it must be pretty clear to them both that you don't believe the story.

They're lying. You know they're lying. And they know you know they're lying.

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But their notion of how to deal with the situation is to continue to look you straight in the eyes and stick to their story for as long as you all shall live.

Well ... it's a plan.

The problem with this approach is that lies like these have a way of hanging around and gnawing at everyone involved.

I remember when I was in my 20s, a friend of mine - call him Barclay - very naughtily shagged the girlfriend of his best friend and roommate.

We all knew he'd done it, and he knew we knew.

Now, we were all misbehaving dreadfully during this era, and probably all would have been forgiven in time if he had confessed. But he was clearly quite ashamed of his action, and vigorously denied the event ever occurred.

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His plan was to continue to deny it happened until the sun supernovas and the Earth is burnt into a crispy ball of bacon. So, finally, we all shrugged and said: "Okay, whatever. It 'never happened.' " And the subject (answering Barclay's prayers) was eventually dropped.

Ten years went by. The group of friends dispersed a little, but then one of our group, who had in the meantime run off to Thailand, returned for a visit. We all got together for a stroll down memory lane, and someone referenced this incident.

"Oh, no, that never happened," Barclay said. "We never slept together."

"Oh, so you're still sticking to that old lie?" our man from Thailand said. " Cool."

We all laughed long and hard - harsh, mocking laughter, as befit the situation. Barclay at first attempted his customary pose of indignation (like so many people, his urge when caught acting scandalously is to act scandalized that anyone would dare accuse him of the thing everyone knows he's done - really, the worst and lowest form of damage control).

But after all this time he just couldn't pull it off, and started laughing harder than anyone. And finally, finally, finally, after all these years, admitted what he'd done.

And in its own way it was a poignant moment. Beautiful? No ... but profoundly human. Because anyone could see it was a terrible weight off his mind, a great relief finally to be able to let go of his stupid lie.

Just as it will be, some day, for your brother-and sister-in-law when they finally admit the truth.

In the meantime, I can sum up my advice to you in a single word: fuhgeddaboudit.

Your relatives are obviously nowhere near ready to come clean.

They say tragedy plus time equals comedy, and that's because nothing seems so important after a while.

I'm not saying that being lied to, and having to spend $1,000 when you didn't think you'd have to, is not annoying and a big bore. It is. And I would be infuriated.

But you know you will always have to deal with your wife's sister and her husband - especially since they live so close to you. Not seeing them for a while? That's a plan that's doomed. You'll never pull it off.

So for the time being just say to yourself "serenity now" and allow the whole incident to drop down to Davy Jones's locker. Try not to let resentment eat at you; just rise above the whole thing with sannyasin-like tranquillity.

Then maybe in a year, five years, or even 10, bring it up.

With the help of a few drinks they might confess, and you can all have a good laugh about it while burying the whole incident under a gravestone marked RIP Dumb, Obvious Lie About Tickets 2008-2018.

David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

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