“What I Know,” The Back-Story.

Late last night I learned about Floyd Landis’ appeal being denied, and I wrote a quick entry, more to link to the news than to editorialize. I was late getting to bed on a night when I’d have to wake at 3:30AM to drive my parents to the airport. Brevity seemed prudent.

I felt it was important to say something personal about the news, something about how it affected me. I wrote what I feel from Floyd when he talks, and it was important to distinguish knowing, as in knowledge, facts, etc., and knowing, as in my heart telling me what it sees, that my conscious mind might not. I made a passing remark about the day I learned to >know what I know, and how I know what I know. The context was, I know Floyd Landis doesn’t have a dishonest bone in his body. It didn’t make sense to spend time and break up my piece on Floyd to tell the whole back story, since it has nothing to do with Floyd or bicycling. After a few emails and a few comments, which is more than I’ve ever received for any one post, I thought it best to tell the story sooner rather than later.

This is not about how great / smart / better than you / prescient / cool / or whatever else I think I am. This not intended to impress anyone. This is the story of why I trust what I know. So now, you’ll know. Hopefully, you’ll also know.

(I think I can dispense with the italics to differentiate the two kinds of knowing. It’s tedious to read. I wish there were different English words for them. I leave it to you to know what I’m saying—I don’t think it’ll be difficult.)

One evening in 1994, my first wife was watching television as I was getting ready to go out. A horrible, tragic story had broken that day. A woman had been car-jacked by an African-American, and her two boys, 3 years and 14 months old, were taken along with her vehicle. The local law enforcement officials were desperately trying to find the man, and especially the children. That night, the woman appeared on national TV and was making a tearful, heart-breaking appeal to get her two young children back. The nation rallied around the poor, terrified mother, and as Americans often do in a crisis, we became one united community.

As I walked through the TV room, I saw Susan Smith’s press conference for a moment. I saw her face and heard the tones of her voice for a few seconds, and I knew she was lying. I mocked her aloud as I headed out of the room. My wife was truly upset with me and how insensitive I was. She wondered how could I possibly be so cruel?

I didn’t know how. Hearing the stress and anger in my wife’s voice, I questioned myself for a moment. Was I just being a contrary, sarcastic know-it-all? I pondered that for a long moment. I remember it like it was yesterday. (So much so, I thought this whole story involved my current wife, who had to remind me we hadn’t even met in 1994!) No, I knew what I knew. I had no doubt at all that Mrs. Smith was lying, even if I was in a tiny minority. I knew in my heart, something was really wrong.

To make a long story a little less long, over the next nine days it turned out the woman was lying. She’s now serving time for the murder of her two children, who drowned after she rolled her car into a lake with the young boys inside.

Now I trust my instincts when people talk. It turns out they’re very good, enough to be both a blessing and a curse.

So, that’s the story. The certainty I feel when Floyd speaks stems from that chance moment in 1994, and all the times since then, when I could feel when someone was telling the truth or not.

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