The Time I Lied to a Nun

And, truth be told, I’m still a little proud of it.

It was a delightful spring day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a school day, which was tragic, as we got so few such delightful spring days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, per my best recollections.

The tragedy was mitigated somewhat when lunchtime came and, bolting our food, my friends and I at Ironwood Catholic High School had oodles of time to spend out there in the glorious sunshine.

I don’t recall what games we played that day, only that we savored every free moment basking in that spring sun.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and far too soon our collective hearts sank as the bell rang, signaling the five-minute warning to the start of our next class. We all began filing back towards the building.

You should know, by the way, that on a delightful spring day like that one, a good many students would ride their bikes to school, just for the sheer joy of it. They were all parked pell-mell in a small alcove of the parking lot right next to the school’s gymnasium. My route back to class took me right past them.

As I ambled past our little bike parking lot, I glanced over, and right there closest to me was my friend Eddie Garcia’s ancient one-speed.

Like Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch, I had an idea. An awful idea. Jim had a wonderful, awful idea.

I dashed over to it, and quick as a flash, I was letting the air out of Eddie’s tires.

Now, I’m not cruel. I wasn’t going to make them completely flat and strand the poor kid. Nah–just make them a little soft, and make his ride home a bit more taxing. (On the other hand, thinking back now I realize poor Eddie lived about five or six miles out of town. So perhaps I am cruel.)

I crouched there amidst the hiss of escaping bike tire air, chuckling quietly to myself and congratulating myself on my devious prank, when suddenly from behind me came a small, soft, quiet voice, not unlike that of Little Cindy Lou Who: “Mr. Vinoski, whose bicycle is that?”

I had an instant of stark terror, when turning around I encountered Sister St. Thomas, an owlish, ordinarily mild-mannered, friendly, tiny bit of a nun who usually terrorized nobody. So perhaps my fear was misplaced, though she was still a nun, and memories of the days of horror in grade school with Sister Tarcisius, Sister John Marie, and Sister Jovita were still all too fresh. In my mind, in that instant, I faced complete annihilation.

So, also like The Grinch, I thought up a lie, and I thought it up quick.

“It’s my bike, Sister,” I replied.

She perhaps sensed my hesitation. “And why are you letting the air out of your own bike’s tires?”

This is where my true genius shone forth, in a complete moral opposite of The Grinch finding the true meaning of Christmas. “Well, Sister, on a hot day like today, if your tires are fully inflated, they can blow up when the air expands. So I always let a little out before that can happen.”

She peered at me through her glasses, thoughtfully measuring my words, then grinned, nodded, turned on her heel, and nunned off to her next class.

In the end, I don’t think I let enough air out of Eddie’s tires for him to even notice the difference. Elated at my narrow escape from oblivion, I dashed off to class with joy in my heart, the sun of that delightful spring day having been dimmed not one iota.

And I may burn for it, but I never felt even a smidgen of guilt for lying to a nun. If it had been a movie, I would have broken the fourth wall in that instant and smiled impishly and happily at the camera, just like Ralphie did when his lie about the icicle hitting him saved his Christmas day.

(PS–I don’t think she believed me for a second.)


Jim Vinoski
Jim Vinoski
Jim Vinoski thinks he’s a pretty regular guy. Jim grew up in Michigan’s glorious Upper Peninsula. He’s married and has two sons, and now resides in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. He’s an avid cyclist, runner, and reader. He and his two boys are heavily involved in Scouting, with Jim serving as their Troop’s Scoutmaster. He’s a big WWII history buff and has never gotten over his 1980s fascination with heavy metal music. He has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing, in products ranging from plastics and paints to food and bourbon. (That last one was a heck of a lot of fun.) His focus has been in engineering (he holds a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering), operations, and management. He’s a veteran of such companies as Ralston-Purina and General Mills, and he’s currently responsible for all store-brand manufacturing of dairy and beverage products for a major regional US grocery chain. As a Forbes Contributor, Jim covers all facets of manufacturing. He’s explored everything in his column there from the success stories of numerous American manufacturers to the amazing innovations in our advanced technologies, such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence. Jim also blogs about everything under the sun at The Interface.

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  1. What a lovely story on so many levels, Jim.
    No, I don’t think she believed you for a second – but perhaps she was a physics teacher? Hearing that at least a little had turned into applied science might have let you off the hook. And if she wasn’t, there may be special treatment for thinking on your feet.

    As a general rule, we overestimate the value of book smarts and underestimate street smarts. (IMHO we have confused the book smarts of yore with that the then relatively few students who got into college often had parents with a solid network to help the student do well in their careers. I don’t want to underestimate What you know, but I think we “forgot” to take into account Who you know when we encouraged so many students into debt without providing the career options to match. But if what you sell is education, that can be easy to “forget” and hard to control for. But that is a discussion for another day.)

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