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Retirement in a world of 'alternate facts'

I used to tell some whoppers when I was a kid and don't really know why. My mom was a champion at it so I think I got it from her.

And it wasn't just when I was a kid. I remember distinctly flying on Braniff Airlines to Omaha, Neb., when I was an insurance adjuster back in my 20s. I told the woman in the seat next to me that I was an author on my way to Nebraska to promote my book. It definitely sounded better than saying I was going to inspect a burned out house. I surprised myself with that one but managed to come up with a topic, title and publisher's name before I could stop myself. I could tell by the woman's face, she wasn't buying it, but I didn't back down. Mom never did, but I think that was one of the last times I did it. Strangers or no, I left the plane feeling like there was a big "L" for liar on my back and that the passengers were all gathering in an airport bar to discuss why anyone would do that.

I thought about my dubious relationship with the truth this weekend. I think I landed in the right profession 27 years ago considering my early lying ways. As a reporter, lying is out of the question, verboten, the original sin and, to make it even worse, you have to put things in writing that hang around forever. No, there is no way around it — you have to print the truth and nothing but it, at least what you believe to be true based on the facts.

So imagine my surprise when watching the talking heads on Sunday that I've had it all wrong. Yes, there are facts but there are also "alternative facts," at least according to Miss Kellyanne Conway, who ironically looked like a nutcracker in her inaugural outfit. Couldn't have been an accident.

No, Kellyanne and her comrades apparently believe in an alternate reality where crowds can be multiplied by a factor of 10, campaign promises are really just suggestions, and elections are rigged but only if their candidate doesn't win.

Oh these are strange times but that said, I am warming to the idea of alternative facts.

So next time I step on the scale, the number that comes up and slaps me across the face, isn't necessarily a fact. I can come up with another alternative number apparently, and I think I will, maybe 10, 20, hell why not 40 pounds less. I bet those half million people I didn't see at the inauguration, but who the White House said were there, would be fine with my alternate weight.

I've learned to live with deadlines, but I failed to realize that there have always been "alternate" ones — no I take that back, I have worked with folks over the years who have always had alternative deadlines and just seemed to get away with it more than me.

It would be nice to have an alternate bank balance, an alternate cholesterol level, maybe even an alternate age but then again...

I will be retiring this spring and it is just fine with me to be turning 65, especially if it means being a little less tied to the facts and having a little more time to fool with the alternate versions.

Retired, I can join the ranks of our regular letter to the editor writers and take off in whatever direction I choose, using whatever alternative facts I want. Retired, I can endorse candidates for things like school board, county board and beyond and argue for more to be spent on education and mental health and against those who whine when they are asked to give a little more for those who can't, for the good of us all.

I won't be writing for the Star-Observer much longer but I have loved the time I have spent telling what I believe have been the facts about my hometown. There is no need for alternate facts when the real ones, the truth, have made for such great stories over these past 27 years.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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