There are only a handful of things in this world of which I can speak with a little authority. (None of them is ever likely to bring me fame or even the humblest fortune.) One of these areas of “expertise” is rumors. I know rumors, a holdover from this blog’s predecessor, UTMB’s Rumors or Trumors web site. During the site’s long run, I fetched and fielded and nursed and nurtured hundreds of rumors. I was thinking about this today, as I heard of three whoppers circulating widely on campus. The craziest one had one of our campus “big guns” getting escorted away by a contingent from UT System (Didn’t happen. A spaceship, for those who were fans of the old site). I learned a few things those years at my post. In these days of buzz and chatter, let me share a few observations with you:
1. Some rumors are true. Most are not. Many are somewhere in the middle.
2. Even when there’s some truth in a rumor, it’s an extraordinarily rare thing for a rumor to have all the facts straight.
3. Rumors fill a void. When people don’t have answers, they seek them. They fill the gaps with conjecture and suppositions. A conversation between two people becomes a rumor when it hits the third.
4. Rumors grow and change. They get “better” with time. Numbers change, details and players get swapped even as the basic storyline stays the same. Rumors live, and die, and resurface, and die, and resurface. At some point the more resilient ones become part of the institutional lore.
5. Rumors usually paint the worst possible scenario. Even when a “bad” rumor is grounded in truth, the truth is rarely as horrific as the rumor makes it out to be.
6. Men gossip and spread rumors as much (and maybe more) than women.
I’ve learned to be skeptical when I hear a rumor, but I don’t walk away when someone’s sharing one. It may be BS, but it’s alluring, intriguing. It’s juice. What’s the best way to address a rumor? Pull it out of the shadows. Ask someone. Ask your boss. Send it to your entity leader. Send it here. But please don’t send it to Rumors or Trumors. Been there, done that. And that’s no rumor.