Catch Me If You Can

Have you ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can? It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, a real-life con man who successfully posed as a pilot, a doctor, and an attorney in the 1960s before being captured by the FBI. It’s a great film, and an amazing story. I’d always wondered how somebody could be slick enough to get away with so many elaborate ruses.

Over the weekend, I found out when I stepped into Frank Abagnale’s shoes.

Tara is a social butterfly, and wanted to go to a local meet-up for an opportunity to connect with new people and maybe make a few friends. I’m all about supporting my spouse even if it’s not something I’m personally interested in, so I went along with her.

From the moment we stepped into the room, I felt uncomfortable. For starters, we were all seated at a long table in the private room of a nearby German restaurant. Not a big deal, but everybody in the group around us was at least 70 years old. We were easily the youngest couple there, until another younger couple sat down next to us. And there was no organized topic of conversation; we were simply asked to slap on name tags and talk with the people around us. I found the idea excruciating, but decided if I was going to be stuck there for another hour and a half, I might as well have a little fun.

“Whatever happens,” I whispered to Tara, “Just play along with me.”

When the woman across from me asked what I did for a living, without missing a beat I replied, “I’m an audiologist.”

And with that, I spent the next 90 minutes playing doctor.

Now, I’m not generally the lying type. If anything, I am honest to a fault. Because every time I fib a little, it seems to backfire on me. I just figured I was never going to see these people again, and was in the mood for a little storytelling. I honestly did not plan on pretending to be a doctor until I opened my mouth, and those words came spilling out. Fortunately, I work with audiologists on a daily basis, and develop content for ENT clinics every single day. If there’s one thing I know, it’s hearing. My friends have even come to me for medical advice, so it made perfect sense.

If Leo (Frank Abagnale) can get away with it, why can't I?
If Leo (Frank Abagnale) can get away with it, I bet I can, too!

When the lady across from me said, “Perfect! I’m a high school music director and could use your advice,” my stomach sank for a brief moment. I could have come clean right then and there; after all, my little white lie was still hanging in the air, only thirty seconds old. But I decided to soldier on, curious to see whether I could actually bullshit my way through this.

I have to say, I pulled it off pretty admirably. She asked for advice on preserving her hearing, and I suggested custom high-fidelity musician’s earplugs that provide balanced sound reduction without affecting mid and high frequencies. This reduces loud noises while allowing speech to come through clearly. She then wondered if her two-month old baby would benefit from hearing protection if she were to bring her to a high school football game. I told her earplugs were a must for an infant’s sensitive hearing, and suggested she prevent them from falling out of her baby’s ears by wrapping a scarf around her head to ensure they stayed in place. This is a real solution I picked up during research for articles I have written. Suddenly I felt giddy. Here I was, helping somebody by dispensing medical advice! No wonder many doctors infamously have a God complex.

“How did you decide to become an audiologist?” somebody asked.

I got a real pensive look on my face, cocked my head to the side, and replied, “Well, even from a young age I knew I always wanted to help people…”

I got so wrapped up in my fake story, I was even starting to fool myself. When I got a text from Audrey, I wondered out loud if it was my message service paging me with an after-hours emergency.

Tara has a hard time keeping a straight face in situations like these, but did a pretty good job playing along. She has difficulty fibbing herself, so when the woman next to her, whom she was engaged in deep conversation with, asked what I did for a living, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What do you do, dear?”

“I’m an audiologist,” I replied, the words flowing smoothly now.

“A what?”she asked, and then laughed.

“Ha-ha,” I said, recognizing immediately the little hard-of-hearing joke. “I’ve never heard that before!”

Cue laughter from the rest of the table.

I have to admit, I had a surprisingly good time once I got wrapped up in my fake life. So much so that I was almost disappointed when the meet-up came to an end. No harm, no foul…right?

Of course, with my luck, we’re liable to be shopping for groceries one of these days and have somebody recognize me. “Excuse me, Dr. Petruska,” they’ll say. “I need to schedule a hearing exam.”

At which point I’ll say, “I’m sorry, but I’m no longer an audiologist. I decided to become a pilot instead.”

Frank Abagnale, you’re a bad influence…



Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

14 thoughts on “Catch Me If You Can

  1. LOL…there have been times people mistakenly thought I was in the same field as my spouse (because so many seem to marry) that I’ve just played along, rather than deny it. Knowing the lingo definitely helps!

    My son met Frank Abagnale last Spring when he gave a talk on campus. He said it was fantastic to hear the story in person.


  2. “When the woman across from me asked what I did for a living, without missing a beat I replied, “I’m an audiologist.”


    Mark, you CRACK ME UP, man! You and are the same way because I LOVE making up stories on the spur of the moment and seeing how far I can go with them. My father was the same way….a trickster!

    I have a feeling you would make a GREAT actor! And very good at improv because you think fast on your feet.

    And thanks for mentioning that film because it’s one I haven’t seen but want to. I love anything with DiCaprio in it. Have you ever seen, Shutter Island? Fabulous film!


    1. FWIW, I love watching Whose Line Is It, Anyway. I’ve often thought it would be fun to try my hand at improv…not sure I could actually pull it off, though. But I appreciate the vote of confidence. DiCaprio is my favorite “modern” actor, and I’ve seen pretty much all his movies. Shutter Island was very cool…and creepy.


    1. I don’t know if lying is one of those things you should be proud of being able to pull off easily. (And yet, I’d be lying – ha-ha – If I said I wasn’t a little proud of my fakery).


  3. Years ago I used to be a US Civil War reenactor. We portrayed Confederates from Virginia. We were, in fact, from Upstate NY. Pulling off the accent took some time and study, but one day, while standing along the outskirts of that days battle, some tourists came up and starting talking to me and asking various question. I immediately slipped into my trusty Virginia character’s voice and proceded to talk to them for a good half hour or so. One of them even said, “You sound just like my cousin! She lives near Roanoke. The Virginians have such lovely accents. I could listen to you talk all day.” I just smiled sweetly and said, “Why, thank you so much.”


  4. Been too long since I’ve been here! July has just kicked my ass! Nice to be back in familiar territory amongst bloggers I know and love. Great new look here btw!
    And I’m not surprised by this charade one bit. I would’ve guessed you do it all the time. LOL


    1. I’ve missed seeing you around these parts too, Jess! Glad you’re back. Sounds like the past month has been a real whirlwind for you. And you’re kind of right…I might be the type who pulls off shenanigans like this from time to time.


  5. I often get asked for medical advice too because of my interest in biology. After taking Human Anatomy & Physiology in University, I learned a lot more about the human body. Plus I’ve had so many things go wrong with my body I’m a bit of an expert on those things!


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