Ethics are confusing. It’s easy to say, “I plan to do the right thing.” I try to do the right thing but usually fail like a boss. That’s because I don’t really know what the right thing is.
A while ago, I was in the crawl-thru lane at Fats’ Fast Food to pick up the wrong cheeseburger and last week’s fries. In my mirror, I could see a seasoned citizen counting change to pay for her meal, so I figured she had to dip into her Bingo money to eat. When I got to the window, I offered to pay her bill. I was a little nervous about how much it would cost, but it ended up being around a dollar. The girl at the window thought I was sweet, but she still screwed up my order. When I stopped to see her reaction, the blue-haired lady seemed appreciative. I was unsure of my actions, so I told the wife about it. She applauded my actions.That’s an ethical win.
The next week, I gave the discount eatery another chance to infuriate me. In my mirror, I saw the car behind me was a convertible driven by a young blond sporting a scandalous bikini top. When I pulled up to the window, I paid for her order. I paused when I pulled away to see her reaction to me paying. She blew me a kiss. When I told the wife about it, she was angry. Now I’m confused. They were the same actions, at the same place, with different results. That was an ethical loss. Why?
I worked at a hospital. My daughter worked in the ER. She forgot her debit card, so I loaned her upwards of $5 for lunch. When I told my wife, she said I was being tight, and I should have given her more money. Plus, I guess making her sign an IOU in front of a Notary wasn’t ethical. I made a note of it, because I can “learn.” A couple of weeks later, a pretty young woman at work asked to borrow $100 to get a new tattoo. I was proud that I didn’t ask for an IOU, as I gave her $150. I don’t want to be “tight.” The wife was furious. I’m really confused now. She makes no sense. A buddy asked me to stop by Saturday to help him move something heavy. When I showed up, the “something heavy” was a big Italian guy who had an unfortunate accident over the thing with the thing. I decided to decline helping because, “jail.” He’s still mad at me. Was I ethical or not?
I get it wrong all of the time. It’s neat to pay the bill for an elderly woman behind you at McDonalds. It’s not neat to pay the bill for a woman sitting with you at a fancy French restaurant. You could pay for the candy bar for the kid in front of you at Circle K, but not the person behind you at Victoria’s Secret. It’s nice of you to tip the polite server at Applebee’s. It’s not nice to tip the policeman that was polite when he stopped you for speeding. Paying the bill for lunch for your coworker is acceptable. Paying the bill for rent on your coworker’s condo is not acceptable. Helping your secretary pick out a new crescent wrench is okay. Helping your secretary pick out clothes for a trip to Cancun is somehow not okay.
So let me get this straight. You can pay for food for just about anyone, unless that person is attractive and of the opposite sex. You can help folks out unless she who-rules says “no.” You can help a person move a couch, but you can’t help them move a body. You can loan a dollar, but not $100.
You can let someone use the phone, but not your social security number. At the café, you can ask someone about their surgeries, but not about their felony arrest record. Why? I just want to understand why.
You can say “don’t get personal,” but what is more personal than picking out a new crescent wrench? Maybe mood is the governing factor. I didn’t really like paying for the elderly lady to eat, so that’s okay to do. I kind of enjoyed paying for the blonde’s mocha latte, so that’s wrong. I get it now.
Then again, I didn’t want to move a body, and it was still wrong to get involved in that. Now I’m confused again.
I’ve got it! Any action of mine that upsets the wife is unethical. What she approves of is ethical. Like the saying goes…happy wife, happy life. If true, that means that the ethical path is the quieter path. That makes sense, because paying for a tattoo made our house very noisy.
Remember, tip your servers but not your policeman.