Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘It’s NOT Okay To Be White?’ Files: The Blacks-Only Opinion Section”

Prolific commenter johnburger2013 issued this epic two days ago, but I confess, I didn’t have a chance to read it until today.Knowing john and his work, I expected to be impressed, and I was.

This is one of my favorite genres of comment: the personal ethics odyssey with fearless self-evaluation. Such comments require bravery, honesty, and objectivity, and the author displays all of these here. This comment is especially helpful to me today, for I am going over a confrontation I had today during a seminar that left me annoyed and questioning my response.

Ethics audits of an episode, a day, a relationship, a crisis, a problem or a life are invaluable tools on the way to building a more ethical approach to human existence. I encourage everyone to do what johnburger2013 does here as frequently as they can. If you are willing to share it with us, I will be grateful.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, From The Ethics Alarms “It’s NOT Okay To Be White?” Files: The Blacks-Only Opinion Section:

Alright, Ethics Alarmers. I must declare that I had one miserable weekend. Apropos of absolutely nothing, and related to nothing on this post, I thought I would relate the weekend’s experiences, simply to show that Ethics Alarms is having a positive impact on your humble correspondent. This is long, so bear with me.

It all began this past Friday evening. Our son is 13, in eighth grade, and is considering high school choices. The top three are Catholic, and the main differences are the cultures within the schools. The top two choices are all-boy schools, one Jesuit and one Basilian. The other is co-ed. Great schools. Friday night’s descent into madness began with a declaration that the Basilian school is his preferable choice to the Jesuit, resulting in a very strange argument, with hurt feelings, confusion, chaos, and shouting (handled very well by little ol’ me, oh yes, indeed! Sheesh.). On an ethics scale, my handling of the situation is still being calculated as it has passed more than -3500 on the Kelvin Scale of Absolute Stupidity, perhaps setting a new world record.

Anger and recriminations festered until the next morning. I took The Boy to his HSPT prep class. Ah, yes. The exalted HSPT. The all-important, all-consuming, all-destructive HSPT upon which the entire fate of humanity rests. Discussions en route to the class included such observations as, “Great! You left your notebook at home. That shows real organization skills and concern for you to do well, son.” Ethics Score: 2.9, or possibly a 3, if you discount the yellow-to-red light I rolled through.

Then, I returned to home to get some stuff done before picking The Boy up from the class. I was already on edge, and discovered that the pooch had decided to enjoy some of my wife’s lovely tree ornaments and left the resulting elation in shreds in the middle of the living room. That lead to a stern pooch reprimand. Considering that his mind is simply a buzz with constant low-level static, he wagged his tail and asked for a treat. Considering the torn apart ornament, he did not get a cookie. Ethics Score: 6, as I realized that he is still a puppy, the red-coated Santa ornament looked an awful lot like his favorite stuffed jalapeño toy, and was hanging in the perfect spot so he couldn’t resist the temptation.

Aggravated by having to fix a door latch, which took longer than I expected, and cleaning up the destroyed ornament, and a host of other nuisances, I was late picking up The Boy, well, by 2 minutes and nobody was annoyed. The trip to get him though, completely fails to register on the Ethics Score Board because of the many cursings and deleted expletives still echoing in my car. Rush’s “Hemispheres” could not fix that problem. Wow.

After leaving school, I had to get new screws for the door latch. That is when things got really ugly. Mind you, all of this happened between 8:30 am and 12;30 pm. A mere four hours. See? Awful.

I intended to go a local hardware store to get larger flat-headed wood screws and sanding paper to fix the mess I made on the door’s frame. A ten minute drive took well over 30 minutes because of traffic (horrendous), bad drivers (way too many), incessant stop lights (why can’t they be synchronized to ensure traffic flow?!), and already frayed nerves. Now, this hardware store is where you go to get things you won’t find in big stores, and is generally a wonderful experience (except for that damn parrot that shrieks when I walk by, but that is a different story), and the employees are wonderful. For some reason, the entire city of Houston, Texas, decided to be in the store and the same time. I needed two screws and two anchors. Is that too much to ask? They remodeled since the last time I was in the store and moved everything around so I couldn’t find the screw section. The aisle markers hadn’t been changed so I was wandering around looking for screws. I give the store a two-point deduction for that.

At this point, I am no longer rational. I asked a fellow who I believed worked at the store where the screws were. He couldn’t tell because he didn’t work there. I hang my ethics head in shame at my response. I was rude, inconsiderate, and terribly unkind to this man, who was as pleasant as a person could be. I was completely in the wrong. He did not deserve my response. But, I was too committed to being a tool to stop. I walked away in disgust, and then found the damn screws and anchors, which I bought. Then, it dawned on me: I insulted a man with no justification. I had to make it right. Ethics Score: Zero. F-.

I searched the store for the man, and upon seeing him, I could tell he was thinking, “Here comes that jerk.” I approached him, and said, “Sir. I need to apologize to you. I was terribly rude to you and you did not deserve it. I sincerely apologize for my behavior. I am having a bad day and I took it out on you without any justification. Hope I haven’t ruined your day. Please accept my apology.” His response: Instead of giving me a much-deserved tongue lashing and possibly a kick in the ethics backside, he said, “Apology accepted. I could tell you were not having a good day. I hope your day gets better.” His Ethics Score: A+. My response: “Sir, you are very kind and I truly appreciate your considerate response.” We shook hands, and smiled, him patting me on the back, reassuring me that “this, too, will pass.” A very nice fellow.

My Ethics Apology: I hope a 1, especially because I resolved to settle down and reevaluate my behavior, which I did. My nerves mended and I was less agitated for the rest of the day. That evening, in the confessional, I confessed my terrible conduct especially to my wife, son, and that poor-unsuspecting hardware fellow. The priest gave me advice, absolution, and penance. Which I did.

Then, Sunday, I decided that I would begin the day with a different outlook, especially after eating my wife’s incredibly tasty French toast. Whoa. I worked in the flower beds, trying to tackle that confounded vine-weed thing that keeps covering my gardenias. Man, that is a hardy weed. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I tried to trim my bougainvillea but they would have none of it and scratched the bejesus out of my hands (I didn’t mind because I know they like to fight back and I was prepared to suffer).

I realized I needed topsoil and grass to fill in holes left by the pooch, so I went to Home Depot, which did not have grass. I bought my dirt and went to the upscale garden spot to see if they had grass (they didn’t as it is not the season) and/or azaleas to recommission my flower beds (they only had 2 gallon azaleas which are too small for my needs, to be reassured they will have more in mid-January and on sale). Satisfied, I decided to purchase some poinsettias because my long-suffering wife loves them.

The cashier rang up my purchase but knocked one over and the stems broke. She was kind and apologetic and told me to get another one. A nice Sunday then went weird. This conversation transpired:

She: “I am sorry! I damaged this one. You can get another one to replace it.”

Me: “Yeah, sure.” (pleasantly and not snarky, by any means – she was nice).

She: “That’s, ‘yes, ma’am.’”

Me: “Huh?”

She: “I’m a woman. You said, ‘Yessir.” (Now, she is mid-to-late-teens-early-twenties, tops, attractive, with short hair, dressed in the store’s uniform, African-American, and obviously female.)

Me: “I know you’re female. I didn’t say, ‘yessir.’. I said, ‘Yeah, sure’, about getting another poinsettia.”

She: Adamantly, “No, you said, ‘Yessir’ and I am a woman.”

Me: “I got that. I didn’t say, ‘Yessir’. I am from Ohio, and I would have said, ‘yeppers’ or ‘yup’, not ‘yessir’ to a woman.”

She: “Sir, you said, ‘yessir’. I know what I heard.”

Me: “You think you heard, ‘yessir’ because of the noise from that fan, the children running around and gushing over your Christmas displays, but I absolutely did not say what you think I said.”

She: Defiantly, “Yes, you did.”

Me: “You know what, young lady? This is a pointless conversation. We can keep this up and I will call your manager over to discuss this, if you want. I suggest I go replace me poinsettia and leave. Otherwise, is it going to get really unpleasant, which neither one of us wants or needs. You choose.”

She: Angrily. “Fine. You can get your poinsettia.”

Me: “Oh. Okay. Thanks. Well, not really. I am not pleased by this conversation. You took a comment as an insult which did not occur. You are incorrect and in the wrong. I think you should apologize.”

She: Begrudgingly, “Oh, I’m sorry. Have nice day.”

Me: “Thanks, even though I know you don’t mean it. Take care.”

I left, loaded my poinsettias, turned on Rush’s “Hemispheres” and drove home.

Ethics Score Board: She: 3 as she was inappropriate and rude and really did not want to apologize.

Me: 8 or 9, because I didn’t back down or capitulate for a perceived slight, I didn’t get angry or escalate the situation but stood my ground (probably unnecessarily, but . . .).

33 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘It’s NOT Okay To Be White?’ Files: The Blacks-Only Opinion Section”

  1. H/T! A lot of people would have allowed that to progressively stew, fester, escalate, and then take it out on nonparticipants.

    One of the true freedoms everyone has is the freedom to choose their attitude

    Seems you had the…um…opportunity to choose several along the way, plus (and it’s a big plus) no regrets.

    I used to live in Houston, barely, north side of West Fuqua Road, just inside Harris County. Back then, as a Northrup King flower/vegetable packet seed salesman, I used to service most of those upscale garden centers.

    I picked up a couple of Poinsettias yesterday, one for my Dear Mother’s fast-approaching 90th Birthday and one for my lovely and long-suffering wife.

    Glass half full? You’ll probably be putting yours in a container on the patio; down there they stand for the Holiday Season.

    Up here, (you take a chance getting them from the store to the car), they stand for winter; possible single digit wind chill tonight.

  2. Holy Cow! Kids have to take a prep test for a test to get into Catholic high schools? What? I just assumed he was going to take a prep test for his SATs until I re-read the first couple of paragraphs. What hath God wrought? That’s just wrong.

    He’ll be just fine, John. He’s got great parents. Who care about him enough to go to the trouble and expense to send him to a school that costs real, out of pocket dollars. That’s all he needs. And it makes all the difference in the world.

    • The good parents, I mean. Not the tuition. That’s just an indicator for him to notice. Eventually. Preferably before you die.

    • Yep. There are now two choices: the High School Placement Test and the ISEE, just to add more worry and stress to the mix. I have no idea why there are two tests but there are. The Boy only needs to take one of them, but the issue is: Which one?! If the ISEE is more representative of overall knowledge, will it be graded/scaled and received harder than the lowly HSPT? Will he be docked admission points because he took the HSPT and not the ISEE? Aughghghghghghghghghghghghghghghgh!


  3. You, John, are damn lucky that guy in the hardware store turned out to be magnanimous. By my account he had every right to lash you verbally or punch your lights out, though if he were wise he would opt for the former and just tell you exactly what bodily orifice to shove your apology up. Of course then you would have had every right to tell him exactly where to go and what to do to himself when he got there. On the other hand, you would have had every right to get the bitchy cashier fired. The way she behaved was inexcusable and she belongs in the street collecting cans.

    • You know, Steve-O, it’s getting kind of unsettling how often you propose violence as a response to bad, but nonphysical treatment. Regardless of the (completely understandable) urge to strike someone, even rude words don’t give someone “every right to… punch your lights out.”

      If you’re so sure that cruel words merit violence, I hear there’s a store in Berkley running a special on bike locks.

      • “I hear there’s a store in Berkley running a special on bike locks.”

        Mercy me! Titanium U-Locks, the preferred weaponry of 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality resident members of the Mother Gaia luvin’ Bike Reich Cyclistocracy!

      • Rebar is cheaper and does a lot more damage. Given your own previous unhinged rants, including “fuck you” to Jack, I’d suggest you steer clear of me.

        • I’ve issued an apology for past behavior to Jack, which he graciously accepted. Since you’ve brought it back up, I’ll issue a condensed version of the same to anyone who still remembers:

          In the same vein as johnburger describes above, I allowed ongoing frustrations in my day to day life to shorten my temper and sharpen my tongue- I crossed the line several times from passionate debate and argument into angry outbursts and inappropriate behavior, and I regret that. After a lengthy hiatus from all internet commenting and some self-reflection (coupled with some outside pressure being eased), I contacted Jack to apologize- the bulk of my worst vitriol being directed at him over our opposing stances on an issue I have strong feelings about. To anyone else who I treated poorly, I offer the same apologies and my firm commitment to do better in the future, even when we are completely at odds.

          Meanwhile, can you confirm with me that you’ve just threatened to physically injure me (possibly with a piece of rebar) because you don’t like the way I talked during an argument? Because if so, that’s an absurdly disproportionate response. I say this with complete sincerity: You’ve been seeming angrier and more hostile lately, and that’s a path I recognize all too well. Taking a step back helped me, and I urge you to consider taking a break (or doing something else to help you calm down)- I miss the incisive, irreverent, funny Steve-O.

          • The reference to rebar as being cheaper was an attempt at black humor regarding your comment about buying a bicycle lock for use on some poor unfortunate soul. I am not going to take one and come looking for you, which would be insane. I did say steer clear of me because I thought you were going to engage in the same behavior with me that you did with Jack on the issue of capital punishment, and that COULD turn potentially ugly, because some of what you said there, as you acknowledge, was way out of line. I never saw your apology and assumed you were still thinking everything you said and did there was completely appropriate.

            I AM very frustrated with what’s gone on this year between the violence, the applause for it, and the widening chasm in our society, which we’ve discussed at some length here. Having read stonekettle station’s unhinged rant about how antifa is just peachy and all decent people need to go a step farther, my first impulse was to turn it around and see how antifa and the jihadists liked it when their own tactics were used on them. I guarantee you the punks in the black masks wouldn’t like it if they were the ones getting a lead pipe or a 2 x 4 upside the skull. I guarantee you the ranters in the skullcaps and long beards wouldn’t like it if their people were getting targeted by lone wolves. And I personally guarantee you that the smug blue types in DC would soil themselves if someone asked what party a visible clutch of them belonged to and cut loose with an assault rifle.

            I will grant you, being in this mood is a killer of being the incisive, irreverent, funny me, because these times are seeming more and more like humor just doesn’t belong. The 60s are back, on steroids.

            • I can’t decide whether to take this as close enough to saying you understand, or to be baffled why you think any chance meeting between us would “turn ugly.” At my worst here I was sarcastic, cruel, and vulgar- I’ve never been the one promoting physical violence as the response to those things.

              • I get it. Don’t be baffled. If you have read any of my interactions with Chris, who just doesn’t know when to shut up, and v-girl, who I loathe, I think it should be obvious. However, to spell it out, I happen to believe, as I was taught waaaaaay back in grade school in the late 70s, that if someone presses you hard enough with continued insults (or more often in those days tripping, shoving, or otherwise needling you), you are justified in letting them have it physically HARD. You and I are not there yet.

        • Rebar might be cheaper, but it is harder to carry a pack of rebar around in your pocket, unlike a nice Master Lock. Master Locks are more efficient and can be used as a security device when not in use on someone’s forehead.


          • Ah, but carrying a brick helps you not just evade notice but even infiltrate. If the other guy is on the right, tell him you’re carrying it to Texas to help build the wall. If he’s on the left, tell him you stole it from a truck headed to Texas.

      • P.S. In the wake of this year, with the political left so cocksure that violence is the way to get things done – rioting, smashing statues, beating up or killing those who hold views they don’t agree with, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those of us on the political right might decide to fight fire with fire. Enough of those who shout at or push around those they don’t agree with get busted one in the grill, enough of those who break stuff while wearing black masks get their skulls caved in, enough of those who proclaim their hate of this nation and allegiance to bin Laden get a bullet in the head (sucks to be a jihadist, eh?), then maybe the message will sink in.

        • Case in point, since this cross-posted with my lengthier reply: You’re saying that Far-Left violence is justifying the Right becoming violent in response, such as beating ANTIFA or shooting potential Jihadists. Leaving aside the question of whether THAT would be warranted, you opened this comment thread with the proposition that one would be warranted in beating a stranger for being rude to them in the store. That’s not Right/Left, nor is it in any way related to the right “striking back” at the left in response to ANTIFA et al. It’s just violence.

    • Steve-O.

      I understand your point. I thought I stated that the fellow would have been within his rights to tell me to go pound salt. The thing is, he didn’t. He was gracious and understanding, virtues I wholly failed to exercise in my interactions with him. He was the better person.


      • You did, I just restated it more strongly, and said he could have done worse than tell you to go pound salt. Wisely, he didn’t.

        • He didn’t stick my head in that damn parrot’s cage because he was a better person, not because he feared I would retaliate. He appreciated that I sought to remedy the undeserved harm I cause by being a tool.


          • I gotcha – actually I was saying it was wiser not to because he probably grasped that overreacting would fall on him HARD.

    • From what you wrote, I suspect your gardenias are under threat of envelopment by field bindweed. I had a bumper crop of bindweed babies spring up in my yard this year, but I got ’em early. Yup: I’m the Kermit Gosnell of field bindweed abortionists. (Wish my income was as high.)

      Did you really feel like arguing with that cashier lady? I would have let her go from the moment she thought she corrected me, without even a “Huh?” But that’s because I don’t hear well, so it’s too easy for me to imagine that I am hearing all kinds of wrong-speaking against me by people talking near me. I figure, even if I heard what was actually said, I’m not going to waste my time trying to change their minds. So when I mis-hear, I know I’m wasting still more time by trying to correct them for saying something they didn’t say. I hope your week is going better than your weekend!

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