Category Archives: Daily Life

My Ethics Hero: Some Guy In The Harris Teeter Meat Section

I was doing some quick shopping yesterday at a large Harris Teeter supermarket in Alexandria, Virginia. My list from my wife included an option—always a doorway to a shopping confidence crisis—between a whole chicken, a small marinated chicken, or two large chicken breasts. I had decided on the marinated bird, but couldn’t find them where they usually were, and was more or less frozen, like the “hosts” in “Westworld” get when Anthony Hopkins wants them quiet, staring where I expected them to be.

“I’m going to buy one of them, the question is, which one?” a jaunty, relaxed voice close behind me said. At that moment I realized I had been staring at turkeys (I wasn’t there to buy one), and I turned around, not startled but curious, to face a broadly smiling, handsome, bearded African-American man about my age, probably a little younger.

“Isn’t it a little early?” I asked, smiling back. Being habitually disorganized, I am typically shopping  for everything the day before Thanksgiving.

“Oh, no, not for me!” he said, laughing. And he told me that he was going to cook up one or more turkeys for his church on Sunday. We talked about the ways he cooked his turkeys; he preferred to smoke them. He was also a grilling specialist. He took out his phone and showed me pictures of his specialty, ribs. We talked about his favorite recipes, and his church, his family, and its Thanksgiving plans, as I told him about mine. I mentioned that my wife was our traditional Thanksgiving chef, and that got the discussion turned around to marriage. We both have been married a long time, and he took me by the shoulders and talked intensely about commitment in relationships.

I had a twenty-minute conversation with this delightful stranger, just standing by the meat section. Finally, I announced  that I had to finish my assignment, and wished him wonderful holidays. I offered him my hand and introduced myself; he shook it firmly, and gave his name in return. Then we spontaneously hugged each other, which I never do, being from Boston and trained to be reticent in such intimacies, he flashed that terrific smile, and we parted.

My encounter with this exuberant gentleman suddenly made me feel good about life, my community, the country and the human race as I had not for a very long time. I think we’ll be all right. All that had happened was that a stranger just reached out and began a conversation about something two people shared, showing openness, kindness, human interest and trust, and a connection was made. That’s all it takes.

I start conversations with strangers a lot; it was something my father did. He was better at it than I am, and my friend in the Harris Teeter meat section is obviously a grandmaster. But as the holidays approach, and I keep reading these essays about families boycotting each other because of Trump-Clinton divides, it is so obvious that my dad and my turkey buddy are the wise ones.  We’re all just human beings together on a short and unpredictable trip: we should  just focus on that, and reach out.  Why is it so hard? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Quotes, U.S. Society

Meltdown At Gate 43

american

As you probably have discerned, I am not having a good week on the road.

Today I am in Tucson, Arizona for less that 24 hours at a lovely resort that I will get to enjoy essentially not at all. Getting here, however, was the ethics adventure, or perhaps ethics breakdown is the better term.

My flight was supposed to start boarding at 4:30, but for some reason unclear to the assembled, did not. It was a real mob, a full flight, and as always at Reagan National , people were jockeying for position. They were also confused; a neighboring American gate was also boarding, and the announcements sounded like they were coming from our gate. Suddenly a gate attendant—is that what they are called?—came running up, and pushed through the crowd, sporting a big grin, why, I have no idea.

He grabbed the microphone and said, “All right, everybody, we’re ready to board American flight 2766 to Phoenix!” and nothing else.  “I guess they’re boarding everyone!” someone said, and there was a mad rush for the lane. “No no no!” the new arrival said. “First class only!” ” Did he say ‘first class only’ before?” I asked the young women standing next to me. “No,” she said, confirming my belief, “but then I can’t tell what he’s saying anyway.” True enough: the guy mumbled and didn’t seem to know how to use a mic. Then the VERY CLEAR announcement from the adjoining gate boomed out: “Now boarding Group 2!”

Again a mob of my flight’s passengers rushed the gate, and the young man with the grin shouted “NO! Get back! Now we are boarding the Platinum, Gold, Silver, American Plus, Bronze Bonus, Flying Potato passengers only!” Or something like that. He was barely heard, and the announcement from the nearby gate washed over it. “Now boarding groups 1,2 and 3!” More confusion. Another American employee at the our gate took the mic, a young woman. “AH!” I thought. “She obviously knows how to do this.”

No, she didn’t. You know that woman in “Jaws” who sees the shark in the lagoon and shouts “Shark! A shark!” so weakly that I have never been able to figure out why Spielberg cast her? The American lady made THAT woman seem like Ethel Merman by comparison. Her mouth moved, but nothing came out. “What did she say?” “What was that?” Everybody was asking everyone else if they could figure out who was supposed to go next. Then the guy who arrived late started shouting at us!

“We have not called the priority levels or group 1 yet! You are blocking passengers from accessing the gate! Move out of the lane.” From next door: “NOW BOARDING ALL GROUPS!!”

More chaos and confusion. Eventually I moved through to the jetway; I have no idea if they called my group or not. There were four attendants at the gate, an older man checking the boarding passes, the mute, the jerk who shouted at us (Rule: if crowd gets out of control, it’s the crowd controllers who usually are at fault), and a women in a uniform who was standing to the side looking like this was funny to her and otherwise doing nothing. I assumed she was a supervisor…a bad one. So I went up to her, and said, not entirely pleasantly, “This is the most incompetent boarding process I have ever seen. It’s inexcusable.”

She looked at me indignantly and said, in some kind of Hispanic accent, “This is America, sir! If you want to make a complaint, contact management. I’m just an employee,”

Wait..WHAT? Now I have to deal with an arrogant Hispanic American with a chip on her shoulder? Is she going to lecture me on white privilege? “This is America”? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, U.S. Society, Workplace

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”

social-media

Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Social Media

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet'”

charlotte4

I am often disappointed in the volume and balance of comments on particular posts here. Yesterday, I was waiting for someone to defend the extreme reaction to Glenn Reynold’s unseemly tweet regarding the Charlotte riots, and was especially interested in hearing arguments why Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger’s blunt tweets were “racist” as so many headlines were calling them. Admittedly, I was waiting for such arguments because it would be so easy and fun to reduce them to rubble, but still: where are the people who want to stifle speech and opinion, and who believe that criticizing violent rioters and Black Lives Matter should be punished so severely? Clevenger has been docked about $28,000 for expressing an opinion on Twitter, and sportswriters, who get paid to opine, often cretinously, on the web every day, are cheering. I know defenders of speech and opinion suppression are out there, but they are mute, rationalizing, I think, that they are right but those brutes on Ethics Alarms are too primitive to understand.

At least many of the comments that the posts have spawned are of high quality and extremely thoughtful. This is the second Comment of the Day inspired by them, by Chris Bentley:

I was thinking about a particular topic as I drove home from work today, about why people, mostly people on the left, justify and rationalize the behavior of looters during riots. After reading Jack’s initial post regarding Instapundit, I went to read the linked Reason.com article, and then checked out the comments section. One person, with the screen name Krabapple, made the following comment:

“Yeah sorry I can’t take seriously moderation from a company that allows the hashtag #killallwhitepeople but not this.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Social Media, U.S. Society

The Ethical Dilemma Of The Successful, Failing, Local Small Business

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

The little restaurant opened the same year my wife and I moved into the neighborhood. It specialized in yummy Greek fare like gyros, souvlaki, and Greek salads, but also made terrific hamburgers, subs and pizzas, and quickly became our reflex fall-back when we were too tired to make dinner or wanted a treat for lunch. The place was a family operation: the tiny, spunky middle aged woman who seemed to run the place—taking the orders, filling bags, taking the payment—had a Greek accent that reminded me of my grandmother and all of my relatives from her generation; her husband, silent, imposing, who was the chef; and over time, the two children, both of whom worked there when they weren’t in school.

The food was consistently delicious, fresh and authentic, but it was also satisfying to see an old-fashioned family business growing and thriving. A restaurant consultant would probably have said it was too old-fashioned, for the menu never changed, the faded prints of the Parthenon and the Aegean coast were the only decorations in the place, and it dealt only in cash. Still, the little Greek lady greeted you with a knowing smile when you walked in the door, and you knew you were going to be treated like a neighbor.

Then suddenly, the family was gone. The couple decided to sell the place and retire, and a long-time employee who had worked in various jobs over the years took the restaurant over. I knew him, of course, and we talked often. He’s a nice guy, determined, ambitious, hard working. He threw himself into the job of making the business boom. Now the restaurant accepts credit cards and delivers, is open on Sundays, has daily specials, and sports a newly-painted and (somewhat) less austere decor. He also jacked up the price on everything.

The new owner’s formula for success worked almost immediately. The restaurant, he told me, has almost doubled its business. The problem is, as my family gradually discovered, is that the entirely non-Greek staff, including the owner,  has no idea what their food is supposed to taste like. You know you’re in trouble when the entire staff mispronounces everything on the menu, (It’s GIR -Os, hard G, not, ugh, “JY-row,” like the name of the goose inventor in Donald Duck comics), but it’s worse than that. The feta cheese in the Greek salads, which are suddenly mostly iceberg lettuce, is scant and low quality. The once-marvelous cheese steak subs are bland; the onion rings are charred, and every now and then a carry-out order includes something inedible, like the freezer-burned veal parmigiana I had a few months ago. The owner was apologetic, but his candid “I thought that meat looked funny when I microwaved it” didn’t inspire confidence. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life

The Complimentary Room Service Tip Dilemma

I don’t know why these ethics conundrums always attack when I’m on the road, but they do.

Today I am briefly in Atlantic City on business, and last night, just prior to a terrible night’s sleep, I put out one of those door-hangers with a breakfast order on it, to be delivered at 7:30 AM. The room’s pen didn’t work until I wrote over my room number a few times: I thought the 7 in “702” looked a little funky, but it was definitely a seven. Or so I thought: 7:30, then 7:45 rolled around the next morning, and no breakfast.  When I called Room Service, they explained that they thought I had written 4o2, hence no room service.

What? First of all, it didn’t look like a 4. Second, my name was still on the thing: if there was any question about the room, why wouldn’t they check using my name?

After giving Room Service some well-deserved grief, I was told that my order would be up “in a minute.” A minute turned out to be 20 minutes, but a nice young woman eventually arrived with my coffee and pancakes, and told me that management was paying for breakfast.

Hmmm…did this mean she lost her tip? It seemed churlish to ask her, so I said, “Well, they won’t be paying your tip (though for all I know they would), so here…” and I dug into my wallet for a few dollars. But I didn’t have a few dollars. I had a one, a ten, and a bunch of twenties. Giving her a one would look cheap (though it well might have been a tip on top of the one she would get from my order anyway), and a ten was excessive. I gave her the ten.

Now I’m wondering: can I get reimbursed for that? My client is paying for the room, and the comped breakfast actually was a gift to him, not me. The ten dollar tip, though, was entirely discretionary on my part, and I usually don’t ask for travel reimbursements for expenses like that.  So the comped breakfast is going to benefit my server, unjustly enrich my client, and cost me an extra ten bucks.

It doesn’t seem fair, somehow. Well, my server’s smile when I gave her the ten dollar bill was almost worth it.

Almost.

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life

Ethics Alert For Clueless Dog Owners: The Walk Is For The Dog

Hey! Here's an idea! BITE HER!

Hey! Here’s an idea! BITE HER!

I promised myself I would write this the next time I saw a young woman in my neighborhood, fit, with earbuds, jogging along briskly as her dog desperately tried to keep up while eying enviously my dog, who is allowed to sniff the plants, mark his territory (aka “the world”), enjoy life, and be a dog instead of a pull-toy.

The freedom to do this  is why dogs get excited about walks.They also like the companionship of their masters, at least when said master is paying some attention to them. They like being talked to, and looked at. I know this will come as a shock to my neighbor, but they do not like being dragged on a leash and forced to trot unstopping, while their self-absorbed owner listens to Adele.

I know dogs aren’t the most edifying conversationalists, but really, if you can’t spare them your full attention for a few short walks a day, don’t get a dog. What my neighbor does is animal cruelty  disguised as a fitness regimen that benefits dog and master.

The look in her dog’s eyes as it passed, panting, collar tugging, broke my heart. The pained expression communicated to my dog, “I’ll love to stay a minute and say hello, but GHHHAHHHG” and off he went. No pausing, peeing, or playing for him. His owner can’t spare the time.

She’s an asshole.

Next time, I’m going to block her way, make her take out her buds, and tell her off.

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Filed under Animals, Daily Life