The Waffle House Ethics Heroes

I increasingly find myself searching, usually in vain, for stories to reassure myself and Ethics Alarms readers that out society, in the words of the pious churchgoers of Rock Ridge, isn’t “turning into shit.” Here is story out of Alabama involving a Waffle House. I’ve never eaten at one, though there has been a Waffle Shop down Russell Road in Alexandria, VA, less than five minutes from my home by car, the entire 39 years I’ve lived here. The fact that its awning has misspelled “Waffle” with only one “f” for all that time is the reason: I figure that it you can’t spell your own specialty, I can’t trust you to make it right, either.

But I digress…

At a  Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House  on the morning of November second, an estimated 25 customers found that the restaurant had only a single employee named  Ben on duty to serve the whole mob. Apparently there had been a scheduling snafu, leaving Ben with the responsibility of serving everybody. Said one witness to the scene, . “He was just staring at the room full of people. I can’t imagine what he was thinking.”

Then one customer who had been sitting at the bar, asked Ben what was going on and received the answer. He stood up, asked for an apron, and  started washing dishes. A few minutes later a female customer left her table and began bussing those of other partons, taking and serving orders, and making coffee. Then a third customer joined the volunteer staff. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Boston Red Sox [Updated]

Of late, a lot of institutions that have been important to me have disappointed or embarrassed me. Yesterday the Boston Red Sox made me proud to have been a devoted follower, fan and supporter for my entire adult life. This is a nice tale even if you don’t know a baseball from a kumquat. Trust me on this,

The ethics category is caring.

I have written about the 1967 Red Sox before.They taught me that miracles do happen, that underdogs sometimes prevail, and that perseverance and foolish hope are sometimes rewarded, while giving me the best, most exciting, most inspirational summer of my life. One of the bit players who had a role in that “Impossible Dream” season” was a Double A infielder named Ken Poulsen, an obscure farmhand  called up mid-season when the Sox bench was thin. He postponed his wedding for the chance to play in the big leagues, and had what is called ” a cup of coffee,” playing only five games, getting five at bats, and collecting one lonely hit, a double that had no impact on the game at all.

It was better than Moonlight Graham, but not much. Poulsen was soon returned to the minors and never reached the Major Leagues again. From the SABRE website: Continue reading

Crosswalk Ethics

I was waiting at red light in Alexandria, on the way home from a brief acting coach gig for a friend.  On one side of street, preparing to cross, was a striking African-American couple, the women in a formfitting orange and white pattern dress, he in an open white blazer and slacks, highlighted by a pocket hanky that matched the orange in the woman’s dress.

When the “Walk” light finally flashed on, they crossed in front of my car, and as they passed, I rolled down my window and called out, “Best dressed couple I have seen all say!” and saluted.

They beamed. They waved. They shouted, in unison, “Thank you!” and walked on, laughing. I think I may have made their day.

And I thought, I really need to be on the look-out for opportunities like that. This is the way to combat the metastasizing nastiness, incivility and distrust in our culture. Be nice. Reach out. Socialize. Try to make meeting you a positive experience, no matter how brief or trivial.  It takes almost no time at all. It’s not hard. All it requires is committing to making the people around you as happy as possible.

I also had two thoughts. One: if they had been talking on their smart phones, texting or otherwise not interacting with the world around them, I wouldn’t have said anything at all.

Two: I wish I had been wearing a MAGA cap.

Interview Ethics With Angelica Huston

The pop culture site Vulture has published a long and wide-ranging interview with actress Angelica Huston. It’s a great interview from a reader’s point of view, candid, funny, revealing. It is also an interview given either by someone with no ethics alarms at all, or someone so steeped in an unethical culture that she no longer comprehends such concepts as loyalty, fairness, confidentiality, kindness, decency and the Golden Rule. That’s not all: the rationalizations also come thick and fast.

Huston reveals private, unflattering and uncomplimentary facts about friends, relatives, colleagues and ex-lovers, living and dead. The interview could be used in an ethics course to illustrate how you don’t talk about people behind their backs. Here are some of the many points that made me wince… Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Arby’s!

Why don’t businesses do this kind of thing all the time?

A 97-year-old  World War II veteran who calls himself “Mr. Doug” has been eating lunch, by himself, at an Arby’s in Chandler, Arizona almost every day.

An employee asked him why he was such a regular. The veteran told him that he has no family, and that he always has the same thing at the fast food restaurant because it is one of the rare meals that doesn’t upset his stomach.

The Arby’s staff took a collection and bought Mr. Doug a $200 gift card, and even gave him their phone numbers, so if he can’t get to Arby’s they will deliver lunch to him. Then corporate headquarters learned about the staff’s kindness, and went one better: It  announced that Mr. Doug could eat at Arby’s free of charge for the rest of his life.

My WWII vet Dad would have been 97 this year. Unfortunately, he hated Arby’s.

A suggested modified slogan for the company, which I’m sure Ving Rhames could deliver with gusto:

“Arby’s! We have THE ETHICS!”

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

 

(Why am I up writing at this hour? All I will say is that its is unwise to frustrate a Jack Russell Terrier. That’s all.)

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point Virginia, refused to use the pronouns demanded by 9th grade student who had announced that she was a female transitioning to male, was fired this week.  The West Point School Board fired him after a four-hour hearing, and its position was that Vlaming was fired for insubordination.

Some news reports on the matter fail to note that there was no allegation that the  West Point High School French teacher insisted on referring to the student using female pronouns in class. Apparently he used her name only. No, he apparently slipped when when the student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming said he would not use male pronouns, because  his Christian faith prevented him from doing so.

Principal Jonathan Hochman testified that he ordered  Vlaming to use male pronouns in accordance with the student’s wishes. Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, says his client offered to use the student’s name and to avoid feminine pronouns, but Voyles says the school was unwilling to accept the compromise.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.” Although the school’s  policies were updated a year ago to include guidance regarding gender identity,  gender pronoun use was not included. Vlaming’s attorney argues that the school cannot require his clients to speak words that violate his conscience. This is undeniably true. Vlaming says he is being fired for for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history. That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

He has not decided on his next steps.

Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

I think that’s sufficient background to ask this perplexing Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question of the day:

Was it ethical for the teacher to refuse to use the student’s preferred pronouns in referring to that student?