Who knew I would be brought to my ethical knees by a bag of potatoes? It is true though, a measly sack of spuds prompted me to disregard my moral compass.
I have always thought I had a pretty good sense of right and wrong, never taking what wasn’t mine, never cheating anyone, never knowingly doing harm. I’m not perfect mind you; we all do things that aren’t quite right based on some religious or ethical standard. But I always, always, always tried my best to be honest. Well OK, maybe there was a bit of an overstatement on mileage on my tax return back in 1989. But that was the IRS – I am talking about regular life, you know what I mean?
I am proud of the fact that I never misrepresented something to a client nor lied to make a buck. There was one time when I was presented with a situation that took all my strength. A $10,000 commission was on the line and I had the better product, but the client mentioned the other agent was going to re-bate part of the commission. Bam, it hit me hard, this was early in my career, and $10,000 was almost an impossible dream for one sale. I said “No, that is illegal”. There is a happy ending to the story however, the client kept me on for other matters and referred me to all his friends. I am sure I made many multiples of $10,000 from him and his referrals over the next 25 years, so I can tell you for sure that doing the right thing is rewarded.
Ah, I digress; here was this sack of potatoes underneath a cart in the grocery store parking lot. “Finders keepers” I thought as I snatched up the bag of potatoes and quickly put them in the back of the car.
To show you where I am at in my life, I was really excited about my find; “Cheryl, look, I found these potatoes, good Idaho baking potatoes no less.” Very sad—-I know.
“You’re going to take them to the customer services desk aren’t you?”
“No, someone left them, I found them, they are mine now.”
“But maybe they will come back for them” she said.
Now we are getting into the right and wrong thing, and I really struggled with it. How often do you find something good, and are able to keep it free and clear? Not very often.
“You have to take them back” she reaffirmed.
“I don’t know-I still think it is finders keepers.” I replied.
I know however, that if I keep the potatoes there are the Cheryl consequences. That happens when I stray off the correct way to behave, and she gets very quiet. I know that spells trouble for me for quite some time to come. Most of you men know what I am talking about here-admit it.
Just then, the cart boy comes by so I reluctantly jerk the potatoes out of the back of the car and give them to him.
“Would you please take these in to customer services?” He took the potatoes and gave me a snide look. The kind of look that said-“You got nailed stealing a bag of potatoes didn’t you.”
I didn’t say much to Cheryl when I got in the car, I guess I had to admit I had a temporary lapse in my moral character, and yes, she was right-again. But I will tell you this; if I find a box of Starbuck’s Caffe Verona dark roast K-cups under a cart, I am keeping it. A man can only take the honesty thing so far before breaking down.
Interesting. In college, it was de rigeur to take the towels from motels and hotels and outfit your place with these spoils. We thought it was customary, part of the establishment’s cost of doing business, included in the cost of the room, and immensely cool to boot. When I married Gloria, she pointed out that what I was doing was just plain wrong. I was shocked for a short time that I had been so oblivious, but I then put away that part of my outlaw persona. It was almost as though she required me to change a part of my basic makeup, a thing that made me uniquely me. It’s funny how these things get rationalized, justified, and ingrained.