Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Be Excellent To Each Other

I went to the fridge last night and was surprised to find an entire six-pack of beer missing. It was Samuel Adams that I had bought a few nights before, when my friend Dave was coming up to Los Angeles to hang out. We ended up going to a bar, where Dave's girlfriend Sandra and myself treated our friends and a few excitable Culver City dive bar regulars to a rousing rendition of The Monkees' classic "Daydream Believer." But that's a story for a different blog post.

The important thing to note is that, because of our bar excursion, the beers remained in the fridge, undrank. But not for long. It turns out, a friend of my roommate Chris, who we shall refer to herein as S., showed up late one night following an extended road trip and drank all of my beer. Without saying anything. And then he left.

Now, S. is a good guy. I like him. We've hung out a few times. Once, he totally ditched me when we were going to go see Built to Spill and I ended up selling the tickets, but other than that, I have nothing against the man. I'm not even upset about the beer, really. A six-pack of beer isn't so expensive a thing in the big picture, and were he to ask me if he could have a few beers, I surely would have said yes anyway.

So why bring it up at all? Because drinking six beers belonging to an acquaintance of mine, and not saying anything or paying back any restitution money, is something I would never ever in a million years do.

And I don't mean that I'm some great, saintly person who only behaves in a forthright and admirable manner. Because that shit ain't true at all. In fact, if I think I can get away with it, I've been known to pull some rather morally questionable schemes in my time. I've even...shoplifted before. Gasp!

So, it's not a morality issue. I'm just terrified of having people think that I'm a bad person. So if I were at someone's house and I saw that they had a few beers in the fridge, I might take one, on the theory that one missing beer makes such a slight difference, the aggreived party might not even notice it was gone. But I would never take them all. I'm far too timid, embarrassed.

This gives me pause. What makes S. confident enough to take my liquor without offering any expalantion? And should I start behaving in this way? Because I'm courteous and nice towards people all day, and that's getting me absolutely nowhere.

Let me give you another example of what I'm talking about:

An old woman came into the store today asking for a refund for a DVD, The Three Faces of Eve, that she had clearly opened. She has arthritis, she explained, making it difficult for her to open factory-sealed DVD packaging. This is understandable enough. I don't have arthritis and I find factory-sealed DVD packaging more difficult to open than a deeply meaningful philosophical conversation with Lindsay Lohan. (And those, as we all know, are fucking hard to open.)

So the woman got home with her freshly de-cellophaned DVD and discovered - GASP! - she already owned a pre-opened copy of The Three Faces of Eve. And, who are we kidding, she probably doesn't have a DVD player or eyes capable of focusing for long enough to watch a movie.

So of course she brings it back to the store today and demands a refund. Because why should she have to lose $11, just because she purchased and opened a movie from our video store and then took it home with her?

We didn't give her the money. I was going to, but she ended up getting so snooty and obnoxious about it that, let's say, the opportunity never presented itself. But I bring up the story not to harangue old ladies. Well, not just to harangue old ladies. It's yet another example of the sort of attitude I'm talking about, the one I'd really like to adopt.

What I'm saying is, I'm not sure there's a downside to being obnoxiously self-centered. I kind of used to think that behaving in a kind, friendly and generous manner, even if it seemed like an invitation for abuse, was inherently positive, an objective good. But now I'm not so sure.

What is the point of the golden rule? If nobody's treating you the way you want to be treated, why should you extend that same courtesy to them. Again, I'm not trying to complain. Fortunately, no one has done anything truly traumatic or painful to me this week, so I've got no specific axe to grind. I'm just starting to realize that maybe I've adopted a life philosophy that's backwards and inefficient, that maybe I've been behaving in a certain way because it's expected of me rather than because it's a valid way to live.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe everyone thinks of themselves as an inherently good person who treats everyone fairly because we're all blind to our own behavior. Maybe right now, on other blogs, there are cashiers and businesses I've visited today bitching about me, and wondering why more people aren't polite and thoughtful when dealing with others. Maybe everyone's mortified of coming off like an asshole at the same time as they are acting like an asshole.

I've got to say, this seems pretty likely. I doubt most of the people who are short with me while I'm on the job, or who slight me in some way socially, or anything like that don't self-identify as assholes. They just think they're good people who have been put in an inopportune or unpleasant situation. S. probably doesn't even remember that he drank those beers, and if he did, he wouldn't realyl feel bad but just slightly funny about it, the way you feel about everything mildly offensive you may have done while distracted by something else.

You know, the way I feel about all sorts of things that I've done, like that time I got really drunk at the office Christmas party and chewed out my responsible friend who drove me home. Or the time I accidentally sent an e-mail making fun of my friend to the friend, and then tried to pretend that it was all an intentional joke.

Wow, that was pretty bad. I am kind of an asshole.

1 comment:

Cory said...

Nah, there are douchebags and non-douchebags. Even though you've done a few douchetastic things, overall you're courteous and civil and not a douche. the beer guy prob goes through life douching all over the place because he doesn't care.