I work nights. On my way home, I pass a Dunkin’ Donuts. Sometimes, I stop in and get food. They’re efficient, they’re friendly, they remember your orders. Can’t ask for anything more.
They were trying to serve everyone quickly, and in their rush, they forgot to charge me for something. I noticed it when I was out the door and putting my change away. I noticed that I had too much. Like, $5 too much.
Part of me really wanted to take the food and run. Everyone has this part of them. The greedy part of us that just wants everything, for free, no strings attached. It’s not a part any of us (okay, most of us) are proud of, but it’s there all the same.
It was early (well, to me, late, but that’s semantics), I wanted to go home, and for a brief second, that part of me was winning. I took one step further away from the store, and this tiny voice in the back of my head went, “Don’t. It’s unfair.”
I sigh, and go back in to correct the mistake. Because even if I ignored that voice, I wouldn’t be able to eat my donuts. They would be laden with guilt–and not the good kind. Not the “oh my God, this is so bad for me, but I don’t even care, it’s delicious” kind of guilt that accompanies half of what I eat because I am powerless against the siren song of cholesterol.
No, they would be stolen. They would be blood donuts.
I walk back up to the counter, and inform them that they didn’t charge me for part of my order. “Oh!” she says, and tells me the amount I owe. I hand it over. As she hands me my correct change, she thanks me for my honesty. The cashier next to her says, “That is so cute. Aren’t you sweet?”
Because at first, I was all for continuing on my way. But then I realized that I couldn’t eat my food because they would be laden with the bad kind of guilt. And I really wanted those donuts. I corrected the mistake for purely selfish reasons. I didn’t want a voice in the back of my head (that, more and more, sounds just like my mother) belittling me as I ate. I just wanted to eat.
If my selfishness yields positive results for others, does that make me a good person? Or am I still a bad person for being selfish in the first place? Am I going to be able to eat donuts ever again without having a crisis of self? How bad of a person does it make me that I really only care about the possibility of ruining donuts for myself? These are the questions that will keep me up at night.
That and, you know, my job.