Monday, April 21, 2008

Water Cooler Ethics

I drink a lot of water at work. I have a nice big Saint Arnold pint glass that I fill several times a day. Now, because I am visiting the water cooler frequently, it stands to reason that my chance of having to be the one to replace the bottle is increased. I accept that. I don't really mind replacing the bottle at all. But what really bugs me, and what prompted this rant post, is how often I have to replace the bottle before I can get my water.

That may seem insignificant, but in reality it is fairly meaningful. You see, when I have to replace it before, that means that the last person to get water finished off the bottle. This also means that they chose not to replace it, and preferred to force whoever came after them (me) to do it. And since they are far from the scene when the crime is discovered, they get away with it in anonymous impunity.

Now, you may think, "Perhaps they didn't notice the bottle was empty." This sounds like an honest defense, but actually it is nearly impossible. When I find the empty bottle, it is bone dry. The previous drinker drew every last drop out of that bottle. There is simply no way they didn't know they had emptied it.

Why is this a big deal? In the larger scheme of things, it really isn't. I don't mind changing the water bottle, and I do it without complaint (well, except for this blog). The big deal comes from how this reflects on the character of the person or persons I work with. This is the essence of ethics, really. How one deals with seemingly trivial choices reflects how they would deal with more significant ones.

In this case, it shows to me someone who is more selfish than selfless. This person is willing to take (water) but not willing to give (replace the bottle). The fact that this is a closed community (everyone using the water cooler works in the same building for the same company) makes it worse. I can somewhat understand not wanting to "give" to a complete stranger, but this person is screwing over his/her co-workers. Is this a product of our age? Is it a characteristic of software companies? Is it just one person? Who knows.

The real test will come if I'm ever in line for water and the person in front of me leaves it empty. Then I will have met the culprit! I suspect that this would never happen, however. I believe societal pressure (i.e. a witness) would override the usual selfishness and force the person to change the bottle. We shall see.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crusader for Postal Justice

Man, I really don't like people. I really like postal workers. Especially the ones at my local station. I'm always polite to them, and we've actually shared jokes about other irritated customers in line. So this morning, when I found myself in the presence of two self-centered asses, I was compelled to speak up.

I supposedly had a package fail to deliver on Monday. I say supposedly because I didn't get the package or a failed delivery notice, but the tracking number online says it happened. So I went to the post office to see if I could get the package without the notice. After thoroughly searching, no package. Sucks for me, but this is all ancillary to the real story.

There was only one lady at the counter when I walked in. She greeted me and helped me right away, which entailed going to the back. Right behind me was some young business guy on a cell phone (of course). He continued to talk loudly, as all cell phone users do, but surprisingly he finished his call and didn't make another. Perhaps he actually read the sign forbidding cell phones while in line.

Next came a young lady who probably doesn't have to work. She was dressed sort of grunge-soccer-mom-chic. As soon as she walked in she saw me at the counter, the young man waiting, and no postal workers. "Oh, I see they're working at their usual pace." snide snicker.
Dude: "Yeah, that's for sure," snort, snicker.
Me: I just shook my head and looked away.

Some time passes as the worker helping me continues to look for my package. Clearly not able to just wait patiently in silence, the young lady feels it's time to express her irritation again. After all, she can hear people talking somewhere in the office, and she's already got the business dude on her side.
Bitch: "Something selfish and bitchy." I don't really remember what she said, but I'm sure you can imagine something approximate.
Jerk: "Yeah, that's the way it always goes. Must be nice to not have to work." Or something like that.
Me: "You know, just because they're not out here doesn't mean they're not working."


There was a minuscule pause as they took in what just happened. Did that guy, did he just contradict us? Did he actually defend the postal workers?

Bitch: "Well, there are stereotypes and generalities, but that's because generally they're true." That wasn't it exactly, but seriously it was something that inane and nonsensical. I guess she wasn't mentally prepared to defend her bitchiness. I caught her off guard.
Me: "They're job is to deliver the mail, not so serve you." That's exactly what I said. I wanted to add more to it, but I couldn't think how to phrase it just right. In my mind, I kept thinking things like "Do you expect there to be 3 or 4 workers at the counter, twiddling their thumbs most of the morning, just on the off chance that three people come in at once?" or "Are you really so important that they should stop everything they're doing to help you?" I even wanted to make some comment about whether she was always on call at her job, but then I figured she was just a housewife. Oops, I mean "Stay at home Mom."

That's really pretty much the end of the story. It didn't come to blows, and I just decided to ignore her. I was tempted to say something snide about them to the postal worker, but thought better of it. I know people are in a hurry, and I know people expect employees in a service industry to be at their beck and call, but I'm just tired of this crap. Show a little patience. Show a little kindness. I'm quite intolerant of intolerant people.

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