After I finished the last homework I will do for the weekend, I decided to treat myself to a Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, I only had a 10 dollar bill, so I had to buy the bottle in person at the Union. I headed over there with my sawbuck and waited in line behind a girl getting Original Flavor Bugles®. The cashier was beautiful, she had red hair and a lovely voice. She said hello to me, which the clerks rarely do at the union, and I asked her for a Mountain Dew. She retrieved it from the refrigerator and scanned it. I handed her my bill and she gave me my change, saying “8.75. Thank you.” I turned to walk out of the Union. as I was leaving, I passed three frat guys in business suits. I was putting my change in my wallet when I noticed that it was a ten dollar bill, three singles, and three quarters. I paused as I slipped the coins into my change pocket.
This was the archetypal “moral dilemma.” Here I had a chance to benefit from a mistake anonymously, with no one noticing. I’d been warned about this dozens of times. I knew from years of Sunday school that even though no one would notice, God would. Of course, I don’t believe in God, so that’s easily avoided. I also knew that I would notice. That was trickier, because I do believe in myself. So I had to start parsing my morals.
I am so used to doing good things that it almost happened without thought. I was going to turn around and tell her, after I waited in line behind the three frat boys, that she had mistakenly given me five extra dollars. I wish I could say that I had a serious moral quandary on my hands, but in reality I thought for a split second about doing good. I thought about all of the times that I do good things for people for no reason with no expectation of being compensated. I thought about what good deeds have done for me, and came up empty-handed. And while I can justify my actions all I want now, the only reason that went through my head was simply that I didn’t want to do a good deed. I had no good reason to do anything wrong, but I was so tired of doing right that it wasn’t even hard.
I continued walking out of the Union. After a while, I drank some of the soda. It was warm.