Hat on Top, Coat Below


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March 25, 2003

I read something a little while ago that’s got me thinking about right and wrong in our everyday lives. A woman writing about the movies she’d seen recently mentioned, almost as an aside, that she and a friend had seen these films by buying a ticket for the first one and then going from theater to theater inside the multiplex to see the others. I was surprised that she’d so casually admit she’d done this. It’s wrong. It’s stealing. Yet it seemed like it wasn’t even an issue for her.

No one posting comments about what she’d written called her on it, either. I’m confused. Am I the only person who thinks sneaking into movies without paying is not acceptable behavior? I’m guessing not. Surely other people know it’s wrong. Why are they not saying anything? Why am I not saying anything (other than here, where she’s not likely to see it)?

I don’t know about the other people, but I’m not saying anything because, despite getting braver as I get older, I still do wimp out sometimes, and this is one of those times. I’m keeping my indignation to myself because I’m afraid people will see me as a cranky and judgmental bitch. It’s quite possible that I am a cranky and judgmental bitch, and uptight to boot, but I don’t necessarily want to draw attention to these less than admirable aspects of my character.

Another reason I’m holding back is that I realized I’d done something similar myself this past weekend and had been just as casual about admitting it. Add “hypocrite” to that list of less than admirable qualities. I’m talking here about taking my own M&M’s into the theater last Saturday. That’s against the rules, too. I could have bought the theater’s candy; I can afford the inflated prices. I chose not to. Sure, the gross revenue equivalent of what I stole is less than if I’d stayed in the theater between shows and snuck into see Chicago (or two or three more movies) rather than buying a ticket for it on my way to the strip mall where I bought the unauthorized candy, but that doesn’t make it less wrong, does it? If I look at it from a net profit perspective, cheating the theater out of a candy sale is probably more costly than sneaking in without a ticket, since I’m guessing concessions are more profitable than the movies themselves, so maybe what I did is more wrong.

I used to keep a porcelain figure of Ursula from The Little Mermaid on my desk. It’s likely that some people thought that meant I identified with the evil sea witch, but I got it to remind me that, as Ursula says, “Life’s full of tough choices”. I could have chosen to do right and either go without candy or buy it at the theater, but I didn’t. The woman who snuck into all those movies could have chosen to do right and either paid for tickets or only seen as many films as she could afford, but she didn’t. Maybe next time we’ll both do better.

M is for Morality

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