Gary Leake

Student, Teacher, Coach, Technologist, Lifestylist

The Moral Dilemma

The other day I was at a "famous coffee chain" here in Santa Monica which shall remain nameless. I entered and placed my coffee order for an iced Americano and noticed the baristas were conspicuously preoccupied with other things. I'm not sure what actually, but I will assume it was the type of side work you have to do in the restaurant biz. Since I knew it was going to be a minute for my coffee to be ready, I requested light ice and that always throws a monkey wrench in their works for some reason, so I asked for the bathroom code.

Code in "hand" I proceeded to the lou and there I keyed in the code and voila open door to... what I could only assume was a homeless man using the bathroom to do his business.

No, not that business...

No, not that business either... 

He was giving himself a haircut and having a shave. 

Fair enough, I have a soft spot for people in that situation and politely responded to him saying "This one's occupied." With "Oh, ok sorry" instead of my internal voice of "next time use the lock on the door".

Time passes and I'm able to let an older lady, who I thought was standing there waiting for someone to finish, into the women's room with my code. Turns out, she wasn't! She was just standing there waiting... She said she had a bad memory. 

I'm now coming to know the power of possessing a code here!

Finally the guy finishes and darts oddly from the bathroom. My bladder is screaming at me though, so I don't really pay much attention. I enter the bathroom/barber shop and it seriously looks as if this guy had a lot of hair, unfortunately he didn't take the time to clean any of it up. There was hair everywhere. Sink, floor, toilet, all covered. It was enough to make you lose that soft spot I mentioned previously, I mean have some common courtesy man.

Anyway, fast forward to me retrieving my coffee. The baristas are even more out of sorts. This is probably the weirdest "famous coffee chain" experience ever. Then the barista who took my order says, "I can't believe it. That guy just stole from us! He was right under my nose too. I can't believe it!!" Intensely scanning the area outside.

"What did he take?" I ask, thinking he'd stolen from the till.

"A bag of double chocolate almond pop corn and maybe a bag of almonds too." he said still scanning the outside of the building going from door to door.

I exchange some "man that sucks" looks and nods with him, thank him for the coffee and go sit down at a table outside continuing about my day of normalcy. When out of the corner of my eye I see the guy coming back from across the street with a to-go bowl of soup in his hand. At this point I'm thinking that's stolen too although I have no idea how you steal soup!

He sits at a table directly in front of me totally oblivious to the fact that not 15 minutes earlier I had nearly walked in on him in the bathroom.

And here's where the moral dilemma comes in. What "should" I have done?

 

Should I

A. Take the approach of this guy's down on his luck and the last thing he needs is another thing in the negative column and tell him, "Hey man, they're looking for you in there. You might want to keep it moving."?

B. Take the "you made the bed, you lie in it" approach and just say nothing to anyone and see how it plays out?

C. Take the approach of this guy obviously has no respect and needs to be taught a lesson and get up and walk inside and alert the barista that the popcorn thief has returned?

D. Some other shade of gray that's not listed above.

 
So act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world
— Immanuel Kant

Ultimately our choice speaks to our inner selves and who we choose to be in the world in that moment. Please understand I don't see any of these answers as wrong or right. I also know that our past experiences, stories we've told ourselves about ourselves and how things "should be" in the world, the upbringing we received, etc. all influence this decision.

What if this hadn't been "famous coffee company" and had been an independent store?

What if this had been a woman with a child? Or a well dressed man?

What about if you had actually seen him steal it versus hearing about it? Did he really steal?

Would either of those have influenced your decision? I know it would have mine.

Was your decision influenced by the earlier use of "the code" and helping others?

I'm interested in which one would you have chosen. Maybe some of you know your choice straightaway. If so I encourage you to take a good look at that and the other options, keeping in mind both short and long term consequences. Regardless, let me know below in the comments and tell me why you chose what you chose what you did.