Thursday, May 15, 2008

Noticing Little Things

I wasn't planning to blog today. I didn't wake up with any particular subject gnawing at me. I didn't really have anything to say. But then I went to lunch. At McDonald's.

I had to run out at lunch to get an important legal document in the mail and since I was using some of my lunch time to do it I figured I'd just grab something while I was out. There's a MickeyD's between where I work and the Post Office so MickeyD's it was. As an aside, McDonald's just introduced a "Country Style" Chicken Sandwich and they were giving them away free with a large drink. I don't know what's country about them but basically they are an attempt at a direct imitation of a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. It wasn't bad. They came close to the original Chick-Fil-A but didn't quite get there.

Anyway. I had some time and instead of getting it to go I thought I'd eat there rather than in my office and do a little people watching. So I was sitting in a booth eating when this young guy comes around the corner heading to sit with the rest of what looked like a work crew that he was with. As he's walking his full drink cup tips off his tray and spills across the floor. Hey, no harm, it can happen to anybody. His response was to look toward the rest of his crew, laugh and say "My Bad." He then proceeded to the table. My hope was that he would put down the tray and alert someone at the counter that there was a spill so that it could be cleaned up before someone slipped. My expectation was that he would sit down and eat his lunch without taking any responsibility or doing anything to to clean up his mess. He fully met my expectation.

I was just about finished eating and was planning to tell someone about the spill before I left when I noticed an interesting thing. One of the other guys in the crew, from appearances a little older than the first, went to the counter and told the employee working there what happened. They reacted immediately and sent someone over with a bucket and mop and cleaned it right up.

Completely inane story so far I know, but what made it noteworthy to me was this. Based purely on observation and assumption, the first guy - the one who spilled the drink - I guessed to be either American or highly Americanized due to his appearance and complete lack of accent when I heard him speak. The second guy, the guy who actually did something about the spill, was clearly Hispanic and based on hearing him speak, did not appear to be particularly fluent in English.

Now I realize there's a lot of information I don't know about these individuals. To be completely fair other than the few minutes of observation taken as a snapshot of their lives, I know absolutely nothing about them. I'm also not trying to make any statements about race, ethnicity, culture, prejudice or any of that. As I was watching, the whole thing for me was about one person's failure to accept responsibility and another's action to take (or in this case assume someone else's) responsibility.

I wasn't intending for this to be a statement about the immigration issue but because it appeared the second guy may have been an alien (no, not the extraterrestrial, newly Vatican approved kind) I can't help but think about it at least a little. Truth be told I'm not really sure where I stand on the issue. I mentioned yesterday that I'm a Pisces. The symbol for Pisces is two fish heading in opposite directions. We are often taken to be someone who can't make a decision. The truth is we hesitate in making decisions because the world is not black and white to us. We frequently can see, often very clearly, BOTH sides of the argument and find merit and deficiency in each. Immigration like so many other issues has no easy solution but the one thing that I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN OF is that the United States of America has no business building fences or walls. Beyond that, I'm open for debate.

Enough rambling. I guess my point to this (if I ever had one) is that a hard working guy who steps up and takes responsibility for someone else's spilled drink might, just might, be the kind of guy who will step up and take responsibility for other more important things as well. There seems to be so few of those guys around these days. Honestly, I don't think it hurts to have more of that kind of guy. But what do I know? I was just there for the free chicken sandwich.


meggie said...

A very thought provoking commentary. I have watched & seen such things myself. I have been the one doing the reporting, & trying to remedy the problem. It is a personal thing, I suspect. Some people seem to feel they are above dealing with the 'minor' problems of life.
Why the hell do they often get the 'higher' positions??

Hungry Mother said...

Very allegorial today. The first guy bothers me a lot. There are so many of his kind around and they are spawned by our bankrupt culture as exemplified by the TV wasteland and our corrupt politicians.

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Yeah, it bothers me too. Much of what's wrong with this country has to do with the demise of personal responsibility, at all levels. I recently watched Flags of Our Fathers and was again reminded of that generation who quietly assumed such great responsibility in such a workman-like and humble way. Now no one takes responsibility for their own messes and makes lame excuses and apologies that never say I'm sorry. Everything is someone elses fault. Saying "My Bad" is not a get out of jail free card. That's the first step in what I see as a three step process. Recognition/admission that you're responsible for what happened, a SINCERE apology that uses the words "I'm Sorry" and doesn't give excuses, and doing something to make it right.

Liza said...

I think Mr. My Bad never learned in kindergarden what most children learn, clean up your own mess. My 4 year old niece knows that if she takes toys out she has to put them up. If you spill something you clean it up. This isn't rocket science, it's common courtesy.

Bruce, a work in progress said...

I hear ya Liza. Unfortunately courtesy and sense are two things often called common - but sadly they're not.

Kitty said...

The difference between those guys (leaving aside that one did it and one didn't) was that one was taking responsibility for OTHERS, and one wasn't. I have a big 'thing' about the whole concept of community, and that means we all look out for one another - all the time. That guy was looking out for others - good on him.

Glad you enjoyed your sandwich, anyway :-D


Malicious Intent said...

Interesting post. I see this sort of what I call "entitlement" all the time.
We have a state wide autism program here,it's free, it's part of the public school system and we have folks flocking from all over the country to get in it. One of my many jobs is to help folks who are making that decision to move here.

So we have this program and guess who are the ones who take care of it, volunteer, help out, sign up on committees...yup...the ones from other states. The ones who already lived here when their child was diagnosed are the least active participants because they have this sense of entitlement and not appreciate nor respect what they have because they never went without.

I think, what you witnessed was something of that nature. Possibly a natural born American who just does not care because he has a sense of entitlement and can do whatever he wants, he never did without and just does not care.

The other guy who made sure the mess was cleaned up probably grew up with much less and respected things much more.

My husbad is a contractor and works with a lot of imigrants. They are often the subject of taunting and cruelty by the "americans" but guess who showed up after my husband had neck surgery and could not move all of the fire wood we had delivered in our front yard? The guys from Peru who could barely speak a lick of english. But they respected him because he always treated them as he would want to be treated and frequently stuck up for them. None of the other guys came to offer their time or help.

Just a possible I see all to often. But as you said, you only saw a snap shot so we will never really know for sure.

Malach the Merciless said...

New blog, Philosophy of the Spilled Soft Drink

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Kitty, looking out for each other is great and is as it should be. It seems a lot of the time though that we've reached a point where people aren't even willing to take responsibility for themselves so how can they take care of others?

MI, I hear ya. My nephew runs a landscaping business. Most of his crews are made up of guys from Mexico that are here LEGALLY under a government program for part of the year. They are hard working, responsible and all they want to do is make a living to support their families. He can't find people here to hire and aon the rare occasion when he does they usually can't be depended on.

Great idea Mal. Maybe it can be a group effort and we can all contribute.

Malicious Intent said...

Want to talk about people not caring or paying attention, go read my close call I had yesterday. I am still shaking.

The Sagittarian said...

Common sense appears to be neither.
I work in the health and safety side of an industry here in NZ and I have to agree with you, there seems little repsect for others. The "I'm alright, Jack" attitude is so disappointing. If the worrld owes them a living, I despair!

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Hi Sag. I too am in the health & safety business. I know what you mean.

Anonymous said...

I would have been too busy pointing and laughing at the guy when he spilled his drink to help him clean it up.

Nice to know there are still people out there who are willing to step up to take care of what others have screwed up.