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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, July 03, 2006

Seinfeld Revisited

So what responsibility do we have to strangers and their well being? I mean, if you saw a stranger getting mugged, would you feel obligated to step in?

I think I might. But that's easy to say in writing. Let's agree that we'd at least call 911.

That's an extreme example. But two things over the weekend made me think to ask this question.

First, Saturday afternoon I was chatting w/Ben, Tere the Coral Gables blogger's husband, and he was telling me a story about "hospitality." Ben's an avid mountain biker and skateboarder. A few years ago he was skateboarding in South Beach during Memorial Day weekend. After a chance run-in w/50 Cent and an entourage who stopped to admire Ben's tattoos, Ben skated on his way and was crossing an intersection, when he saw a car coming toward him. He tried to avoid the car, even though he had right of way. No luck though. The car hit him. As he was falling to the ground, Ben recalls seeing the driver whipping around the corner, yapping on her cell phone. Shortly before he got woozy he recalls seeing her speed away without even a tap of the breaks. Ben, not realizing he had broken some bones, then slumped face down in the street. Here's the rub: not one person, pedestrian or driver, stopped to ask if he was OK! People walked and drove around him. Triflin'.

OK, so the second thing that made me think of our responsiblity to strangers: Saturday morning I posted about a Seinfeld moment I had in the grocery earlier that day, during which a meat handler wiped and blew her nose w/bare hands and then offered to help the next person, without washing her hands.

I wrote that I was freaked out, 'cause I was the next person. What was I going to say? "No thanks, I'll wait in line for the butcher without snot on his fingers." I'm not good at confronting senior citizens.

Now this is hardly as serious as ignoring the victim of a hit-and-run as he lies wounded in the street, but Big Daddy correctly pointed out that if I thought the meat handler was so nasty, then I had an obligation to the other customers to call her out.

Actually, B.D. suggested I "take one for the team" and let snotty fingers handle my meat, in order to spare the other customers. What I should have done was confront her or ask for a manager.

But nice try, B.D. I think I might jump in that mugging and take a beating, before I willingly accepted a booger burger from an unsanitary butcher. That's just not part of my obligation to strangers.

Well, that's all the rambling I can handle for one afternoon. More later.


  • Um, NO to B.D.'s suggestion, because then you would have been serving your guests snotty meat!

    By Blogger Tere, at 3:28 PM  

  • That's just awful about the callousness of the driver and the people who didn't help Ben.

    I agree with Tere. How to handle the snot lady though ... do you tell her something?

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 3:31 PM  

  • Oh, and that accident Ben had - when he was hit, as he was going down, he made eye contact with the driver - she looked him right in the eyes and kept driving.

    By Blogger Tere, at 3:33 PM  

  • I always ask myself before I confront someone, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" If my longevity here on Earth enters into the answer, I tend to move on. If the worst thing is someone getting upset or defensive because they're embarrassed or they know I'm right, I speak up.

    I would have nicely asked the woman to wash her hands. If she would have given me an attitude, I'm sure the store manage would have corrected that pronto.

    No fear when you're in the right.

    By Anonymous Rick, at 4:30 PM  

  • Hey, he was only suppopsed to use the fact of the snotty meat to extort free treatment from the store. I would never suggest serving friends or family tainted eats. The dilemna then would be whether he would have an ethical dilemna using the Spalding-fingered baby to make the store buy the meal. Different set of ethics at work here, people!

    I feel sorry for that cat who got hit. I think people must think it's cool or something to walk away from someone in genuine need. "Oh no! I don't want to ruin my very special evening alone in the V.I.P. room at B.E.D." as spent with a jazillion other rubber necked tourist chumps. I don't know anyone who doesn't feel like their life is made more worthwhile after giving somebody a hand. We need to get away from this whole "No good deed goes unpunished" bullshit where everyone looks out so hard for number 1 that all of our lives get turned into number 2.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:53 AM  

  • Nope, sorry. I have the meat person 1] wash hands; 2] don plastic gloves. I've made our meat person here change his gloves - and I'm sure they get extra credit - bonus - something - for being able to save $$$ or creating less waste. I will have the meat guy, here, change gloves if he touches chicken before he touches my fish. And the man that was hit by the car? Just totally, totally unacceptable behavior - on the part of the driver - and you can't tell me that she didn't know she hit something - and just one more reason that talking on a cell phone while driving should be illegal EVERYWHERE!

    By Blogger Sabra, at 12:36 PM  

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