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Everyday Ethics

lost_wallet_tallish.jpgWe’re rolling out another new feature here at Everyday Ethics… “What-If Wednesdays.” You know the game; you’ve probably played it with your friends a time or two, asking questions like, “What if you had to choose — Brad Pitt or George Clooney?” (Clooney, baby!) Or for the less romantically minded, “What if you could only follow one sports team for the rest of your life — Yankees or Mets?” (No Red Sox write-ins!) Etc, etc.

In the real world, our what-if scenarios aren’t usually so salacious (or fun) but they do seem to confront us with alarming regularity. So, we thought we’d give you folks a chance to weigh in on what you’d do if you were in situations like the ones we’ll describe in Wednesdays to come.
To start us off, I’ll tell you what my husband did the other day… and confess, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do quite as much IF I were in his place.


Ethical Dilemma/What-if scenario #1: Hubby’s commuting home from work, barely stuffing himself into a crowded train. A guy, desperate to make it before the doors close, lunges forward, arm extended… and accidentally inserts his wallet, which he happens to be holding in his hand, between the train doors while he’s trying to wedge them open. The doors close, literally yanking the wallet into the car, and leaving the guy on the other side, an expression of mingled panic and comical chagrin warring for dominance on his face. The wallet lands with a plop just inside the car, at my husband’s (and a dozen other people’s) feet.

Do the folks on the train lunge for the wallet? Actually, no. They all studiously avoid looking at it as the train pulls away from the desperate man on the platform. While no one’s rushing to steal it, it’s clear no one wants to take responsibility for getting it back to its rightful owner either.
All except my husband.
When it becomes clear no one else is prepared to step up, my spouse shows his excellent upbringing by taking responsibility (and the wallet) in hand. Husby-do-right gets off at the next stop (nowhere near his destination) and waits for the guy, thinking maybe he’ll show up there as it’s the most logical place to try and find him. After three trains go by with no sign of the wallet-dropper, Hubby heads over to the station agent and asks what to do, but they’re clueless (and utterly disinterested) about his predicament, not even knowing or bothering to look up for him where the MTA’s Lost and Found is. There wasn’t any useful contact information in the wallet whatsoever, and the fella apparently had an extremely common name, meaning Hubby couldn’t look the guy up himself to let him know he’d found his property. So, he heads all the way out of the subway and finds the nearest police station, where he turns over the wallet (money intact, naturally) to the cops. 
His only regret? Not that he’s now an hour later getting home or that he’s gone miles out of his way. No, he only feels bad that he wasn’t able to hand the wallet over to the guy directly and spare the dude the trouble of canceling all his cards.
What if it had been you that found the wallet? Would you do as much as my ethically outstanding hubby? Take this poll and then comment below to let us know!

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