What Would Socrates Do with a Coffee-Stained Philosophy Book?

27 May

This week in Books-A-Million with the girls, I dripped coffee onto a big, fancy philosophy book that I had no intention of purchasing. I brought up my mental moral code and flipped around for a minute and there it was on page twelve: “In a retail establishment, if you spoil a product you should show it to the proprietor and offer to purchase.”

I didn’t “break” the book and the stain wasn’t even on text, but it didn’t make sense to just throw it back on the shelf for someone else to discover. It was their only copy for chrissake!

Um, this wasn’t the first time either.

Before I updated my moral code in 2010, I did–I regret–return a stained book to its original spot on the shelf. My daughters weren’t around to guilt me into doing the right thing.

Who knows what kind of fury I unleashed on the world. Maybe someone else bought the book and never noticed the stain. But maybe someone was standing in line to buy it, saw the stain, and then made a scene in an attempt to have $5 knocked from the cost. Maybe this caused great distress to the employee who went home and took it out on her cat, Muffins, who, in turn, fell into a long-term malaise. You just can’t know these things.

They say “when a butterfly farts in Kentucky, it makes a monkey die of a heart attack in Delhi,” or something like that. Actually, that’s not even close to correct. Still, small decisions matter.

Socrates About to Drink the Hemlock

This time I wanted to turn it into a teaching moment, so I showed the girls what I’d done and declared proudly–with my right forefinger at my ear pointing towards the heavens, arm bent at ninety degrees–that I now had to buy the book.

“It’s just the right thing to do!” I thundered.

That night I was flipping through the book and–I don’t know if it was due to a sour mood or what–I thought “I could return this damn book without the girls even knowing.” This was also after I found out that it was $7 less on Amazon. The book just didn’t seem as awesome and my moral code was changing right before (or right behind) my eyes.

Then I turned the page and there was the receipt I thought I had thrown away. A sign? Maybe buying the book wasn’t the best thing to do. I mean, I didn’t even present the stain or my story to management. I’m sure they wouldn’t have forced me to buy the book. I had skipped an important step and messed up my teaching moment. Crap!

So as a certified neurotic, I’m torn. Part of me is screaming to return it and forget about it. I don’t enjoy wasting money and I hate clutter.

I can see Chloe picking up this old book in 2060 and tossing it into the “auction” box. Wow, I’m depressed now. 

* * * Begin Mini Rant Against Clutter * * *

In this country we keep upgrading our homes to accommodate more and more junk. Basement storage shelves overflow. Book cases sag from the weight. We rent storage sheds. We try to stop the inflow with yard sales. Then we’re old and forget what we have and then we’re even older and no longer care about what we have. We realize that the “stuff,” material possessions, never mattered that much. Then we die and our kids have to sort it all out. I’ve been on a fight against this trend for years.

* * *  End Mini Rant Against Clutter * * *

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: