Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 2:14 PM
I am so angry with myself!
This is the first week of classes at the University. I got my refund check from my financial aid this weekend, cashed it yesterday after school, so today was the first day I had the money to buy text books. I was rather distraught that the textbooks were going to run me upwards of $600, but I figured out how to budget for it. Still, I can always use extra money.
I took my stack to the checkout counter, and the cashier scanned all of the books in. The scanner was giving her trouble, and she had to try multiple times on multiple books. When she got to the end, she told me the total was $370 (roughly). I glanced at the screen and saw that the monstrous Anatomy and Physiology packet that itself was $250 was not on there.
And being the stupid moral being that I am, I pointed out that I was expecting it to be more, and had her check. She counted and at first thought she was correct, then realized she had forgotten to count a small paper packet, thus I was right, there were six books on the counter and only five on the screen. So she figured out what was missing and scanned the monstrous A & P text in, bringing my total to about $620.
I paid and walked over to the door, where the receipt checker glanced at the stack and at my receipt (not very thoroughly), marked off my receipt, and let me pass.
So what the hell is wrong with me? What didn't I just keep my mouth shut? She would have checked herself at the end, missed counting the paper packet thus mistakenly thinking that the number of books I bought matched the number on the screen, and the guy at the door would have seen me walk straight from the counter to the door, glanced at the receipt not too closely, and would have let me pass.
And I would have had $250 extra for all of those things I need money for so desperately. I don't own a pair of jeans that both fits and is free of holes, my shoes have all given out at the corners, the brakes on my car are squealing and grinding, and I'm carefully re-using all old notebooks and pens that I can scrounge.
The time at the bank was different. A year or two ago I was very low on cash, but I had two small paychecks from my two small jobs to cash, and thought that I could just make due with that amount. When I cashed them, I noted that the amount I got was more than I was expecting, but I'd only done the sum in my head on the fly, so I figured I'd made a mistake. Later, while running around, the math kept going through my head and I figured out that no, I was right the first time, and the teller had mistakenly given me $100 extra. So, I went back to the bank, went to the same teller, pointed out the mistake, and gave the $100 back.
But that was understandable. The bank would have looked through everything when the til didn't balance, and they would have found the mistake, and the teller would have had a really hard day and possibly lost his job, and in the end I would have had to give the money back, and by that time I might have spent it and not had it to give back. In the end, the teller would have suffered greatly for it and I might have too, and I wouldn't have gotten the benefit. That was the logical action.
But today? The til would not have been unbalanced, they'd just have one less book than expected, and it would not have led to me, or even to the cashier or receipt checker I went through. The myriad of people who stood to get profits from the books creation, publishing, distribution, and so on would probably only be out of a few cents each, out of the millions brought in by all of the book sales in so many different universities. They expect to have the occasional loss of a book, through damage or theft or elsewise.
I don't believe in karma. I think it's a nice idea that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people, I just don't believe that's how the universe works, I've seen too many counterexamples to believe so simple an explanation. I also don't believe that there will be a weighing of the hearts after my death and I'll be punished or rewarded for the exact amount of goodness and badness I did in life. And I'm pretty sure it would not have led to a slippery slope where I suddenly start shoplifting and gambling. So why did I do it? Am I just the product of my childhood conditioning? Forever doomed to do what my mommy told me was right when I was four?