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Front Page » April 3, 2007 » Opinion » Feeling good isn't always a part of being honest
Published 2,697 days ago

Feeling good isn't always a part of being honest


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

For the most part everyone has a little larceny in their heart.

Okay. I'm sure it is not everyone, but for the general populace, there are temptations out there that may be too great to resist.

The problem I have is with the temptations that are so small that they don't really matter to anyone, except that they should.

The other day one of the Sun Advocate's route drivers came into my office and told me a story about something she had seen while making her rounds. Our route drivers are the ones that fill the vending machines and racks with papers in various places in the county.

"I had just replaced the papers in the machine with the new edition and emptied the change box and as I was standing by my vehicle I saw a very prominent citizen of our community come up, put 50 cents in the machine and take three papers out of it," she said. "I was kind of shocked."

I am certainly not telling any tales out of school when I say most newspaper vending machines can be easily ripped off. They aren't like a candy bar machine that dispenses one unit. When one puts money in a newspaper vending machine, they expose a whole stack of newspapers to the urge people might have to take more than one.

"Did he see you?" I asked her.

"I don't think so," she said. "He just took the three papers and walked away."

"That shows something about his character doesn't it," I said.

She nodded.

Later that evening I was at home and the television was blaring in the background while I was working on the computer. Of course the commercials blare more than anything else, so it was hard for me to miss one of those latest pizza commercials where the guy gets pizza delivered by some kid at the door and then he jumps up and down because the delivery guy, he believes, undercharged him. However, in reality you soon learn that the price the boy charged was the right one, because the pizzas are on sale.

Was the guy who took three newspapers, very different from the guy who thought he had come across a great "bargain" by ripping off the pizza guy?

Some would say they are different things. In one case the action the person made was overt (taking three papers instead of one). In the other case it appeared the pizza delivery boy had made the mistake, so it was okay.

It's easy to get lines blurred and accept one while condemning the other, but we have all had the wrong change handed to us in stores at times or found something that didn't belong to us laying on the street and either kept it or returned it.

About 25 years ago, right after I married my present wife I was out driving around Salt Lake in a truck owned by the company I worked for. While stopped at an intersection a Datsun (Nissan now) 240 Z drove by and a purse that had been set on the top of it fell off in the street. I was the only one at the intersection, so I jumped out and grabbed the purse and tried to chase the car down. However it was long gone. I looked in the purse for identification, and found that it belonged to a woman who lived in Sandy.

By the identification I found she was also a school teacher in Jordan School District. I also found something else; $800 in cash. I looked at those eight $100 bills and my eyes must have been as big as the full moon on a warm summer night.

At the time we were in very bad shape financially. I had recently been divorced and the child support and bills from my previous marriage were overwhelming. As soon as I saw the money I could think of a hundred things I could buy with it; some of them toys, some necessities. I looked around; no one had seen the purse fall off the car, and no one had seen me pick it up. I hauled that purse around with me all day, wondering what I should do.

That night I confided in my wife about the situation and showed her the purse and the money. As we talked we both decided that it needed to be returned. At first I thought I might call the police and turn it in to them; but then I considered the fact it might have been reported stolen? So I decided to call the woman myself.

When I called her the first thing I asked her, without identifying myself, was if she had lost a purse.

She got very excited and said she had put it on top of her car because she was in a hurry and had lost it somewhere along Highland Drive. I then asked her how much money was in it and she told me $800.

I knew then she couldn't claim I had taken money out of it after I had found it. I told her that I had it and gave her my address. Less than an hour later she showed up with three friends to claim it.

They showed up in a new Mercedes sports sedan. She got out came to the door. She was dressed to the nines. I gave her the purse. She pulled out $10 and told me to take it as a reward. I can't remember whether I took it or not, but the next thing I do remember is her telling my wife and I that she was going on a three month European vacation (school had just been let out for the summer) and that the money she had pulled out of the bank to cover the first few days of the trip.

"I didn't need the money back that bad," she said. "It would still have been fine, I have plenty, I was mostly worried about my identification."

I looked down at the ground and around at our little house as she walked away after thanking me. We closed the door as they pulled away.

Had we done the right thing? Of course we had. Did it make me feel good? Not at the time as I looked at the pile of bills on my desk in the basement.

That night we laid in bed talking about it. We sure could have used that money, and it was obvious that she wouldn't have even missed it. We talked about what could have been, and then both cried a little and fell asleep.

And I slept very well.


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April 3, 2007
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