You never know when life will test you.
You could be going about a perfectly ordinary day, expecting nothing at all of note to happen when, out of the blue, you’re faced with a character defining decision, the sort of decision that sets you forward on a path from which there is no turning back, and you might, caught flat footed by this decision, not know how even to begin facing up to the challenge that’s ahead of you.
For example, here’s a text I received while at work earlier today:
We need Kenton’s jersey # to send in for team picture information. Can you please text it to me tonight if possible.
We confirmed all the jersey #’s at the game last night. Did you get the emails about the pictures this Sunday?
Thx so much.
And it is in moments like this where you learn who you truly are, if you are a good person or not, how well you can be trusted when the chips are down and the stakes are highest. Because how you respond to a text such as this truly is who you are in the dark, it’s a chance to hurt a stranger with zero consequence, if you’re the sort of person small and mean enough to take it.
What I wrote back was:
“I’m afraid you sent this to the wrong number. Sorry.”
What I did NOT write back was:
“Yes! Sorry, for some reason I thought I’d responded to that email, I guess I must have forgotten.
Kenton’s jersey number is 47, I hope I got back to you in time.
See you Sunday!”
And I’m sure I could have pulled it off, too, if I’d been committed at all to the conversation. After all, Jennifer, whoever the hell she is, would never actually have to look at me, and would be unlikely to follow up with an actual phone call. Via text I could easily “Yes, and…” any questions she might have and, in the end, convince her that whoever she’d meant to send that text truly had been the person who’d received it. She’d pass my made up number on to the photographer, and be genuinely shocked on Sunday when Kenton didn’t show up for the team pictures.
I, meanwhile, would have gotten my few moments amusement out of hurting a stranger and then gone about my day, never to think of the exchange again, confident that my moment of pointless cruelty would have no meaningful consequence of any kind for me.
I could have done this thing, just to be a dick.
And I’m the first to admit that it was tempting.
It’s a very human instinct, I think, to mess with somebody just because you can, for the sheer amusement of doing so. It’s something primal within us that makes us want to reach out and flick someone, either metaphorically or literally, across the back of their head, and I think it’s something we’ve all, even the best among us, experienced at some point in our lives.
But I am not a being of instinct, I do not let instinct control me. I am a man of intellect, of empathy, of compassion, and today when the chips were down I proved it. I could have fucked with Jennifer, but I didn’t. Today I proved that I am, above all else, an honest man.
I was not a total bag of flaccid cocks to a complete stranger earlier today.
And yes, I would like a damned medal.
I would like one very much...