[In which I get cussed out again, this time because I won’t give my phone number to a stranger]
~ One of the inevitable consequences of hanging out at the same coffee shops all the time is that you end up meeting people, a lot of people. This can be both good and bad. Since humans are decidedly social creatures, meeting new people is an important component of being human.
One day as I was sitting at coffee engrossed in a particular philosophy book I was working through, a mid-thirties woman sitting next to me started up a conversation, “Hey what are you reading?” she asked, at coffee shops “hey what are you reading” is one of the most popular discussion starters among strangers.
The two of us chatted for a bit about ethics (which is what the book I was reading was about) and then upon a friend of mine sitting down at my table, the three of us ended up having a long conversation about what it means to live ethically, and how this is different than the subject of morals.
I noticed the time was slipping away and I politely stood up and excused myself from the table with a ‘farewell’. The woman smiled appreciatively and expressed her thanks in meeting me, and asked if we could become “Facebook friends”,
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a Facebook, I used to have one, but I gave it up a year ago, along with Twitter, Tumblr and all the rest. I’m just not into social networking” I said
“Well, could we exchange emails then? I’ve had such a great time talking with you and your friend, I would love to sit down with the two of you again” she said
“Perhaps my friend is interested in give you his contact” I nodded my head toward him, “But I don’t give my phone number or email out to anyone. I simply meet too many people to do so” I said
My response seemed to perplex her, and a shriek of anger crossed over her, “What the f**K! Who the hell do you think you are! You won’t even take my email?!”
“I’m sorry, but no. I could have taken it and thrown it away when I walked out the door, but I decided to just be honest and tell you the truth; I don’t exchange personal information with people at coffee anymore. I did years ago, but I haven’t in a long time. However, I hang out at this coffee shop quite a bit, and you’re always welcome to sit at my table whenever I’m here” I said
“And how is that ETHICAL?” she continued, “We just sat here for an hour discussing ethics and now you’ve refused to take my email address!” she said
“Well, the ethical issue is me being an adult and the type of individual rights I have to my own personhood. You see, I have made personal choices that I live by, and in order for me to live by them, I must make decisions regardless of my feelings. You see, I did enjoy our conversation, and that involved feelings; i.e. the feeling of camaraderie with a fellow human, the feeling of mental stimulation with regard to the topics we discussed, and more. Now what would happen if I allowed everyone I meet at coffee to have my personal information and be able to contact me, simply because I “felt” like doing so? Well, the consequence I suffered a few years ago was receiving an onslaught of phone calls and emails from so many people that it became too overwhelming for me. We can only extend ourselves so much before it can push us to our emotional limits” I said
People in Western Culture tend to only look at things through a self-centered lens. Some of these people we call drama queens, others we call overly-emotional, or selfish. The label we use is less important than the concept; people feel a sense of entitlement over others.
Living an ethical life means that we do not allow others to control us. It means we must set the limits of our friendships, relationships, and interactions with other people based on our personal ethical standards. To allow other people to use us, or to allow them to dictate what we must do is simply unethical.