Monday, May 26, 2008

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good and Misinformed Intentions

Somebody remarked once about the "Golden Rule" ("Do unto others as you would have them do to you"). The fellow said that if somebody came to his house with the sole intention of doing him good, he should run for his life. This makes an interesting point about how what might be good for one person would not be good for another (otherwise this rule basically justifies things like rape).

However, not only are there certain actions that people do because they'd like them even though the recipient (victim?) does not, there are also all sorts of actions that both parties consent to and both also experience loss. This loss is merely that of a few seconds' time in the following examples, but I'm certain there are other scenarios where greater losses occur.

The first anecdote is something that happened to me today, although I'm sure it has happened before. There was one knife for the peanut butter at the toasters in the cafeteria this morning, and when I went to put some on my toast, another person had just finished. Seeing that I wanted the knife, she went to pass it to me instead of putting it back in the dish. This was a nice thing to do, but it took us a few seconds to coordinate our hands so that I could grab it, whereas I would have been able to snatch it in under a second had she put it back and I taken it right from the bowl.

That's not important at all. I'm making a big deal out of nothing. Well, the next one isn't life-threatening (usually) either, but there is a bit more time wasted, and for the sake of saving time. This has happened to me multiple times, and this is how the situation goes: I'm waiting by the side of the road, not crossing because there is a car within sight. As it comes, I can't be sure whether or not it is slowing down, but it gradually does, stopping so that I may pass. While this is an extremely nice gesture on a busy street, as it stops the flow of traffic, it is completely pointless if there are only one or two cars. If the car retains its original speed, it passes sooner and gets where it is going sooner, and the pedestrian receieves the "safe to cross sooner" because the car passes and then it is fine. In attempting to be nice, the driver has managed to slow down himself and the person walking.

Interesting to note is that both of these occur as an attempt at saving the other person time. The perpetrator knows that s/he will incur a loss of time, but assumes that s/he is doing the "right thing". In the end, qui bono? Nobody!