By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)
"Would I go for abortion?" "Will I pay for the scratch I inflicted in the gray Volkswagen while parking?" "Would I return back the wallet I found in Viru Keskus?" "Shall I tell mamma I am dating a Russian boy?"
That's unavoidable: moral dilemmas tend to consume lots of our time and energy. Everyday we have to negotiate with ourselves small decisions that trigger friction in our brains. If we except pathological criminals and some fools, every soul with basic principles holds an ethical dimension.
We all live in fear of moral failure: not a coincidence that Greek philosopher Plato dedicated part of his life theorizing about that. Great. However, most situations we reflect about happen to be too abstract. Usually, the most embarrassing moments occur when we don't expect them. Worse: they are exactly the very same ones we had never considered.
Before I share with you my embarrassing story — a benign one after all — I prefer to evoke one about a Chilean celebrity. A famous footballer: after having slept with a prostitute who stole his clothes, this man decided to run away. He would be caught by the municipal police while running naked in the street. What to say? To tell the truth? Never ever, he was too famous... Therefore, our sportsman decided to justify his nudity by saying he had been encountered an UFO.
Brilliant. Who could prove the opposite?
I wish I could have done the same that disturbing night. I'll describe it: I am having dinner in a popular Argentinean restaurant in Lisbon with two good Portuguese friends. The venue is fully packed and the next table there is a young beautiful couple in love. More romantic would be impossible. I even thought the young man would offer a fiancé ring to his girlfriend.
Unlike them, the three of us are partying. Some glasses of great red wine keep landing in our table. However, my third one has a decisive role to play: it breaks on the dark marble of our table and spills to the very white shirt of the young romantic guy the next table. I freeze. He freezes. Everybody freezes. My first instinct is to apologise — twice, five times — but no answer comes from the couple.
They are shocked, they stay some thousand seconds shooting me with their gazes.
Words just don't come, and I understand: that man in front of me is the perfect metaphor of my faux pas: the red wine in his white shirt resembles merciless blood. He is a Jesus, a restaurant martyr.
My first idea? To offer him a brand new shirt, though I wanted very concrete deeds that moment. Thus, I discreetly stood up and went to the restaurant owner to tell him I'd pay for the couple's bill. I didn't communicate them, of course, just returned even more discreetly to my table.
Half-hour later they left the table and I noticed the owner communicating them their vilain had already taken care of the dinner. They abandoned the restaurant right away and then comes the epilogue. Stunned, the owner ran to me to make sure what he had seen:
"How come? Don't tell me they left the restaurant without thanking you?!"
"Of course", I replied: "Why should they come here if I ruined their romantic night?"
"Come one, these accidents can happen to every single person... Those guys are lost! They should understand!", he insisted while adding: "But we share their bill, I also believe tables in my restaurant are too close to each others... I feel very sorry..."
It was a funny situation. A moral triangle: the revolted couple who decided not to thank for the dinner I decided to paid; the owner who felt guilty because of his greed; this author who felt even more guilty and just wanted an UFO to rescue him from such a stupid terror movie.
Yet things could have been rather different: if that moment I didn't have money to pay; if the wine had helped the couple to break the ice; if another waiter had used the opportunity to increase the bill.
This was the ultimate proof life is not black-and-white. Or red-and-white. We can react differently ways according to humor & circumstances & needs & possibilities. Ethics is a tricky issue and inconsistencies, small and big ones, are always around the corner. What can we do? There are no formulas. But to remind daily what are our core values can help a lot...