My Online Psychological Examination
As part of the employment screening process for a particular company I am interviewing for at the moment, I had to take a funny little online psychological examination, which asked a variety of off-the-wall questions to attempt to build some kind of profile on me.
One question in particular has jumped out at me and sent my gears whirring. The question was:
"If someone cuts you in line, would you speak up?"
To this question, I believe the rational response is “No.” I wouldn’t. You might ask, “Why unpropaganda? Are you… chicken?”
Hardly. My reasoning on this matter is that there are so many variables and unknowns, that choosing to confront a random stranger on the street for cutting in line seems utterly foolhardy.
Outcomes of the Confrontation
There are a lot of crazy people out there with nothing to lose, and in the worst case scenario, the confrontation turns violent. What happens if he pulls a gun or a knife? Bye-bye, that’s what. What if the confrontation only comes to blows? There are two possible (among many) outcomes to that:
1. You get the worst of the beating. Obviously, being beaten up isn’t fun. You very well may need to go to the emergency room for various injuries, and get emergency care at the dentist for any damaged teeth. If your insurance doesn’t cover that, you’re in for a gigantic bill, all on top of being in pain.
2. He gets the worst of the beating, and things are not looking any better for you. For starters, that guy can now get a lawyer and potentially sue you for his medical bills, plus pain and suffering. The police may not believe (or be unimpressed with) your story that he started the fight by cutting in line, and arrest you for battery. In both cases, you need to get a lawyer to defend yourself with in court. Lawyers are expensive, and your job isn’t going to be pleased with you taking time off work to go to and from court. You might also now have an arrest record for a violent crime.
And for what? All because some schmuck cut you in line. You’re gambling with your life, limb, money, and freedom over a big nothing. And that’s why I say “Let it go.”
The More Reasonable Approach: Call the Police
Cutting in line once in a while is just something we should deal with. But what if it is a habitual problem by a person or a group of people? In that case, the best options are to either leave the situation entirely, or to call the police. Cutting in line is disorderly conduct, and they can be arrested for it. The police are impervious to virtually all of the bad outcomes I discussed in the previous section.
1. For starters, the police have enormous advantages on their side when it comes to confrontations. They have weapons of course, but also better training than most people on how to handle violent people. They also have ready access to backup, which can show up lickety-split if the officer in question finds himself up a creek.
2. Unlike you, it is nearly impossible for a suspect to sue an individual police officer. Sure, they can sue the police department, but good luck with that. Unlike the average citizen, the police department has state resources on its side, and can afford to hire expensive litigators on retainer to defend themselves with. The officer(s) don’t have to put up one penny towards a legal defense.
3. Police officers have generous benefits available should they become injured or killed in the line of duty. Spousal benefits. Health insurance. Paid time off.
4. When required to testify in court, policemen are paid for their time. They can spend a whole day in court; they still draw a paycheck. This is in contrast to yourself, who will have to take time off from work to go to court.
5. Police officers in this situation, of course, will not run the risk of being arrested for battery should the suspect become violent and agitated with them.
Don’t Trust Me, Trust Sun Tzu
As Sun Tzu taught in The Art of War, the juice has to be worth the squeeze. If the prize of the fight is not worth the expenditure, and the chances of victory slim or inestimable, then the fight should be avoided. We cannot fight every battle the world sends our way; we must use our discretion and reason to judge which battles are worth fighting, and which are not. The wise general controls military expenditure ruthlessly, as he understands that resources committed to one battle cannot be deployed to another.
On the converse side, if the prize is of great value relative to the expenditure, and the chances of victory are good to high, then the fight should be taken, and all available resources should be devoted to crushing the opposition in one swift stroke. A one-on-one fight in the street with a random stranger hardly passes this test. The prize (saving a little extra time in line) is of little value. The expenditure may be extremely high, as I’ve already discussed. The chances of victory are unknown.
Hence, why I conclude, “Let it go.”