A Moral Dilemma at Dunkin
We stop at Dunkin when we travel, but with COVID the restrooms are closed and drive-thru is the only option.
The line was out in traffic, but we stopped anyway.
Mrs. Leadership Freak was driving. You should know that she’s the cautious one. Waiting on the highway set her on edge.
It felt good to pull off the highway, but our ease quickly vanished. Three cheating interlopers had entered the Dunkin lot from a side entrance.
They’d skipped the proper drive-thru line and were hoping to enter our line – ahead of us. Over my dead body!
Do you have a high sense of fair play?
The car in front of us let one of the cheaters in! This created a moral dilemma.
You should know that we had labeled the cheating interlopers with a word that has something to do with donkeys and holes.
Jokingly, I said to Mrs. Leadership Freak, “It would be the ‘Christian’ thing to let the next cheater in.” I secretly hoped that she was NOT interested in the ‘Christian’ thing.
Who cares about the ‘Christian’ thing when fair play is at work.
Believe it or not, my driver – she ceased being my lovely wife at this moment – paused and smiled at the cheating interloper. The donkey pulled in front of the ‘good’ people.
We ordered one pumpkin muffin and one multi-grain bagel and pulled to the window behind the cheater. But things went from bad to worse.
Bad to worse:
That donkey paid for our order!
Two things went through my mind. I should have ordered more. And maybe the donkey comment was a little harsh.
Perhaps kindness might be a little more than fair play.
Should we have let the donkey in the line? Would you?
Yes. Sometimes I end up in the cheater line–not because I wanted to–it just happens because I was in the wrong line. I didn’t understand what lane I was suppose to be in.
Assume positive intent. Sometimes surprises happen!
Thanks Paul. To be honest, if I get the chance, sometimes I choose the cheater line.
If there is a traffic jam on the highway, because one of the lanes is crossed off further on, there are always cars passing the arrow that points them into the open lane. And me! I hate these interlopers and my natural inclination is to try to prevent them taken any place in the line in front of me.
I don’t. I leave loads of space in front of me so they have ample opportunity to insert themselves in the jam, thus keeping traffic afloat and the line moving (more). The altruistic feeling that you help everybody moving faster is better than cutting the intruders of.
I think this may show a nice piece of anecdotal evidence of how morality is different in different places. Here in the UK, nobody, ever, pays for the person behind them. Getting in ahead of somebody else is all about winning and losing, to the victor the spoils etc.
Thanks Mitch. I’m not sure how useful it is?? But, for me it was a chance to realize that I might be giving small things a little too much attention. 🙂
Thanks for the laugh! Yes, I probably would’ve done the same thing you did; let one car into line while muttering under my breath 😂
So glad you see the humor. Thanks, Michael. The muttering is what I was thinking about. Somehow I seem to make choices that don’t serve others and don’t make my life better either.
I feel I have an obligation to the people behind me that have waited in line to not cause them to wait even longer. No, I generally don’t let the other car in unless I am the last car.
Thanks Willie. You bring up something that I was thinking about. AND, it’s still on my mind.
Issues of social responsibility come to mind. Thanks for jumping in.
As an ethics wonk, I fail to see the moral dilemma here … Fairness? Whose rules? Whose choice?
If the Mrs. had let all three cars in front, that surely would have aggravated you/the drivers behind you and road rage would manifest.
If the Mrs. had not let a person in at all, those behind her would likely follow suit and the three (by now four or more) would start to get aggressive at inserting themselves into a forward flow. A different frustration leading to rage.
In terms of fluid dynamics, the Mrs. simply acted to release pressure at both points; she split the baby/tension.
You didn’t mention whether the drivers in line behind you acted in kind, each letting in a driver in front of them. I’d bet – even odds – they did.
That would be the leadership of Solomon; I trust you thanked her for saving money, if not time.😍
Thanks Rurbane. One of the things I took from this is the power of modeling. If the care ahead of us had not let anyone in, we probably would have been less likely to let anyone in.
There’s some research that says we become more kind just by seeing someone help someone.
That same research shows that people are also less likely to show charity/kindness/love if those around them don’t – just as you’ve said.
It would seem to be a matter of personal accountability … Be what you want to see, no matter appearances otherwise.
“Let blg things be big, and small things be small”, is my credo for these circumstances, that’s not to say it would not bother me, I’d give it its 20 seconds of irritation then move on… My wife would gently question why, and sigh…
I love that Mr Cut-in-line turned the tables on you, perhaps he too was a nice guy in an awkward spot.
Thanks Ken. So true. In the scheme of things, this is a pretty small thing. I can let small things take up too much space in my brain.
As a Christian, I often extend grace in such instances, when it inconveniences no one but me, because Christ extended much more grace to me!
Thanks Jim. I think the idea of grace has nothing to do with fair play. However, I still feel a responsibility to the people in line behind me.
LOL, ironically that happened to us 2 weeks ago there are 3 entrances into the particular location so coming off highway we had no choice, the line was out into the street on one entrance as you mention. We patiently waited our turn as 2 others were in front of us as each individual allowed the next Donkey in. Now, no one paid for our meal,(Not expected) but at least everyone was patient enough to take turns letting people in and by the time we came around to the check out the line was gone, no one was waiting anymore. I did see one patron muttering that we would not be left in, but that’s O.K. So we sat in the parking enjoyed our goodies and watched with in 10 minutes the line was back out on the street. So patience, Kindness do exist and is nice to see this in todays world.
Thanks Tim. Somehow, not getting your order paid for makes this feel different. But I’m not sure what to do with that.
PS … people watching is the best.
I tend to let them in. What’s 3 more minutes and I’m not sure what’s going on in their life and potential impact. It’s more about me than them, and I need grace often, so I try to so it as well.
Thanks Rick. Agreed. It’s a small thing. I still grapple with fair play. 🙂 LOL … I guess I just can’t let it go.
My mum always says ‘ If you’re going to do something nice, do it with good grace’ in other words if you do something grudginly or through gritted teeth it doesn’t count. I am no saint, but I will usually let people in, especially if they’re not expecting it. I struggle with the ones who feel that they are so much more important than everyone else and ‘deserve’ to jump the queue but who knows, they may have made an honest mistake or maybe they have a genuine emergency on their hands and need to get to the hospital/school/car home/hospice really quickly. Ultimately life is too short – and getting worked up about whether someone gets their coffee 2 mins before me is futile and is detrimental to my stress levels – so I try to let it go. If there is something good to have come out of C19, it’s the fact that I have witnessed many more small acts of kindness happening. Not sure if that’s because people are behaving differently in these weird times or just that I’ve got more time to notice…
Thanks Martin. Getting upset over small things is one of my take aways. And as you say, if you’re going to be kind, do it with a good attitude.
Should we have let the donkey in the line? Would you?; NO! The chances of a “donkey” paying for your order are extremely low and it is a “fairness” issue. What gives them the “right” to cut in whilst you and others wait impatiently in line.
Thanks Roger. I lean toward your response. But in a world of fairness where does one find kindness or mercy?
I try a slightly different approach in these situations to keep myself calm and stress-free – I tell myself a different story. The reason we get upset in these types of situations (and in incidents on the road) are because of the stories we tell ourselves. Let me give a simple example. We’ve all experienced being in the fast lane and having someone riding on our bumper, regardless of the speed that we are going. In situations where you don’t have the opportunity to move to the next lane over (and even when we do), it is easy to get upset with the person behind you. Your blood pressure and stress go way up. When you do finally have a chance to move over and the person speeds by you, you react by giving them a look, yelling something at them, or giving them a hand gesture. The story that we are inclined to tell ourselves is that this person is a jerk and they drive aggressively, like this, all the time. But, what if we told ourselves a different story? What if I told you that the person has his best friend in the passenger seat, that friend has a life-threatening medical emergency, and the driver is racing to get his friend to the hospital? Would you be upset in that situation? Would you have driven slow just to get back at this person and delayed transitioning to the other lane even when you had the opportunity? You wouldn’t. Now, we all know that 90+% of the time, the person probably is a jerk. BUT, what kind of person do you want to be – the person whose blood pressure and stress go up or the person who stays calm and doesn’t allow the incident to affect their day? I choose to be the latter.
Thanks John. I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves. We use these stories, as you indicate, to judge people. Once we make a judgement based on a story we’ve told ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to let it go. Even when the facts contradict the story we’ve told ourselves.
This tendency harms all parties involved.
Thanks for bringing story-telling to this conversation.
“…what kind of person do you want to be…?” Good question. I want to be the person who is RIGHT. But, I’m not sure that’s the best option. 🙂
This is a bit deeper than the driver who cut in line, but I would echo the sentiment that love always wins. Enjoy this incredible short documentary: https://youtu.be/waVrJEIfahc
Thanks Aaron. I wasn’t sure where the video was going. But I’m glad I watched.
Thanks needed that today, and everyday!
Best wishes, Sandra.
I had a similar scenario play out over the weekend at a Timmies here in Ontario. I pulled onto the lot first, and went about the proper procedure of moving around the entire building to the proper spot in line (on a Sunday morning, always packed). As I was approaching the corner, there was another vehicle who went the WRONG way, and raced to the incorrect entrance into the line. As I made my way to the back of the line, I saw him stop two cars in front of me, waiting to get in. The car in front of me, likely having waiting it’s due time, did not let the perpetrator in, nor did I seeing as how I “won” the race to the spot in line…Looking back, it was a silly thing to be defensive about, but alas, fair is fair. Fun read in any case.
Thanks Jay. Yes, fair is fair. 🙂 Glad you stopped in.
PS Love the term ‘perpetrator.’
Two facts about me: I live in a medical community and I have lost loved ones while living here. So I know grief very personally and know it can affect me while driving. It can make me hurry to get to the hospital or nearly erase all sense of direction in a town I’ve lived basically my whole life and know my way around. This is what I keep in mind when someone drives too slow in front of me [perhaps they are from out of town and are losing a loved one]; when someone drives too fast and cuts in front dangerously [perhaps they just got word and need to get to the hospital]; when someone doesn’t seem to know where he is driving and changes lanes unpredictably then returns to the lane from which he came from and maybe back again [same storyline in my head: maybe he too is suffering grief]. It is MUCH easier to accept and show compassion to other drivers when running this story in my head. It erases anger and frustration. Even if my story is completely off, I know I can drive away feeling good with MY actions.
Thanks Sacha. The idea of story is powerful. The most powerful thing we hear, in my opinion, is the story we tell ourselves about others and about ourselves.
Part of this is about doing things that reflect the type of person we aspire to be. Even in this case there are a few ways to look at this. Maybe I need to stand up for myself. Or, maybe I believe in kindness so acting generously reflects who I aspire to be.
Another question is, ‘What is best for the community?’
Great conversation! I try to practice something I was once taught about conflict resolution – “GET ON THE BALCONY” and look down on the situation removing yourself for a moment. This perspective gives you the opportunity to ‘pause’ your emotional reaction and ask what else could be going on here – specifically, what could the other person’s ‘reality’ be in this situation? If they came in through a different entrance, they would have had no idea of the line you are in until they encountered it -and now have no way to resolve the situation other than asking to merge into the line. They aren’t ‘cheaters’ or ‘line jumpers’ – they just came in a different entrance. Parking lots were not designed to flow everyone into the drive-up lane. We are all encountering a ton of things that were not designed for the post-covid life –process improvement at warp speed. This “balcony” exercise coupled with a relentless focus on removing pain points for customers are my two ‘go-to’ approaches for life and work’s difficult moments. You may still determine someone is being a donkey’s behind, but at least you paused to consider other alternatives:)
Thanks Mary Lynn. I’ve read the suggestion of looking down on the situation as a tool to help deal with anger. Nothing like watching yourself to protect you from doing something embarrassing/stupid.
I can see where the balcony view might be helpful. Along the same line, we might think about doing something that we could brag to our kids about. (But I suppose some might brag about cutting someone off.)
I love this story! Thanks for making my day
Thanks Joan. Best to you.
Dan, this was too good NOT to share with my high school seniors. “Moral dilemma Monday”. I surveyed my first section of 17 students. Only 3 would let the donkey into the line. But in my second section of 6 girls I got a different response. All said it depended on their mood at the moment, but were more likely than not to admit the donkey. One said so because she’s usually the donkey! All said DD is quick so the extra wait was negligible.
However, it became clear that none of these girls would show grace at Chick-fil-A or Starbucks. So evidently the PLACE plays a role. The lines move too slowly at these other places. Wow. Who knew?
Thank you so much for a delightful start to my day!
Thanks Pete. I’m not sure we’re coming to any real answer to this situation. But, the conversation is fun. Perhaps raising consciousness is helpful. Best to you and your students.
Oh I am enjoying the irony of the Chick-fil-A crowd possibly being the rudest. At least that doesn’t happen on a Sunday.
Assume good intention what if the cheaters as you call them came from a different direction and the side was their entrance and they had been waiting for their turn. We have lots of places with multiple entrances and we all just merge into the one line in the end things go much faster when everyone takes a turn to let someone in. In the big picture does it really make that much of a difference to your day?
Thanks Carey. It doesn’t make that much of a difference. That’s why it’s self-sabotage to let something like this get to you. 🙂
I used to listen to informative tapes while I was driving rather than music. I would be so absorbed in what was being said that when someone would be a donkey for whatever reason, it didn’t phase me – my mind was thinking about other things. (And no, I wasn’t a meandering turtle on the highway.) But when I went back to mindless music and commercials, I found that I became much more agitated by minor confrontations. More cussing and honking took place. So mindset has a big impact on how you handle any situation. If you are preoccupied – but still grounded in your surroundings – emotions can be put at bay.
Thanks Joey. The concept of mind-set is powerful. The things we set our minds on have influence in what we do and how we feel.
It is interesting that music makes you more susceptible to agitation.
I listen to books and enjoy my time in the car. But, when I’m with others, I’m more aware of my surroundings.
No. This may not be hazardous when waiting in line at Dunkin, but it is hazardous in many other areas of traffic.
I live in an area where there are often 4 lane streets that merge into 2 lane, and merging is from the right. There are several problem areas where traffic is heavy, with lots of people in the left lane because they know the lanes merge from 2 lanes to one after a stop light. The problem is, 5,6,7 cars line up at the light in the right lane that intentionally bypass the long line waiting at the light. They then try beating the traffic when the light turns green, and will muscle in with inches to spare and without warning. There have been more than one accident where a cheater tries to merge before hitting the curb at the end of their lane.
This also happens when road construction results in merging. People rush around the line of traffic hoping to find enough space to merge at the last second into the line, then cause accidents.
Thanks Hot. Great illustration. Don’t we ‘hate’ those people who exempt themselves from fair play! 🙂 … Perhaps these intruders are proud of their ability to take advantage of others?
Man, this one stirred lots of comments, My point on this is, as I have aged we and by that I should state “I”, I am too focused on myself. What is the big difference if I let one or two cars in? What if I let the bus or the transport truck trying to merge in? In the grand scheme of things those 30 seconds or 60 seconds, will they matter much? If I am that late for something then the fault is my own for not preparing beforehand and leaving appropriate time to follow the rules of the road both written and unwritten. This whole article could take us to another one on why society seems to be crumbling, the one reason is we have effectively put “I” above all else. The aspect of the golden rule, do unto others that you would have them do unto you, is gone. Replaced with what I call the diamond rule, “Do it all for your self, the rest be damn’d.” (Diamond comes from thinking bling and why social media influencers tend to always want to have something to show off.)
Side note I have paid for the people behind me, maybe it’s just the Christian thing.
Thanks James. The shift from “I” to “We” is powerful. If you ask me, all effective leaders make that shift. It’s funny that something like letting people in line can be a challenge for someone who likes to write about servant leadership.
James, is it possible that, by supporting the actions of those who cut in line, you are fostering diamond rule thinking in them? “Waiting in line is good for other people, but it is OK for me to cut in wherever I want. Those rules don’t apply to me”
Thanks for jumping in, Willie. I haven’t quite figured out the way my actions impact others. I do find that I can easily talk myself out of generosity. For example, I shouldn’t buy someone’s coffee because it might encourage them to be lazy – not pay their own way. I talk myself out of giving money to charities because of waste or fraud.
In the end, I’m thinking it’s good to create a clear picture of the person you want to be and then live up to that aspiration.
True story – this happened today. I let someone in – someone that had not waited nearly as long as I had. Happily. And they paid for my coffee. Two coffees in fact, as the person who took my order misunderstood. I have a theory about people – they are either pie people or cake people. Pie people always worry about how much pie there is, and if you get a bigger slice than they do or if more people want pie, what will that do to their share. Think about how this plays out in politics – the politics of fear are all about making people worry about who is getting pie. Cake people on the other hand, just love cake, and love people who love cake, and so they love sharing it, without regard for the size of the slice or the amount left. Ultimately, life is too short to be a pie person. There is enough for all. Coffee, cake and pie. 🙂
Thanks Andria. It’s fun when generosity returns to us so quickly. Love the pie/cake metaphor. For me, I can be a pie person in some situations and a cake person in others. I wonder if that makes me cakie or piake? But seriously, the pie approach seems to narrow life and the cake approach seems to expand it.
This is a great illustration and so true to life! I appreciate your blogs and thank you for sharing them each day :-).
Thank you, Keith. It’s a pleasure to be of service.
This is such a great look into real life. My grandma always taught me “if you’re going to do something do it with gusto!”. Truth be told I probably would’ve let the person in myself, reward or not.
Thanks Sara. Yes, do it with gusto. Begrudging action isn’t useful. It’s possible to do the right thing in the wrong way. However, if the choice is between feeling bad about doing the right thing or feeling good about doing the wrong thing, it’s still better to do the right thing.
The response to this narrative is astonishing, to me.
You’ve tapped into something; find it, please.
What do you think I’ve tapped into?
This is one of the great issues of our time. Traffic etiquette affect almost every American. It is one place where I have observed people behave “out of character”. I let people in – mostly. The only ones I begrudge are the ones who are unsafe but in that case not letting them have their way could be dangerous to me or others.
It’s not so much moral as ethical … There is no right/wrong as there is might or right … What to do v. What to say … How shall I be v. How shall I do? The Mrs. is prescient, methinks.
Don Quixote, methinks.
Jumping in a little late…but I have to know. Did you pay it forward and pay for the order behind you? We need a pandemic of kindness right now so we can get through these uncertain times together!
Great story today Dan! I have to say I laughed out loud when I read what happened. I reminds me of people that wait until the last second to merge on the freeway. Are they being obstinate or is there something else going on that led to that course of action. In the end, probably safer to let them merge and move on with the day. And if we can add a little doughnut with sprinkles on top, all the better!