Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Social Etiquette: Half-and-Half

I know you’re not a drinker of the morning elixir, Christian, but I need your input to help reconcile a pervasive internal struggle.

I try to move through life as an upstanding citizen, the kind of person I’d like to go with to a voting booth or get to know in a rental hot tub. That said, I had a very troubling thought run through my mind the other morning:  

Moving sleepily towards the morning joe, I realized that we were completely out of half-and-half. It’s important to note that I have found myself in such situations before, and have supplemented with 2%, almond or soy milk, ice cream, and mascarpone cheese*, so I’m not afraid of creative problem solving. But half-and-half just does it for me in ways that other things can’t, so I decided to take my problem elsewhere.

So I took myself to the local coffee-torium. Got my coffee. Answered “yes” to the question of whether I’d like room. And then it hit, like a bolt of devious and criminal insight-- I could take the extra cup they gave me to prevent scalding, and fill it up to the brim with the complimentary half-and-half, pop a lid on it and walk out! Immediate and long-term problems solved!

So here’s my query: Is such action wrong?

*assessment of each substitute, in respective order: Too thin. Not right. YUMMY! Not a good idea as cheese is not a suitable replacement for a liquid dairy product.

Christian:  You coffee people are like foreigners to me. “Answered “yes” to the question of whether I’d like room”. What does that mean? What language are you speaking?

Anyhoo, yes, this is quite a pickle of a conundrum of an ethical dilemma. I think it depends on a few factors:

- How often do you frequent the establishment? Have you given them a lot of money over the years? Tipped well? Do they kind of owe you one? Then yes, steal away!

- Is this a local independent business that is fighting just to stay afloat? Then you are an omnipresent bastard.  

- Are they a major corporate chain that donate money to questionable organizations or political parties and treat their employees poorly? If so, in addition to taking the half-and-half you should have also stolen some scones and the majority of artwork hanging from the walls.

- Was there so much half-and-half that odds are a lot of it would have ended up getting thrown out and wasted if you hadn’t taken some? Then you sir, are a hero.

- What is half-and-half?

Like most ethical quandaries, it’s all in the details.

Pat:  Alright, let me see if I can answer all of your questions..

1.  “Answered “yes” to the question of whether I’d like room”- that is a statement written and spoken in common English. I’m troubled that you did not recognize it as such. I can’t do this blog in another language, if you’re thinking of switching on me, or if you aren’t yet proficiently fluent in English. My Japanese has gone way downhill and I have NO idea how to type those characters.

2.  The particular establishment to which I was referring is one that I don’t frequent often...only when I’m in a real hurry or when I cannot resist the flavor of one of their so-gross-its-delicious sausage and egg breakfast muffins. Its name rhymes with “tarfucks”. I have tipped, lightly. The kind when something costs $1.80 and you toss the two dimes in the jar like it will totally make their day. I’s really kinda’ lame. But this tip thing has got to stop somewhere!

3.  No, it’s not a local, small micro-roastery shop owned by romantic partners who are also in a band together. My cheapness at those places does not extend beyond taking advantage of their punch cards. But it takes, like, three years to get a free drink with the infrequency of my visits.

4.  Yes, it is one of those big corporate places (see:  “tarfucks”). The scones are hard to steal as they’re behind a glass case. And they’re kinda’ dry, even for scones.

The art was bolted to the wall. I’m not going to take your advice anymore, because it was really awkward when it wouldn’t come down and I was struggling to make my getaway. I live in the same neighborhood as these people, man. You can’t tell me to go do things like that!

5.  I don’t know how much was left. I could have stayed and watched the next group of customers, but in that time I could have gone to the store and gotten a pint of half-and-half. The joy would have been gone.

You asked too many questions all at once...I forgot what we were originally talking about. Why don’t you drink coffee?

Christian:  I mostly don’t drink coffee because of its airport runway-type taste. Other than that, I have no problems with it. Although judging by the topic of this post and your actions, it does seem to lend itself to thieves.

As for your moral dilemma. Based on your answers I’m going to say that you are probably mostly ethically OK with taking the half-and-half, but I wouldn’t make a regular routine out of it -- that would be just plain tacky. The fact that it’s a major corporation (and don’t worry I know who “tarfucks” is code for. Let’s just say I McKnow that McChain well. wink. wink.), will allow you to consciously get away with a lot, despite your pathetic attempt at tipping. These companies -- your Microsofts, your Exxons, your Unicefs -- are all the same. They’re money grubbing corporations, that care more about obtaining profit and power than letting you play on their softball team only because you were never one of their employees and you made a tremendous mess at their last Christmas party.

So yes, fill up with half-and-half. The total cost of it is like a spec of dust on top of ant, who suffers from dwarfism, that has found its way into an elephant fashion show where...  umm... ok that metaphor got away from me. What I’m trying to say is that taking the half-and-half isn’t going to begin to scratch at the company's total profits so there is no need to worry that they won’t be able to pay their employee’s salaries or afford their immaculate softball uniforms. Whether or not you take the half-and-half, they are going to be just fine.

Pat:  Thanks. That helps. Though, it’s a lot easier to talk about and rationalize than to actually walk in, ask for an extra cup, fill it to the brim with liquid fat as all the paying customers watch me, cap it and walk out. I don’t know if I have the balls, man.

Have you tasted an airport runway? That sounds like it could be a fancy descriptor for how coffee tastes, like wine is “oaky” or beer is “crisp”. You should try selling that idea to Tarfucks.


  1. Pat, you need to stop thinking like a poor person. Rich people don't worry about taking things that don't belong to them. That stuff just doesn't belong to them yet! You need to approach the half & half as if the coffee place was babysitting it for you. You wouldn't feel weird about retrieving your kids from daycare would you?

    And as for those jerks watching and judging, you might think about taking their ration of half & half too.

  2. I think the both of you should run for President and Vice President of America sometime. This kind of issue is one that could seriously propel you into the White House. And just think, you'd own America and everything in it. At least that's how some presidents seem to act.

  3. Dedrick - You really think Pat is Vice President material?

  4. Hey buddy-

    I was BORN to be a vice-president! If anyone exemplifies vice-presidential material, they can be no more me than ME! Look at my track record: middle school trombone? SECOND chair! High School politics? ASB VICE-President! Marriage? SUBMISSIVE! Don't you dare try to take me on for the role of Vice-President, Christian. I am a better invisible behind-the-scenes quiet guy than you could EVER be!

  5. And thanks for the tip, Megiweg. I woke up this morning feeling rich and plan on taking something that does not belong to me, and doing so with pompous attitude. I'll keep you posted on the outcome.

  6. Pat, if this were about stealing anything besides half and half for coffee I would say, don't do it, it's wrong, be the man you would be proud of. But eff it all, this is a matter of coffee and death and lives are at stake and how would Paul Revere have ever warned the British without his perfect cup the morning of?? Take it. Take it like a man.

    Christian: What is wrong with you, do you just hate America?? It only taste like airport runway for the first few times.

  7. Pat - You think you're better Vice-President material than me? I can sit invisibly quiet and do nothing like a bat out of hell! My credentials include writing for the high school newspaper (not as an editor), being an extra in a zombie movie that now has been in post production for 7 years, and holding the title of my neighborhood's self-appoined, uncredited, and secret historian. I'm like the King of Vice-Presidents.

    Tumbleweed - It's been more than a few times for me. Believe me, living in the Northwest where everyone is a coffee drinker by the time they reach kindergarten, I've tried many many times over my life to develop the taste for it but have had no luck. And I've tried all kinds; regular, fancy, iced, flavored, espressos, with maple syrup and without. It's just not happening for me. People say that I'm kind of like Dan Quayle and coffee is my trying to spell potato. No, wait... they say I'm like Al Gore and coffee is my global warming. Yeah, that's it.