Saturday night, 9 PM
I had dropped off my little one at a friend’s house, and was picking up a few items on my way home. The ALDI store that I stopped at didn’t have any baskets available (due to COVID, perhaps?) and I wasn’t getting enough items to justify using a cart.
This will only take a moment, I told myself.
I picked up some bananas and tomatoes, some cilantro and green onions, and a couple of containers of something called cauliflower dip. As I was comparing the carbs and fiber and protein in the dip to the hummus that I would normally buy, astore clerk informed me that the store was closed.
I checked out, made some small talk about being the last customer of the day with the cashier, and loaded everything into a box to carry out to my car. I paid the total, wished the cashier a good evening, and she let me out of the store.
When I got to the car, I placed the box in my backseat, and was getting into the car when I felt a weight in the left pocket of my blue zippered sweatshirt. Fall isn’t here yet, but it does get a bit nippy after the sun went down.
And a routine trip to the grocery store had just become an ethical dilemma.
I remembered that I had placed two medium size, well-ripened avocados into my pocket as I was shopping, to free up some more room in my hands for the other items I was carrying around. Stealing is not something I would ever do. Intentionally, at least.
I was looking forward to having some avocado or guacamole with the dinner I was planning to make myself when I got home. And I was also thinking about having some with some scrambled eggs the next morning. The doctor I’m seeing about weight issues tels me that avocados are all right to eat, and I’m happy to follow that advice because most of the other foods in that group are ones I have no desire to eat.
Taking the avocados back into the store meant two things: Admitting that I had walked off with them unitentionally, and that avocados would not be on the menu for dinner that evening. But there was never any doubt about what the right thing to do was in that moment.
I walked up to the door, knocked to get the attention of the store clerk inside, and she initially made a motion to indicate the store was closed. If I wanted an out for keeping the avocadoes, that was it. But I was not going to be deterred. I held up the avodcados and pointed to them.
The clerk unlocked the door and opened it. I explained that I had put the avocados in my pocket, and was sorry to have walked out without paying for them. She smiled and thanked me for my honesty. I gave them to her, asked her “What else was I going to do?” and wished her a good night. I then walked to my car and drove home.
Abraham Lincoln once defined religion as “When I do good, I feel good, and when I do bad, I feel bad.” And as I drove home, I did feel pretty good. It was easy to think of reasons why driving off without doing anything about the avocados would be justified: ALDI makes enough money already; I’ll pay them back the next time I’m there; the avocados will probably be overripe in the morning; the total cost was under two dollars, and so on. But the bottom line is that ALDI sells items for people to buy. Someone who walks off with something they haven’t paid for hurts that business, and reveals themself to be nothing more than a thief.
I asked myself, of the two candidates running for president in 2020, who would return the items, and who would find a reason to get back in the car and drive off. I know the answer to this, and I expect anyone reading this does, too.
Of course, neither of these men shop for the food that goes into their mouths. But that dodge hides the fact that one of these candidates appears to have a solid moral core, and the other one, well, we all know what his moral compass would tell him to do.
My vote has been decided long ago, and nothing at all will change that, certainly not a trip to an ALDI on a Saturday night. But the reason I’ll be voting as I am was made clear to me, and I wanted to capture the thought while it was still fresh in my mind.
The avocados will have to wait until another day, I suppose. But my conscience is clear and, fortunately enough, still functioning. But millions of my countrymen are eager to throw their support behind someone who, by any possible measure, has no conscience at all. I hope that they will reconsider over the coming few weeks, because a lot more than avocados will be at stake.