My first professional job was in downtown Boston. I was also a single mom.
I did have a boyfriend, who sometimes bought my lunch at the cafeteria on the ground floor of the Sheraton Hotel headquarters overlooking Boston Harbor. The prices were relatively low and the food was good, especially for a cafeteria.
We began to notice if our lunches were $4.50 (for if I watched pennies, my boyfriend watched his nickles) each Patrick would ring up $8.00. At the time even $4.50 was a good price for meat, potato and a veg. When we looked at the slip and began to hand it to him, he shook his head.
Chatting with him daily, before we carried our trays to a free table was a treat. Weather, the Red Sox, a TV show, my daughter, my friend's five kids, his grandkids all became subjects for brief exchanges delivered with huge smiles that made even the toughest day a little brighter. We liked our jobs but we were often stressed with amount of work and deadlines.
We talked about our unofficial discounts. In one way it seemed dishonest or at least aiding and abetting dishonesty. My boyfriend at the time was divorced and supporting an ex-wife and five kids. His generosity to me was appreciated. I eased my guilt by thinking, I wasn't the one getting the reduction.
On days, when I ate alone, I bought only my Coke. Patrick charged me 25 cents.
We tried to estimate if he undercharged each person going through the line 50 cents less, how much was Sheraton losing, $50 to $100 a day? My take home pay at the time was $105 so the loss was high in my financial sense of reference. Yet 50 cents a day off, every nine days, was almost a free meal.
Patrick was such a sweet man, we didn't want to turn him in and argued the situational ethics.
Maybe he really needed the job to supplement his social security.
Maybe he had a sick wife at home.
After about 11 months, Patrick told me he was taking a vacation, going to New Hampshire to visit his daughter, his grandson.
He never came back. We learned through the grapevine we had established with Sheraton employees who rode the elevators with us that when Patrick was away, the receipts went up so much, the management did some investigating. I don't know if they ever pressed charges, wanted the money back or what happened to him.
We didn't know Patrick's last name and there was no way to trace him.
Compared to the horrendous cheating that goes on today, the bank frauds, the hedge fund capers, the poisons used by manufacturers our crimes were minimal, but they still weren't right. And as much I want to think of myself as an honest person, I can't claim 100% honesty.
It does make me more tolerant of people who step off the path for good reasons, less so than the major crooks who out of greed ruin people's lives such as phony Wells Fargo Accounts. No one is dead or physically injured because of Patrick
But being a little bit in the wrong is not comfortable even if it were not the road to ruin. Nor do I feel better knowing others do far worse things. I want the world to be better than that...better than me.