Ethics, schmethics

Long line of people waiting, some talking to one another

Do you think anybody saw me sneak in?

Because I know you cannot get enough of the minutiae that are my life, I must tell you how my lab fiasco ended on Tuesday. I am not proud of my behaviour, but the story must be told. Despicable me, I expect no less than a public flogging.

Before I proceed, I want you to know that I uphold the highest ethical standards in my work life. I have memorized the psychology rule book front to back and I follow it to the letter. Ask any of my psychologist friends and I trust they would concur. Unfortunately, my highly ethical behaviour as a psychologist does not always translate to my life outside work.

After showing up to the wrong lab Tuesday morning, waiting with the other appointmentless schmoes, and leaving in frustration, I did return to my usual lab later in the day as planned. I brought a smoothie for nourishment and a good novel to pass the time. Like the other hapless souls, I took my number and glanced up at the sign. I had snagged 146, but the sign read 133. By my completely subjective experience-based calculations, I determined my wait would be at least 90 minutes.

But then I glanced back down at the machine. Lo and behold, the #140 slip was sitting on the table beside it. Yes, someone must have left the lab in frustration, but rather than crumpling up her number as I had earlier in the day, she left it beside the machine. And–bad Annie, bad Annie–I took it, leaving my #146 behind in its place. I even smiled my inside smile when I did it.

Yes, I jumped the queue. In an hour or so, the bearers of #141-145 would see me approach the desk before them, even though I’d arrived after them, and mutter: “I’m sure I got here before her. What the heck….”

But here’s the worst part: I didn’t even feel all that bad about it. I had spent an hour of my potentially abbreviated life waiting earlier in the day (because I’d been so stupid, mind you), and I figured I’d be gaining that hour back. I made a silent promise I’d be the best patient ever so as not to delay the people awaiting their turn. I spelled my last name and provided my birthdate before the technician even asked because I knew she would, I revealed my excellent veins, and I bled as fast as I could. Oh, and I didn’t faint.

There are so many ways I can justify my inappropriate behaviour. Because I am immunocompromised, I didn’t want to spend any more time with sick people than I had already. I needed to get home before my late-afternoon fatigue impaired my driving. And hadn’t I exceeded my quota of waiting of late?

I’ve never taken an ethics course, outside psychology that is, but I know these justifications are lame. I had no right to jump ahead in line. Five other people were kept waiting longer because of me. It didn’t matter to them that I’d spent an hour at the lab earlier in the day; they too just wanted to get on with their evenings, and I was delaying their departure.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. I don’t know how I can live with myself. Now tell me, and consider this question carefully before you respond: would you have done the same? On second thought, I don’t want to know. I feel guilty enough as it is.


8 thoughts on “Ethics, schmethics

  1. Consider finding that number a gift. Just as the person coming in the door behind you would have if you hadn’t taken it.


  2. I never would have done such a heinous thing, but now that you, my idol of ethic-ness has, I feel like I could. You know what they say about a butterfly flapping its wings and the unknown ripples that can have, even out here in the country….

    Kidding of course….I would have made up my own number, 95 or something close to that, and made a fuss about how they missed me!




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