The Gifted Underachiever

My life so far

Being nice for a change

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I changed the toilet paper today. Not a big deal except I wasn’t in my house. In fact, I wasn’t in a house at all. It was the men’s room at work. The empty roll was still on the spindle and a full roll resting on top.

Maybe it’s because I’m blessed with time-management skills, but I figured as long as I was a captive audience why not just make things right. Of course, there is a certain amount of mechanical aptitude required for such a task, and this being an executive office space, well, I’m wont to transcribe my abilities to others. But still – this is just toilet paper. Oh, and the topper is that I didn’t leave the empty tube in the stall – I even threw it away!

Of course, one could look at it from the other side in that I have usurped someone’s job duties, but I’m thinking that’s a weak argument. After all, they left the spare roll in there for a reason.

But this scenario brings to mind a question I’ve been pondering for a week or so: are humans ultimately altruistic, or are they evil at heart? Are people really nice? Strip away all social concerns, religion and bare necessities, and I’m not sure that the answer is a good one.

Witness two people coming toward me walking side-by-side down the Wal-Mart aisle. They’re totally engrossed in their conversation about how “Podey” didn’t like the popcorn tin they got her last year and if she doesn’t like these holiday kitchen towels well she can just…. OK, they’re coming down the aisle walking two abreast and appear oblivious to my presence. I am not a slight figure with or without a shopping cart, but am I given credence or quarter? Hardly. I’d be a fool to stand my ground and incur the wrath meant for “Podey.”

Now, if you think things go better with religion then you’ve obviously never tried to exit a church parking lot after 10:00 a.m. services. I’d swear most good church people left something cooking on the stove. I see the rent-a-cop directing traffic on the street at the church exit, and I figure he would be of more use in the parking lot itself.

I’ve been pondering this question because most of my life I’ve been striving to be the nice guy. Yeah, I know, we finish last and only get the girls after the bad boys are finished with them. But sometimes I wonder if being nice is an anomaly. Are humans really meant to get along?

All of this came to mind after watching, of all things, a cooking show. I’ll watch any cooking show as long as it involves food – and cooking is not required. But the hostess was mentioning her home village in Italy where the family still resides. She said the area had been occupied over the centuries by the French, Spanish, English and even Romans.

Occupied? I wondered, what drives one to occupy a foreign land? I know real estate use to be highly desirable, before the bubble burst in Florida, that is. But since I don’t have this conquering gene I’m at a loss to understand it.

I know the basics of how it works: there’s a leader who rallies his troops to seize and conquer, but what’s in it for the troops? There must have been some other reward than squatting on foreign soil. Maybe home life was so much worse. Or maybe they just get a kick out of kicking butt. I’m sure American football started this way. I’m not a football player, but I do enjoy watching the bad guys kick the other team’s collective butt.

Back to  the conquering leader, I’m sure he was expanding his tax base. Simple cure to stoke the treasury – increase your population by expanding your borders.

But something in the back of these mighty conquerers’ minds must have told them that they were taking something not rightfully theirs. A nice person wouldn’t even consider it or at least ask first.

I guess it does take mean people to do something extraordinary, like settle a frontier. I can’t see nice people wiping out an indigenous population to transplant their culture on a new land.

Now, before you get the idea that I’m a turn-the-other-cheek kind of nice guy, I’ll only turn so far. After the third or fourth blockage in the aisle I’d barrel on through and say “Podey” made me do it. I’ve also peeled out in a church parking lot when the line looked relentless.

But changing a toilet paper roll?

Do me a favor. Hold the door open. Fluff her pillow. Fill the copy machine before the paper runs out.

It’s make you feel good. That’s probably the only reason I do it. Maybe I’m not so altruistic after all.

Categories: Bordering closely on religion

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