It's ungodly hot here at the corner of Commonwealth and Commonwealth. My blinds are drawn and the air-conditioning's on full blast.
Nevertheless, I am a creature of habit, so I went to the 7-11 to get coffee and breakfast food. It may have been Donettes; it may have been Pop-Tarts -- I'd rather not talk about it, really.
The coffee cups at the 7-11 have taken to sticking together. Normally, I twist them apart, cursing softly under my breath, bending them a little bit, taking, in the end, the cup that I've gotten fewer dirty paw-prints on. It makes me feel a little bad, leaving a cup that I've touched for somebody else to take -- oddly, it makes me feel bad although I could care less if somebody else has previously touched my cup.
Today, beat up by the heat, I didn't notice that I had two cups until I was pouring in the coffee. And, given my general levels of coordination, I didn't think trying to separate two cups while one of them was half full of hot coffee fell into the 90th percentile, good-idea-wise. So I just went up to the counter.
Anyway, the cashier said that 7-11 charged for each cup. I told my story; I pointed out that I didn't want two cups -- one cup would have been a.o.k. by me. And she sighed and looked mournful and tested the cups to see that, in fact, they didn't pull easily apart and she only charged me for one.
There was, back at the coffee station, a whole pile of unused cups. Other people, it appears, have been having the same problem. And I'm sure these 7-11 franchisees are paying the 7-11 corporation for these stupid cups and it's not their fault that the cups stick together. And I imagined them teetering on the brink of losing money from the 7-11 and the defective cups pushing them over the edge and I started feeling a little bad about the whole thing.
Given the profit margin on coffee, I think we can all agree that that's dumb. But it's also something I wonder about a lot: to what extent does the ability to understand the difficulty you're causing other people translate into an obligation to do something about it, i.e. to not cause them that difficulty?
The example that I always think of when I'm thinking about this is kind of embarrassing. Namely, there are some people who call a lot that you don't really want to talk to. (If you are reading this, you are not one of those people in my life.) And for me, there's a certain level of mental irritation that comes with dodging those people, getting off the phone, whatever. So then when I'm calling somebody, and let's say I've called a couple of times without getting a response, I start to think that I'm probably causing the person I'm calling that same level of mental irritation.
Does that mean I shouldn't do it?