It’s the Principle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Two women are best friends, but one lives an honest life while the other lies and manipulates people’s emotions. The honest woman must decide whether or not to lie for her friend.

It’s the Principle

First Edition

By Hong, Seung Geel

© 2019 by Hong, Seung Geel

All rights reserved

ISBN:  978-1-387-60397-8

Disclaimer

The following story was inspired by true experience, but the names of persons and organizations were changed to protect the privacy of everyone involved.  Therefore, any similarity between any of the names in this story to any known individual, whether living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Hong, Seung Geel

It’s the Principle

 

1.Confident Wendy Casper

Wendy Casper is a confident woman, and she believes that she is living an ideal life.  She also believes that, because she has the ability to express herself better than the average person can, she is always “in the right.”

In speech-class during her high-school years, Wendy learned to argue (i.e., to debate) very effectively.  Therefore, she usually can “outtalk” most of her friends and relatives.  For that matter, Wendy normally can outtalk most of those whom she happens to encounter, whether they are friends or strangers.

For instance, Wendy once became involved in a religious debate with a stranger, and Wendy argued so effectively that the stranger actually thought of joining Wendy’s church.

2.In Principle

Wendy easily wins most of the arguments (i.e., debates) in which she becomes involved, but if she should find herself in a seemingly losing situation, she tries to strengthen her position by declaring that everyone should make decisions based on principles.

For example, in principle, every citizen should have equal rights and opportunities.  For another example, in principle, employers should think more about their employees and customers than they do about profits.

In any event, in reality, Wendy does not believe in such principles.  On the contrary, she believes that such principles are frivolous; she believes in “survival of the fittest.”  Nevertheless, Wendy claims such principles whenever the need arises.

3.Best Friend Jacqui Cope

Interestingly, Wendy’s best friend Jacqui Cope, is not as sure of herself as Wendy is.  In fact, many believe that Jacqui suffers from inferiority complex, because she has the habit of checking and re-checking everything she does.  Furthermore, Jacqui seldom trusts herself; she usually trusts the opinion or the decision of someone else instead of her own.

Wendy and Jacqui have been friends ever since Jacqui moved into the neighborhood three years ago, and they became best friends a year-and-a-half later when Wendy rescued Jacqui from a man who was “getting fresh” with Jacqui in a parking lot.

4.The $20.00-Bill

One Saturday evening around seven o’clock, Wendy and Jacqui went shopping at Kmart for new shoes, but neither of them could find what she wanted.  Therefore, they decided to head for Target.

As they walked past the rest rooms, they noticed a man walking swiftly ahead of them who happened to sneeze without missing a step.  And, as the man continued to walk, he reached into his pocket for a Kleenex.  Then, as he pulled out the Kleenex, a twice-folded $20.00-bill slipped out of the pocket and landed on the floor near the wall.  Obviously, the man was unaware of what had happened, and he merely wiped his nose with the Kleenex and put it back into his pocket as he kept on walking.

Meanwhile, on noticing that no other shoppers were nearby, Wendy quickly (and as inconspicuously as possible) picked up the money and slipped it into the pocket of her slacks.  And she hoped that Jacqui would remain quiet about the money until later.

However, Jacqui did not remain quiet.  She whispered:

 

“Wendy, aren’t you going to give him the money?”

 

As they continued to walk, Wendy quietly replied:

 

“Why?  I found it in a public place, so I’m entitled to keep it.”

 

Jacqui did not feel comfortable being near someone who seemed to be opportunistic.  Moreover, Jacqui did not want anyone to think that she herself had the same morals as Wendy did.  Therefore, Jacqui asked:

 

“But Wendy, you saw the money fall out of his pocket, so you know very well that it belongs to him.  Don’t you want to do the right thing and see that he gets the money back? . . .”

 

Wendy could not have cared less whether or not she was doing the right thing.  She was interested in keeping the money, not returning it to the rightful owner.  Wendy rationalized:

 

“Not really:  Finders keepers, losers weepers. . . .

He doesn’t even know that he lost the money, so why bring it to his attention and embarrass him in public?  Besides, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .”

 

Jacqui was not satisfied with Wendy’s answer, and she hated the thought of her best friend doing something that seemed so wrong.  Therefore, Jacqui decided to pursue her point:

 

“Wendy, it is true that he probably would experience some embarrassment, but I’m sure that the enjoyment (of receiving your kindness, along with the recovered money) would far outweigh the embarrassment.  As for his not knowing about the lost money, don’t you think he would know about it when he goes to spend it?”

 

Without even thinking, Wendy retorted:

 

“Who cares?  As far as I’m concerned, what I’m doing might be considered undesirable by some people, but I see nothing wrong with it.  And I highly doubt that I would ever go to jail over something like this.

So stop your worrying, and let’s get out of here before he realizes that he lost the money. . . .”

 

Jacqui still believed that Wendy should return the money to the rightful owner, and she (Jacqui) felt as if she herself were a thief who was fleeing from a crime scene.  But since Wendy had refused to change her mind, Jacqui felt that she (Jacqui) had no choice except to go along with Wendy (at least for the time being).

They hurried out of Kmart and went to Target, where they each purchased a pair of sneakers.  In truth, the women had not been shopping for sneakers; they were looking for dress-shoes.  However, they bought the sneakers anyway because they (the shoes) happened to be on sale that day.

5.The Toolbox

Two weeks later, Wendy and Jacqui again went shopping together.  This time, they went to Walmart, where they went to the hardware department to buy a 22” toolbox for Wendy’s boyfriend.

Just as they arrived at the aisle where the toolboxes were displayed, another shopper grabbed the last toolbox.  Therefore, Wendy located a store employee and asked for the same item.

Then, while they were waiting for the toolbox to arrive, Jacqui needed to use the rest room, which meant that Wendy now was waiting impatiently for both the toolbox and her friend Jacqui.  And as Wendy waited, she decided to look around for a few minutes in the next aisle.  Actually, there was no reason for Wendy to be in the next aisle; she just wanted to do something while she was waiting.

Anyway, a few minutes later, Wendy saw Jacqui returning from the rest room, and the two women headed for the next aisle where the toolbox would be arriving.  Then, just as they turned the corner and entered the next aisle, a male shopper picked up the very toolbox for which Wendy had been waiting, and it was the last one in stock.

Wendy became irritated; she commented:

 

“Hey, I’m supposed to get that toolbox.  I’ve been waiting for it for the last ten minutes.”

 

The male shopper unconcernedly looked at Wendy and responded:

 

“What do you mean, ‘You’re supposed to get it?’  You just got here.”

 

Wendy had not expected the man to vocalize a protest.  Instead, she had expected him to apologize and then surrender the toolbox, as a gentleman should.  But since the man obviously had no intention of giving up the toolbox without a struggle, Wendy decided to pursue the argument more vigorously.

She explained:

 

“I asked for the toolbox as soon as the shelf became empty, and I was looking around in the next aisle just for something to do while waiting for the toolbox to arrive.  So it really belongs to me. . . .”

 

The man retorted:

 

“If this toolbox means that much to you, then you should have waited for it in this aisle, not in the next aisle.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s just your word against my word. . . .”

 

Obviously, the man was determined to keep the toolbox at almost any cost.  Therefore, since Wendy could not persuade the man to surrender the toolbox with reasoning, she decided to outtalk him and persuade him with flattery.

Wendy began:

 

“Now, you and I both know that, legally, the toolbox does belong to you, because you were the one who physically removed it from the shelf.  And as everyone knows, possession is ‘nine-tenths of the law.’  But if you’re as intelligent and honest as you appear to be, you know that it really belongs to me, because deep down, you believe me when I say that I was in the next aisle waiting for the toolbox to arrive, don’t you?”

 

The man could not argue as effectively as Wendy could, and both Wendy and Jacqui could easily tell that he was embarrassed by Wendy’s superior speaking ability.  And Wendy decided to confound the man further and thus gain control of the dispute by again changing tactics.

 This time, Wendy decided to solicit the man for his benevolence.  With a slight bending of the truth, Wendy concluded her argument:

 

“Look here, I’m shopping for my young brother’s birthday present, and I’m fast running out of time.  You see, a couple of my brother’s friends are buying him a set of mechanic tools so he can work on his new car.

Actually, the car is my brother’s very first car:  It’s over 12 years old, but my brother really likes it.

Anyway, we’re giving him a surprise birthday party tonight at six o’clock, and obviously, my brother will need a toolbox to store the new tools that he’ll be getting.

So, you would be doing me an enormous favor if you would let me buy the toolbox for my brother’s birthday present. . . .”

 

Wendy, then, tilted her head toward her right shoulder and gave the man a sweet, innocent-looking smile.  And while maintaining the smile, Wendy clasped her hands together and pressed them against her chest just below the neckline, jestingly behaving as if she were pleading for help.

The strategy worked.  With a sheepish grin and a chuckle, the man reluctantly handed the toolbox to Wendy.

He replied:

 

“Okay, your brother can have it.  He’s very lucky to have a tough sister like you.  Tell him I said, ‘Happy Birthday.’

After all the trouble you went through to get the toolbox, I sure hope he likes it, because . . .”

 

Before the man could finish talking, Wendy blurted out:

 

“Oh-yes!  I’m sure he’ll like it!  Thank you, thank you; I’ll tell him you said, ‘Happy Birthday.’  And I’ll tell him what a nice man you are; thanks again!”

 

Jacqui needed to finish her shopping.  Therefore, as Wendy leisurely carried the toolbox through the sporting-goods department, Jacqui hurried to the electronics department and picked up a package of 50 blank CDs for $12.97.

The two women rejoined about ten minutes later at the checkout line, where all the checkout counters were full and the cashiers were working at top speed.

Now, Wendy needed to use the rest room.  If the checkout lines had been shorter, Wendy could have waited until she had reached home, but the lines were unusually long on this particular day.  And Wendy did not want to take the chance on experiencing an embarrassing moment in a public place.

Therefore, Wendy handed the toolbox and a $20.00-bill to Jacqui, and as Wendy “rolled her eyes,” she whispered:

 

“Jacqui, I’m in a bad situation:  It’s that time of the month.

The toolbox is only $10.88, so the $20.00 should be plenty.

If you’re not here when I get back, I’ll know that you’re waiting for me in the car, okay?”

 

Jacqui raised her eyebrows and answered:

 

“Sure, no problem:  Take your time.”

 

Approximately 10 minutes later, Jacqui paid for the toolbox and the blank CDs, and she went to the car and waited for Wendy.

Then, when Wendy arrived about five minutes later, she opened the toolbox and took out two pairs of cotton jersey gloves.  She cheerfully remarked:

 

“My boyfriend can sure use these (the gloves) when he works on things that have sharp edges. . . .”

 

Jacqui could not believe what she and Wendy had done!  Unbeknown to Jacqui, Wendy had hidden the gloves inside the toolbox, and Jacqui unwittingly had smuggled them out of the store!

Jacqui’s face flushed red from anger, and she scolded Wendy for getting her (Jacqui) involved in shoplifting:

 

“If you want to get mixed up in stealing, that’s your business, but why drag me into it?

What if the cashier had opened the toolbox?  I would have looked like the guilty person!

I can’t believe you did this to me!  Now I don’t know if I should ever trust you again!”

 

Wendy could not understand why Jacqui was so upset.  After all, since the cashiers were obviously too busy to look closely at what the customers were buying, they (Wendy and Jacqui) easily had smuggled the gloves out of the store.

In any event, Wendy did not want to lose a good friend, and she did her best to calm Jacqui by “explaining away” the predicament in which she had placed Jacqui:

 

“You were in no danger at all, because I gave you $20.00, which was more than enough to cover the cost of the gloves in case the cashier had looked inside.

All you would have had to do was to tell the truth, which was that you were making the transaction for me because I needed to use the rest room.  And of course, I would have backed you up. . . .”

 

Jacqui was not satisfied with Wendy’s explanation, and even though Jacqui knew that she (Jacqui) could not debate as effectively as Wendy could, she (Jacqui) pressed her argument anyway:

 

“Wendy, I know exactly what you’re doing:  You’re trying to outtalk me, and I don’t care what you say.  It’s the principle of the issue, and I still would have looked guilty in front of all those people.

If anything like this ever happens again, I’d be too scared to go anywhere with you again.  Do you understand me, girl?”

 

To Wendy, all this fuss over a seemingly small incident was unnecessary.

She replied:

 

“Okay, whatever you say, but I think you’re getting all worked up over nothing. . . .”

 

Then, in attempt to ease the tense atmosphere, Wendy playfully remarked:

 

“Hey, how did you like the way I handled that man?  What a sucker!  I had him ‘eating out of my hand.’ . . .”

 

Wendy’s remark did not ease the tension; it only made things worse.  From Jacqui’s point of view, Wendy had manipulated the man’s emotion.  

Jacqui did not want to discuss the matter any further, and therefore she spoke very little during the ride back home.

6.The Decision

 The next day, Wendy telephoned Jacqui and apologized for the shoplifting incident, and she offered to buy Jacqui a lunch.

Jacqui accepted the offer, and Wendy picked up Jacqui approximately 15 minutes later.  They drove to Daybreak Café, where they each ordered the “Daybreak Special Salad” for $5.79.  The salad included roast turkey, bacon, egg, tomato-and-greens, and a choice of dressing.  The meal also included a muffin and either a baked roll or a grilled pita.  Wendy ordered the baked roll, whereas Jacqui ordered the grilled pita.

The two women enjoyed their lunch and had a friendly conversation during-and-after the meal.  And since things seemed to be going so well, Jacqui believed that everything was “back to normal” between herself and Wendy.

Then, on their way home, Wendy was smoking a cigarette and talking on her cell phone while driving, and she failed to notice the car that was merging into her lane ahead of her.  And as the merging car eased into Wendy’s lane at a safe distance, the traffic suddenly slowed down, whereupon Wendy’s car “rear-ended” the car that just had merged into her lane.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but both cars needed repairs.  Therefore, Wendy called the police on her cell phone, and they (Wendy, Jacqui, and the other driver) nervously waited for the police to arrive.

As they were waiting, Wendy discreetly instructed Jacqui:

 

“Tell the police that the other car changed lanes too closely, and it changed lanes with no turning-signals.  It’ll be that driver’s word against ours, okay?”

 

Jacqui’s mind could not work as fast as Wendy’s mind could, and Jacqui had no idea as to why her friend had made such a request.  Therefore, in a state of utter confusion, Jacqui asked in a meek tone of voice:

 

“Why would you want me to do that?  I don’t want to lie to the police.  Wouldn’t it be better just to tell the truth and say that you didn’t see the other car changing lanes?”

 

As soon as Jacqui had finished speaking, Wendy hurriedly explained:

 

“Because a driver is supposed to have his or her vehicle under control at all times.  And since I rear-ended the other car, the police will presume that I did not have my car under control.

So, if you tell the police that it was the other driver’s fault, I’ll be in a better position.

Do you see what I mean? . . .”

 

Jacqui was “between a rock and a hard place.”  She very much wanted to help her best friend, but the thought of lying to the police terrified her.  And Jacqui’s heart raced wildly as she tried to think of a way to escape her dilemma.

The police soon would be arriving, and Jacqui would have to make a critical decision:  She either would have to lie to the police or take the chance of losing Wendy’s friendship.

Then, another thought entered Jacqui’s mind:  She thought about the driver in the other car, the driver who had changed lanes in a safe and proper manner.  And it seemed immoral to testify falsely against anyone, especially against an innocent person.

Jacqui asked:

 

“Wendy, what about the other driver?  Wouldn’t you feel ashamed for telling a lie against someone whom you don’t even know?  I sure would.

Besides, I would be going against my own principles if I were to lie about the accident.”

 

Wendy did not like what she was hearing, because she needed Jacqui’s co-operation.  Therefore, to pressure Jacqui to co-operate, Wendy pleaded (or, pled):

 

“Jacqui, we’ve been good friends for three years, and I need your co-operation.  Can’t you forget about your principles just this one time?  I need your help badly, and I want us to remain as good friends. . . .”

 

Normally, Jacqui would have needed several seconds to digest something such as what Wendy just had expressed.  But this time, Jacqui understood almost immediately:  Wendy was implying a threat to sever their friendship, which put Jacqui in an extremely difficult situation.  Jacqui would have to decide which was more important, her principles or a friendship.  Jacqui pondered for several seconds and then replied in a soft, shaky voice:

 

“I’m, . . . I’m sorry, Wendy.  I am not going to do what you want me to do.  I won’t volunteer to tell the police that you were talking on the cell phone, but I won’t tell them that it was the other driver’s fault neither.  So, if you intend to lie to the police, you’ll have to go it alone, because I am not going to back you up. . . .”

 

Jacqui painfully had expressed her decision, and she now had to wait for Wendy to respond.  Then, before Wendy could say anything, the police arrived, whereupon each driver was given the opportunity to explain what had happened.

As Wendy had feared, the police gave her a moving-violation ticket, and two “points” would be posted to her driving record.  In addition to the ticket and the two points, Wendy would have to pay certain court-fines and costs.

Naturally, the accident and Jacqui’s lack of co-operation greatly upset Wendy.  But fortunately, both cars were drivable, and therefore both drivers drove away from the scene of the accident without further incident.

As they drove away, Wendy was very quiet, and Jacqui wondered if she (Wendy) now would cool their friendship.

Jacqui also wondered if it were worth losing a friendship over principles.  She believed that she had done the right thing, but she was not positive.

Then, Jacqui thought:

 

“Well, I can’t change anything now, so I may as well be ready for the inevitable:  Wendy may decide to sever our friendship.”

 

Jacqui braced herself for the worst, but approximately halfway home, Wendy asked:

 

“Do you feel like stopping anywhere for a dessert?  Or has the accident killed your appetite? . . .”

 

Jacqui now knew for certain that she had made the right decision.  Wendy’s invitation for a dessert made it quite clear that, even though Wendy had many faults, she was not a vindictive person.  And Jacqui believed that their friendship was still intact.

Therefore, with a sigh of relief, Jacqui answered:

 

“Sure, I wouldn’t mind stopping for a dessert.  This time I’ll treat you, because . . .”


Submitted: May 09, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Seung Geel Hong. All rights reserved.

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