If not for the laws of society, some of us wouldn't be good people. We'd be dicks: horrible, vile, subhuman dicks. Without those rules, the world would be filled with people who would genuinely be shocked to discover that killing other people is a big no-no. Murder is bad? Shit, that's how I procrastinate when I'm too lazy to rape.
There are some aspects of life -- some things and places and situations -- where there are no rules set in stone and no laws telling us to not be dicks, yet for the most part, we respect and rarely abuse them. These things are shining examples that the honor system, as flimsy as it is, actually works. I mean, c'mon -- how many times have you thought of taking advantage of ...
There's a weird magic surrounding wishing wells, and it has nothing to do with pinning your dreams onto a chunk of metal and tossing it into water in the hope that by literally throwing away money your wish to become a dragon will contort the fibers of the universe to make it happen. The magic is in the fact that wishing wells are things that seem to shut down the greedy asshole portions of our brains.
Magic and a quart of bum piss.
Let's say you've got a fountain that people throw coins into. You are piss poor and every penny is precious. There's a quarter on the ground next to the fountain. What do you do? You probably pick up the coin. Now, move that coin over a few feet so it's in the fountain. Do you still pick it up? Nope. Probably not. There's dirty water there to deter you, but a foot of water doesn't really count as an obstacle in a desperate-times-desperate-measures scenario. In that fountain or well, the coin has become sacred. It's someone's dream! It's their wish! You can't touch their wish!
Wishing wells are just tea steeped with free money. There really isn't anything stopping any of us from taking that money. No one's scooping up a down payment on a mansion from the fountain at the local megamall, but that fountain is filled with around 30 potential burritos, or a potential jackpot of those super-bouncy balls in convenience store vending machines.
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Why are you wishing for money? It's right there!
We walk on by, fully acknowledging that there's an enormous piggy bank disguised as a pathetic water park nearby that requires no effort to break into, and when the idea of taking all that coinage floats by, empathy kicks in: I wouldn't want my dream to get stolen. I'm still holding out hope that the coin I threw in a fountain 20 years ago will pay out and I'll get to bone an alien one day. Why would I rob someone else of their extraterrestrial boning aspirations?
Empathy for someone else's dumb wishes -- the one thing keeping you from having parking meter change for eternity.
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I don't care that the food will look like a bowl of mashed fingers, just give me my honey-barbecue finger slurry right now so I can have the fuel to perform other shame-based activities.
That's usually what I think while waiting in line at a fast food joint -- a line filled with people who, like me, care more about the time spent getting food than the food itself. People who have already been served are at the top of the line hierarchy. The advantage of being at the top is that you can look at the long line of starving desperate people and feel nothing for their plight as you cut ahead of them to ask for some more sauce packets or a refill.
Everyone in that line will fill with a silent rage, a pulsating "Who the fuck does this guy think he is?" frustration with the asshole who feels his placement in the hierarchy gives him reason to think his request is more important than ours. If that person attempted to cut anywhere else in the line, he'd be eating his own teeth for dessert. Cut to the front -- meh, let him ride high on the hog one last time.
The line cutter has admirable balls. Why get mad? Respect it; that could be us asking for some ketchup packets in a few minutes because those burger-slinging assholes behind the counter never ask if you want any, like if they never offer it you'll forget ketchup is a thing and they can go ahead with their closing time ketchup clusterfuck as scheduled. The only way to ensure that we can get whatever treasures hide behind the counter is to stay quiet as the line cutter cuts the line, for the line cutter may one day be us.
"Oh yeah, baby. Save some of that till after I degunk the fryer."