Sunday, September 16, 2007

THE RIGHT THING: THE RING OF TRUTH

Carol Musser was enjoying dinner with several companions at an upscale restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. When Musser excused herself to visit the ladies' room, she expected nothing out of the ordinary. She didn't get what she expected.

"While standing at the sink to wash my hands," she writes, "I looked up on the shelf to see a huge, sparkling diamond ring."

Suspecting that she might be the victim of some hidden-camera show, she carefully looked around the room. No cameras. Only two other women who joined her in ogling and admiring the ring.After returning to her table, she called over the restaurant's manager and explained the situation. He told her that he would retrieve the ring and put it in the restaurant's safe until it could be claimed by its rightful owner, which it was the following day.

Musser never considered keeping the ring, of course, but she now wonders if turning it over to the manager was the right thing to do. Well, it isn't she who wonders this so much as her dining companions and various friends with whom she's shared the story since. "Many said that I should have taken the ring home, called the restaurant and, when the owner contacted the restaurant, have had her call me," Musser writes.

Her friends believe that she gave up too much control when she gave the ring to the manager. Other than the manager's unsupported word, for example, how does Musser know that the ring ended up on the hand of its rightful owner? And what if the owner was willing to pay a reward for the return of the ring?

These considerations never crossed Musser's mind, so she'll never know. What she does want to know, though, is if she did the right thing by turning over the ring to the manager of the restaurant.

She did. That a potential reward, or possible doubts about the manager's trustworthiness, never even occurred to her attests to the fact that Musser's primary goal was to get the ring back to its rightful owner. She accomplished that, and wouldn't have done so any more easily or surely if she'd taken the ring home and relied on the manager to refer the owner of the lost ring to her. If she had been angling for a reward or considering keeping the ring for herself, an effort to gain the most control of the situation might have made sense. As matters were, however, she chose the most expeditious way to find the ring's owner.

There are untrustworthy characters in the world who might have pocketed the ring as soon as Musser handed it over, granted, and then lied about the owner having claimed it. But Musser has no reason to suspect that the manager of this restaurant was not to be trusted. Her experience has, well, a familiar ring to it. We can go through life suspecting everyone in our path of being out to deceive us, but if we do that we'll end up surrounded by people who also trust no one. Or we can choose to do the right thing and trust that those around us will, more often than not, choose to follow our example and do right as well.


c.2007 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Musser did the right thing from beginning to end. If there were doubt about the manager's honesty, she could have told him that she had found jewelry in the restroom and that if a lady came in to claim it, to give her a call. If that person could identify it, it's theirs and, I believe, though a reward should be offered, it should not be accepted.
Yes, I did go through a similar experience when I was a divorced mother working as a waitress and found a large amount (for me) of cash under the table late at night. I just told the manager I had found "some money" and to call me if someone came in to claim it. The next day a customer called, identified the amount, and I said "it's yours." He assumed I expected a reward and when I said no, it isn't my money, he looked at me in a way no one ever has in my life. From then on, he started coming in and leaving big tips as his own way of thanking me. He didn't have to do that either, but I appreciated it. A person's honesty is either for sale or it's not.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope that the ring's owner did do something nice like leave a gift certificate for a meal at the restaurant for the finder! I am more interested in what happened after the fact-a follow-up. How did she know the owner of the ring picked it up the next day and not one of the oglers in the bathroom? Did the ring finder leave her name? Did she call the restaurant to find out? Was the relieved owner leaving a reward?

Anonymous said...

Carol Musser did the right thing by taking the ring to the management of the restaurant. The owner of the missing ring would obviously make an inquiry to the management of the restaurant if a ring was found in the ladies bathroom.

Please Note that a valuable ring or any other valuable piece of jewellery can be identified to the rightful owner,because ALL valuable jewellery is appraised by experts for insurance purposes,so the appraisal will show and proof the rightful owner.

Regards,
Bert Hoogendam
Sarnia,Ontario

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I think Carol was naive and foolish to hand the ring over as she did. First she made the assumption that the restaurant owner was honest. But she also assumed that none of the women who were in the bathroom would dream of going into the restaurant later, describing the ring and walking out with it. It's not enough for Carol to be well intentioned - some street smarts and common sense are also required. The fact that Carol didn't want a reward doesn't add merit to her story - it just illustrates that she only looked at this situation from her own perspective, and didn't consider what a wise person would do: take actions that would ensure the ring made it back to its rightful owner, rather than rely on hope and "good intentions."

Anonymous said...

When suddenly faced with this unexpected dilemma, “Musser’s primary goal” was NOT to “get the ring back to its rightful owner.” It seems her only concern was for herself. She was simply not interested in getting personally involved to help another. The statement “Her friends believe that she gave up too much control” is very telling given that was her embedded reaction, as if she is quite familiar with conceding her wishes to another - the manager in this case.

In this situation, all she knew with absolute certainty was that she would not be interested in keeping the ring. She has no way of knowing the true intentions of anyone else. Giving it to the manager and ‘hoping he does the right thing’ is the simple, quick and non-involved way to transfer the responsibility. “Musser having no reason not to suspect the manager was not to be trusted” is a comfortable way for her to justify her actions. She also has no reason to suspect that he IS to be trusted. Without wanting to involve herself, the obvious and right thing to do would have been to notify the police along with the manager to ensure trustworthy involvement and oversight. Otherwise she could have held on to the ring, called the manager and the police and turned it over to the police if it went unclaimed. Not touching the ring did nothing to help get the ring back to its owner.

Given that the ring’s owner was able to somehow misplace it, Carol was also assuming the owner would know where she lost it. By not touching the ring and only informing the manager, she was truly ‘giving’ it to him and taking for herself only a tale to amuse her friends involving herself. At a minimum, she should have given it to the manager in front of other employees who would witness the manager taking possession and make him less likely to consider keeping it. Again, Carol is unable or unwilling to try to identify with another, assuming the manager would share her moral standing on a restaurant manager’s salary. Since she involved no one else, what is to prevent the manager from pocketing the ring and telling the owner he knows nothing about it. By not even involving other employees to answer to about the ring, Carol created a tempting predicament for the manager. If Carol later phones the manager so she can ‘add to her story’, he could simply tell her the ring was retrieved and the owner had bought her a $50 gift certificate, which of course would come from the manager himself.

This is to say nothing of the other women in the bathroom whom she did not know. Since they were in the restaurant and the manager did not know they saw the ring, it would be entirely plausible for them to easily claim it. For all we know, the manager could have had numerous people trying to do just that.

What we know for sure is that the manager said the ring was claimed the next day. Since he was the one who was in actual fact put in the situation of “doing the right thing” shouldn’t this story have been about him?

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