Thursday, September 25, 2008

Short Story: The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants by Kelly Shriver

The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants by Kelly Shriver has an interesting title. Thats what drew me to it. I found it online.

People are in a queue waiting (impatiently) to pay up for their purchases in a store. Suddenly there is a commotion. The cashier gets up to grab a shoplifter.

"We all wonder why the cashier, a Dominican woman, probably as old as my mom, all of five feet tall, bothers to confront a shoplifter."

The thief has shoved the sandwich he stole down the front of his pants and pretends he has not done it. When she insists on having it back, he "removes a small cellophaned lump from his pants, hands it to his accuser", and walks out. The cashier puts it back into the cooler and resumes her work. All of a sudden the store is filled with anticipation. Now no one is in a hurry to go. Their uppermost thought being, who is going to pick that sandwich? And whomsoever does that, he/she has to deserve it.

For others, everyone speculates to tell them not to eat it. Suppose an old woman picked it:

"Black, white, Asian, it wouldn't matter. We would treat her like our own Abuelita. We wouldn't let her eat the stoner-crotch sandwich."

Two drunk Harvard students enter wearing "VE RI TAS t-shirts" and talking loudly. The narrator recognises them as her students, who gave her much trouble in class quoting from blue-books. She studiously ignores them. Everyone wills them towards the cooler. The taller one reaches and picks it up. Evetryone is kind of happy about that fact.

For a short story, it asks a lot of questions. What is right or wrong? Shouldn't the cashier throw the sandwich into the trash can instead of putting it back in the cooler? Shouldn't the customers arn the buyer? Why did they feel happy when the drunk, loud-mouthed Harvard students picked it up? What is moral?