Intelligence and Judgement: Not the Same Thing
There was a group of shoplifters, three women and a man, who were stealing clothes from a mall in Tallahassee, FL. The police were called by the clerks in the store, one of whom recognized a member of the group who had been caught shoplifting some months before this incident in the same store. They were in the dressing rooms with a suspicious amount of merchandise when the police arrived. The trick they were employing was to put the new clothes on under their own clothes and then leave the store with the clerks none the wiser. Apparently, this is is not a new technique in the art of stealing. The officers waited outside of the dressing rooms and grabbed the thieves one by one as they came out.
They all initially expressed surprise at being placed in handcuffs and protested their innocence and said it was a misunderstanding and that they were going to pay for the stuff, which was pretty comical but else are they going to say?
One woman couldn’t believe she was actually going to be taken to jail. The arresting officer said something to the effect of, “Well, when you take something that doesn’t belong to you without paying for it in the state of Florida, yes, you go to jail.”
The best, though, was the guy. He was wearing ten (10!) t-shirts under his own t-shirt and jacket. The officer said they might cost $50–60 a piece and that he might be over the $750 limit that made the theft a felony.
Who the f$ck pays $50 for a t-shirt?
The officer asked him where he was from and the guy said, “Meridan” which is about forty miles from Tallahassee.
The officer then asked him why he was in Tallahassee stealing clothes and the guy said there were no stores in Meridan.
“No stores?” the officer asked in disbelief.
“Well, no good ones.” the guy replied.
He then claimed that all of his clothes had been stolen so he really had no choice but to steal clothes from the mall.
I then switched channels (This was on Live PD. Yes, I was watching it. Awesome show.)
After watching this episode I wondered what decisions had brought the man, who appeared to be in his late-thirties to early forties, to this point in his life: in handcuffs outside of a mall in Tallahassee, FL.
We have all made bad decisions. Most are not that earth-shattering. We say something in anger, neglect to return an email, turn down a job offer. Others have more serious consequences. A person may have an affair with a coworker that ruins his or her marriage and career. Another takes a bribe for a rather paltry amount of money and destroys his or her reputation. People steal money from their companies even when they are making a ton of money in the first place.
So many bad judgement calls seem to revolve around sex and money.
There are some very intelligent people who have the worst judgement. They get blinded by ego, lust, greed. They seem to have everything and just throw it away for reasons that are hard to fathom.
Circumstances certainly play a role in our decision making. I don’t know what circumstances brought that man to be stealing clothes from a mall in Florida. Maybe it was simple necessity, maybe to fuel a drug habit, who knows?
Sometimes, it is difficult, if not impossible to know if a decision is “good” or “bad”. Those labels are unfair. A person might be offered two jobs and is not sure which job to take. When deciding on a college or buying a home or to have a child, it is hard to know how it will turn out.
Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20/20.
Sometimes it is not fair to say someone made a bad decision. Maybe the better term is “honest”. Was someone being honest with him or herself when making a decision? Were they making the decision for the right reason or was it out of pride, ego, greed etc.? Was the decision made simply for convenience? Maybe to get out of trouble or for a short-term gain. That is all understandable but maybe not best in the long run.
Of course, who knows what is going to happen in the long run? Maybe smarter people than myself can predict the future but I have never met one. There is no shortage of cheap advice out there; Instagram and Facebook are filled with bromides and affirmations but they don’t amount to much as practical for every day life.
So try to make honest decisions that have some basis in reason and you can least feel good about the decisions even if it does not turn out the way you wanted.
At least that guy was stealing $50 t-shirts. That shows some sound judgement.