Saturday, September 04, 2010


Ever since I can remember, I’ve had what I will call an “interactive” relationship with rules. I’m not opposed to toeing the line, but I’m also comfortable playing relatively fast and loose with what the guidelines specify.

I wasn’t convinced, even as a little kid, there weren’t exceptions to the stricture about not lying to your parents, (at least if they didn’t find out,) and by the time I was an adolescent, I was already cherry-picking among the rules—especially those pertaining to cognitive liberties—that school and society had lain down.

One might accuse me of believing that the rules for everyone else don’t apply to me, and yes, I do think so about some of them. I’ve also been, at times, a line-cutter, an appetizer-swiper, and a loudmouth, case closed.

But that’s only because I want there to be a reason for what I do or don’t do, one that doesn’t necessarily rely entirely on Kantian kinds of considerations; the question “What if everyone did what you did?” can sometimes be answered with, “But they aren’t!”

Take that stoplight on the Burke-Gilman trail in Kenmore, the one with the over-determined sign next to it that reads “Obey crosswalk signal.” I will usually comply with the red, but I see nothing wrong with behaving contrary to the sign in cases where no cars are around or even if, like today, it’s safe to cross and I’ve got momentum.

I blame my attitude on my dad: he was a guy always looking for the angles, and was sharp enough—as I aspire to me—to be able to find them and get away with it.

Family legend has him once famously hoist by his own petard, though: he exploited a technicality, as ranking medical officer on an airbase in Alaska after V-J Day, to get discharged early; officially, however, this made him eligible for duty when the Korean War broke out.

Somehow, though, he angled out of that rule, too.


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