Thursday, August 28, 2008

A GUIDE TO ETHICAL HOSTEL TOILET LARCENY

Let me at the very outset, make two things very clear:

1. I am against stealing. Taking what is not yours without the consent of the actual owner is wrong.
2. I love thin lines ;)

And in this case, there is a very thin line between stealing and, well, uhm, using stuff that people have left behind in a fit of idiocy or forgetfulness. I mean, it may sound quite stupid and may reek of double standards, but it's not. Allow me the liberty of an explanation.

When a starving Ethiopian, who hasn't seen solid food for the last two weeks comes across a sack full of good food in the middle of nowhere, with no address, with ostensibly nobody to claim it, he's not going to sit down, ruminate, wait and then pick it up when it's too late (spoilt, or worse, someone else eyeing it).

Cut to a similar scenario - hostels. When one sees shampoo bottles, toothpaste, soap and detergent lying in the toilets, there are two lines of thought he could pursue:

1. This is not mine. I did not pay for it. The rightful owner will realise his folly sooner or later, and will come back to claim it. Therefore, it is not correct on my part to take advantage of his forgetfulness and use it. That would be wrong and unethical and would be akin to administering an IIT-JEE exam on a dyslexic kid.

2. Okay, then. Obviously someone did not read the terms and conditions of the hostel. No responsibility for goods kept lying around. Now the bozo who owns this either does not like the flavour of the shampoo, or he just plain forgot to take it back. In either case, I can use it, because if he does not like it, I'm doing him a favour by helping him finish it off, and if he forgot it, well, he must be punished for the same. I mean, what if people go about forgetting things? What if the gatekeeper at Google 'forgot' the keys? What if Tendulkar 'forgot' which end of the bat to hold? What if the chief launch engineer at NASA 'forgot' how to switch the ON button? This stuff is here for the using, and boy howdy, am I going to use it!

I don't know about you, but I subscribe to line-of-thought number 2. I find it perfectly natural and there is no question of ethics. If someone doesn't like the flavour of the 2-gallon bottle of shampoo that an obscenely rich uncle bought him from the Gulf, then he would obviously want to keep it in a common place where everyone can use it, right? I myself was highly disillusioned with Savlon Hand Wash (J&J, take note) and kept it on the sink where everyone could use it.

I know that there are many amongst you who will be writhing from the inside about my methods. But it's not all that bad, really. I never said anything about purloining things from the toilet and keeping it for yourself. Now that again, would be wrong, because you're denying everyone else a chance to use the stuff, hence taking away from the purpoted intent of keeping it in a common place. Use it, I say - use it liberally. Even if you're as folically challenged as I am, take enough shampoo to wash a dirty panda with - but for heaven's sake, don't flick the thing and keep it in your room. How cheap is that?

You could, of course, wait for a week, and gauge how many people are using it. If there is no perceptible change in that one week, you can safely conclude that nobody likes the flavour, and by flicking it, you cause no harm to the student community at all. In this case and in this case only, is it ethical to indulge in kleptomaniasm.

So there you are. Believe me when I say your monthly FMCG bills can be lowered drastically.

PS: Moving the shampoo to somewhere in the loo where noone can see it is also not unethical. I mean, if someone wants something free, they'd better work hard for it!

DEDICATION:

This post is dedicated to the people in the Amaltas first floor, who over the last one month have left the following in the washrooms:

- Peach Handwash
- Strawberry-flavoured shampoo, 1 liter (!)
- Cinthol soap
- Aloe vera face wash
- Yet more Cinthol soap