Ethics

For the week ending 22 February 2003 / 20 Adar I 5763

Hold that Bus!?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I am the last one in line at my bus stop and as I am about to board I see someone half a block away frantically running to catch this bus that runs only every quarter hour. Is it my responsibility to try to get the driver to hold the bus so that this party can reach it in time to get on?

Answer: You seem to be focusing your entire consideration on the need to save a late-arriving passenger a quarter-hour wait for the next bus. There are, however, a couple of other factors to consider.

What about the extra minute or so that all those passengers who waited so long at the bus stop will have to wait because of this late arrival? Must they pay this price of precious time to accommodate him?

And what about the bus driver who has a schedule to keep which will be rendered almost impossible if he has to hold up the bus at each stop for latecomers?

What we have before us is a classic example of a noble desire to show kindness to someone without making a proper calculation as to whether it is not being done at the expense of others. Life is filled with similar moral dilemmas.

In this particular case, perhaps the ethical procedure would be to point out to the driver that someone is running to catch the bus. If the driver agrees to wait, then you could turn to the passengers on the bus and appeal to their patience as well. If either the driver or the passengers voice an objection, which they are entitled to do, dont press your case and dont even in your heart condemn the objectors as being inconsiderate.

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