Classic passing the buck

FOR four or five days last week I carried a Euro 20 cent coin in my pocket and a troubled expression on my face.

This coin is identical in thickness and colour to an Australian $2 coin.

If it wasn't slightly larger in circumference it would be impossible to tell the two apart at a glance.

And somebody - a shop assistant or barman - must have slipped it into my change. They might have done so in all innocence, but I've not ruled out the possibility that they deliberately singled me out as an easy victim.

Now 20 Euro cents are worth next to nothing, but that's not the point. Because I hadn't paid enough attention, I was $2 down with no way of knowing who had dudded me.

I realise two bucks isn't much, but there are principles at stake here. Principles and the not inconsiderable dilemma for me of whether I should try to pass off the coin as $2 as someone had done to me.

On a number of occasions I fingered the coin in my pocket at the till wondering if I dare, musing on the morality involved. To obtain goods in such a way would certainly count as theft, possibly fraud and would be entirely against my personal code of ethics.

And then there was the possibility of being caught. I'm not sure I could have convincingly feigned ignorance if challenged.

It wasn't worth the risk.

Besides, passing the coin to a third party would leave them with precisely the same problem I was wrestling with. I probably would have thrown it away, accepting the $2 hit to the Taylor budget.

But then I experienced some divine intervention. In church for a school concert I found myself encouraged to leave a gold coin donation. So, on impulse I did.

Actually I left several gold coins, not just the useless one.

Now you might consider this to be a wicked and deceitful act, but I've since given the matter some serious thought and I don't agree.

To start with, I donated some good cash along with the bad.

And I figure the vicar will be far more able than I when it comes to moral and ethical conundrums. He'll know what to do with my gift.

The Lord giveth, and so too, when funny money is involved, do I...

An Englishman abroad with Adrian Taylor



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