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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Importance of Complete Information

(c) 2010 by Tom King

A friend told me this story once. It illustrates how easily it is to change your opinion, especially if you come to know what Paul Harvey used to call "the resto of the story.

My friend was driving to the pharmacy to renew a prescription. It was snowing and slippery. Suddenly a big Cadillac bore down on him from behind, blasted his horn and swerved past him at an extremely unsafe speed.

"Blankety-blank rich people think they own the blankety-blank road. What a selfish pig!" my friend, a confirmed member of the proletariate, thought angrily.

After 10 more minutes of slogging through the snow, he arrived at the pharmacy and sure enough, there sat the big fancy Caddie, slewed across two parking spaces (one of them a handicapped space). My friend stomped up to the entrance muttering dark imprecations and with a mounting determination to give that self-centered, capitalist pig a piece of his mind if he were to run into the man inside.

As he approached the prescription counter he found a well-dressed man (obviously the Cadillac owner) who was pushing his way to the front of the line. My friend surged forward, intent on thrashing this arrogant jackass now standing at the counter with his arm around the shoulders of a frightened looking woman in a thin bathrobe holding a small child. The man shouted at the pharmacist, who quickly pulled a bottle down off the shelf and soon the woman was struggling to coax some of the medicine down the child.

It was syrup of Ipecac. My friend could see the label clearly.

As the crowd fell back, the well-dressed man explained the situation to the pharmacist. As he told the story, my friends emotional state changed almost instantly.

The woman had been on the way to the pharmacy in the snow when her small compact car had slid in the snow and run off into the ditch. Her son had broken into the refrigerator and drunk a large bottle of cold medication kept there. She called poison control and they recommended getting him some Ipecac to make him throw up as soon as possible and then to bring him on to the hospital which was some 30 minutes away. Ambulances were all out on emergencies in the snow and unavailable, so panicked, she set out on her own when the car went into the ditch in front of a large estate near the edge of town.

The man in the Cadillac had answered the door when she pounded on it.  She told the man what was happening and without another word, he pulled on a coat and loaded the mother and child in his big Caddie.  They roared off toward the nearest pharmacy, honking at couple of slow moving cars along the way to warn them as they rushed past.

As the story became clear, my friend's opinion changed instantly. By then the crowd around the counter was watching the child anxiously.

"You better take him to the restroom," the pharmacist pointed toward the back of the store. "He should be about to....."

About then the kid threw up on my friend's shoes. Somehow, my friend didn't mind even that. Tears formed in his eyes as the child, his mother and their rescuer rushed out the front door on their way to the hospital.

The pharmacist looked down at the empty bottle of Ipecac on his counter, realizing suddenly that it had not been paid for in the rush. My friend reached into his wallet and laid a ten dollar bill on the counter.

"My treat," he grinned at the druggist.

"Paper towel?" the man grinned back pointing at his shoes.

It's a good idea, before you form an opinion of someone, to get the whole story.


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