Preparing lunch the other day, I needed to sneeze, so I left the kitchen, sneezed, washed my hands, and returned to the chicken sandwiches.
And this domestic sequence of events triggered a Gedankenexperiment (there’s a word I hadn’t expected to use in a blog post, perhaps Gesundheit-experiment might have been a better choice!).
Imagine, I thought, that I was a professional cook working in a commercial kitchen. Of course, I thought, I would have moved away from the food and washed my hands had I wanted to sneeze, as I had done at home.
But my motives would have been different. They would have been to avoid prosecution, or the sack, or the risk of being spotted by a customer, or a some other legislative consequence.
I would not have wanted to risk my employer’s reputation, or my own.
Fair enough. But that’s different (I think) from not wanting to sneeze over the food for the right reason: because I didn’t want to do the wrong thing by the customer, as indeed I hadn’t for my own son.
Perhaps we let the concept of a reputation to be protected mask what we should actually be doing: the inherently right thing, without qualm or reward.