You know, there are times when the actions of my fellow human beings on this planet alarm me. I mean, I have to sit back and wonder just what is going on in people's heads when they do things that are just asking for trouble. Now, I'm no saint. I've made my own share of boneheaded mistakes. Hell, they've made me who I am today: a cautious, careful, law-abiding citizen. But when I look at the news, or listen to some of my friends detail the ails of their own lives, it becomes apparent that perhaps not everyone has learned the same lessons I have.
So I thought I'd write them down. These are generalized, grand sweeping rules I've adopted to govern a lot of what I do in life. Or, to be more accurate, how I go about ensuring that I avoid incarceration. As such there aren't many to list, but the few I have below are cherished chestnuts I maintain in my day to day dealings in order to ensure my cherished chestnuts remain out of the fire . . . and out of the hands of some big dude named "Bubba."
So, let us proceed:
RULE 1 -- "Mind your damn business."
This should be pretty obvious. We all know it's true, after all. And yet, why do so many people ignore this sage advice? This is one I've been guilty of before in my youth, although usually for altruistic reasons. I was always that guy -- well meaning, but usually sticking his neck out too far for someone else when they don't really require his help. Yup, that was me. Too good for my own good. I got burned one too many times on this one, though, and so generally these days I very rarely help a stranger or acquaintance unless they ask me specifically for help. Because sometimes what you think is a solicitation for assistance is in fact just someone looking for another set of ears to vent their frustrations upon. And all that's required of you in such a situation is to simply listen. Things have the tendency to get much more complicated if you stray from this plan. This also includes breaking up fights and/or trying to referee an argument between two heated individuals. Take it from me, just stay out of it!
RULE 2 -- "Never lend friends money."
I would include family in this one, too, but for me family is different. You have just the same or even less of a chance of getting that money back from family members as you do with friends, sure. But the difference is that you're kinda forced to stay family with these people. Shared DNA, you know? Not so with friends. I swear, nothing sours a friendship faster than a buddy who promises to pay you back and then never does. For me, having to then ask said friend to pay me back is twice as bad and really infuriates me. I've had it happen before; suffice to say I no longer speak to these people anymore. It sucks. I can only recall once lending a good sum of funds to one of my best friends, and only because he was in such dire straits at the time. Happily, this friend wasn't a douche nozzle and actually paid me back. But, no, as a general rule I don't tend to risk this behavior often. I value my friendships, and would like to stay out of prison even more, thank you very much.
RULE 3 -- "Never speak aloud in public your opinions on politics or religion."
When I say "in public," I mean in front of a good sized crowd of people you don't know personally. Like on the subway or at some function you've been invited to speak at. First of all, to those who agree with your views -- you're simply preaching to the choir. What a waste of time! But, for those who do not agree with you . . . you could be risking a huge fight or, worse, your own life. See, you can control what you say. So exercise that control! What you can't control, unfortunately, is if Fred sitting in the third row five seats from the left remembered to take his psych meds that morning. Some people (i.e., MOST people) cannot stand when someone else has a differing outlook from their own. At best, they'll roll their eyes and hate your guts in silence. But at worse, Fred decides your right arm might look better lightly seasoned and sauteed with a nice side of buttered parsnips. Do not feed the lunatic, people! Keep your opinions to yourself.
RULE 4 -- "Never look for easy money."
There's no such thing. Honestly. Easy money is almost always illegal money. Case in point. A good friend of mine recently came into a great deal of dough. His live-in girlfriend--always looking for a good thing--convinced him to invest all that cash in a new development scheme her best friend was cooking up. This friend, not knowing much about real estate and investing, took her word that it was a sure-fire thing and agreed to go along with the plan. He had no idea what he was getting involved with might not be all that legal. All he focused on was that he would make tons more money back on the returns--and quick! Lo and behold, it ended up in the news and is now a huge federal lawsuit in the making. Lesson to be learned? Never trust "easy" money. It's never a sure thing, and is almost always guaranteed to send you to the big house.
Rule 5 -- "Don't commit a crime."
Well, duh. I know this goes without saying, but here's what I mean. Even if you are all but guaranteed to get away with it--don't do it! In my book, even a 0.05% chance of getting caught is too great a risk. A few years ago, a construction worker friend of mine tried to convince me to rent a truck so that we could drive over to the construction site he was working at and load up all the spare spools of copper wiring that were lying around. According to him they were surplus, and if we didn't pick them up quick the rich contractor would, and keep all the money from selling the excess to the scrap yard for himself. This friend swore up and down that there was nothing criminal about the enterprise at all, just a matter of beating someone else to the punch. The site was not guarded or surveilled, and he had the keys to access the grounds nonetheless. It would have been a quick in and out operation, netting us roughly 5 grand apiece! As tempting as it was, my common sense of course kicked in. I just knew this could not be legal. And sure enough, it wasn't! Had I given in to my friend's insistence, who knows where I might have ended up. But it's not all that difficult to guess . . .
Rule 6 -- "Don't be a gossip."
Seriously, no one likes a false witness. Or a rumor monger. Talking about someone else behind their back is probably the lowest form of human social interaction there is, and yet it is the most popular. I guess it's hardwired into our little primate brains. Something our ancestors did to pass the time while picking out gnats and fleas from each others 'dos. But it's just not cute. Not only does gossip have a tendency to quickly escalate to the passing of untruths and wild speculation, but it can end up really hurting the target of said gossip. And if we're dealing with the likes of poor, unstable Fred again . . . You remember Fred, right? Forgot-to-take-his-meds, Fred? Yes, well, you get the picture. I think in the annals of human history more fights have been attributed to he said/she said shenanigans than any other activity, save "yo mama" jokes. And as my man Yoda was once heard to remark: Fights lead to handcuffs. Handcuffs lead to jail. Jail leads to . . . (anal) suffering!
And there you have it. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it does encapsulate the very rules I try my best to live by. Most of these are fairly obvious, true. And yet, I see them broken time and time again by folk who should really know better. Have you checked your local news lately? Exactly!
But of course, because I'm such a kind and gracious host, if you can think of any more rules of wisdom to live by and keep yourself out of the slammer, please post them in the comments section below. I'll be more than happy to add them to my list!