Career Advice

Known Aliases
Emma, Em, Bez, or Bezzy
Color #
A0522D
#1
(Note: This takes place during the spring of Emma's junior year of university. All of the lecture passages were taken from my lecture notes based on Russ Shafer-Landau's The Fundamentals of Ethics)

Career Advice


“Are you sure about this, Emma?”

“Of course.” Emma smiled reassuringly at Maggie, fellow server at White Cat Café and also fellow UPenn student. “I mean it,” she insisted when Maggie looked like she was going to protest again, “you look like you’re about to pass out. And didn’t you say you have an exam tomorrow morning?”

Maggie yawned. “Yeah. Bio stat is going to be the death of me.”

The younger girl seemed to hesitate a moment before asking, “Are you really sure you’re okay with this?”

“Yes! I swear I’m fine with locking up by myself tonight. Will you please go home already?”

“Okay, okay, I’m gone!”

Maggie disappeared into the employee break room. By the time she returned a minute later, Emma had already started wiping down the tables and chairs.

“Thanks again, Emma,” she said as she left, the bells above the door tinkling as it swung close.

Finally alone, Emma walked to the door and locked it. Turning back to her work, she reached into her apron pocket and pulled out an old tape recorder and a pair of dollar store earphones. Maggie wasn’t the only one with an exam tomorrow, and listening to her professor’s lecture was a better way to study than re-reading the textbook anyway.

For today's lecture we'll be continuing the unit on hedonism. Now, last class we ended on the question of whether or not happiness was the only thing that mattered. So with that in mind, let’s examine our first argument. Premise one: If happiness is the only thing that makes us directly better off, then it is rational to single-mindedly pursue it. Premise two: It isn't rational to do so. Therefore, happiness isn't the only thing that makes us better off. Now, a hedonist would agree with premise two, but they would challenge premise one…..

Emma quickly continued wiping down each table set, settling into her routine. She often arranged her schedule so that she had classes in the morning and a 4:00pm to close shift at the café. Technically speaking, they weren’t supposed to have one person close up by themselves, but no one really said no when it was near midnight and Emma offered them an early out. Emma preferred it that way; it gave her a chance to catch up on her studies when she wasn’t forced into making small talk.

After finishing with the tables and chairs, she moved on to wiping down the counters before grabbing a mop and starting on the floors.

‘But Chelsea,’ you say, ‘some people enjoy doing evil things!’ Let’s look at another argument. Premise one: If hedonism is true, then happiness that comes from evil deeds is just as good as happiness that comes from kind and decent deeds. Premise two: Happiness from evil deeds is not as good as happiness from kind and decent deeds. Therefore, hedonism is false. A hedonist would say that happiness is good for the person who experiences it, not necessarily for others or that the deed itself is morally good…..

Her back popped when she straightened up from her work some time later. Setting the mop back in its place, she glanced at the clock: 12:38am. Emma sighed. It was getting late, and she had an 8:00am tomorrow. She’d have to hurry if she wanted to get something that could be considered a full night's sleep versus a nap.

She double-checked that everything else was taken care of in the main dining area before grabbing the trash bags. She shuffled down the hallway leading to the back door, the heavy bags bumping against her legs with every step. Once the garbage was successfully deposited in the dumpster, Emma locked the back door behind her. There was just one more thing left to do and then she could grab a bus and get some sleep before her ethics exam in the morning.

The door to Mrs. Ricardelli’s office was almost never locked and tonight was no exception. The free-spirited owner of the café liked to keep an open-door policy for her employees, which was applied quite literally to her office. Emma made use of this policy often.

What happens when your happiness is based on false beliefs? Well, if hedonism is true, then our lives go well only to the extent that they are happy. But it is not the case that our lives go well only to the extent that they are happy, and, therefore, hedonism is false. For example, let’s say we have two married couples. The husband in Couple A is cheating on his wife, but she doesn’t know it. The husband in Couple B is faithful to his wife. Hedonists don't care about the circumstances, they only care if both couples are equally happy.

Flipping on the lights, Emma made her way over to a shelf on the other side of the room. On it was a framed photo of Mrs. Ricardelli and her husband, a half-dead potted plant, a mug that read ‘Don’t stress meowt,’ and a ceramic cat figurine. It was the figurine that interested Emma, and she grabbed it off the shelf, giving it a little shake.

Out popped a small key from the hollow inside. Emma returned the figurine and sat down at the desk. The key slid easily into a lock on one of the desk drawers. Inside the drawer was a variety of papers and files: expense reports, inventory records, and most importantly, the general ledger. She pulled out the book, careful not to disturb the rest of the papers, and set it on the desk, ready to get to work.

“You know, out of everyone, I wasn't expecting it to by you.”

Emma ripped the earbuds out and her heart lurched into her throat. “Tara,” she said. “I thought everyone had left for the night. What are you still doing here?”

The manager closed the office door and the shadow she had been concealed in vanished. Tara crossed the office and sat in a chair on the other side of the desk, settling into it comfortably.

Emma thought Tara was being far too cavalier about the situation she had discovered. Then again, Tara didn't seem to be very surprised at what she had found. She must've had a pretty good idea already of what had been going on.

Emma didn't know much about Tara except that the older woman had worked at the café for over ten years. She also had a reputation for mothering the employees, having high standards for their work but a caring heart at the end of the day. The two of them didn't often work the same shift, but she had always been friendly to Emma whenever they worked together. This was a side of Tara that Emma had never seen before. Her lips were curved in an easy smile that didn't reach her eyes, and she looked at Emma like she was something vaguely amusing.

Emma kept quiet, choosing to wait for the manager to make the next move.

She didn’t have to wait long.

“Oh, don’t look so scared, Emma,” Tara laughed, and that wasn't reassuring to Emma at all, “you look like you’re about to be sick.”

“It's not –” she began, but Tara waved her off.

Emma frowned and fidgeted in her chair. “How did you find out?” she asked after a moment, careful not to say what exactly Tara had caught her doing.

“Because the numbers in that book,” the older woman nodded to the accounts book on the desk, “kept changing from the numbers I had fixed myself. Took a few times for me to realize we had another cooker on our hands, if you know what I mean. After that, all I needed to do was figure out who.”

Emma let that sink in. Her heart still felt like it was trying to vacate her chest, but she felt an eerie calm settle over her despite this. Perhaps it was denial of the amount of trouble she found herself in, or perhaps it was the late hour and lack of sleep. Whatever it was, it allowed her to ask with a steady voice –

“And what exactly do you plan to do now that you have your answer?”

“Look,” said Tara, “I get it, okay? I got a kid who needs insulin daily and that stuff ain’t cheap.” She sighed. “I’m not going to turn you in if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“You’re...not?” The question felt strange and wrong on Emma’s tongue.

Tara nodded. “But,” she continued, “this can’t keep happening. Mrs. Ricardelli might not ’ve noticed yet, but with two people double dipping in her books, she’s bound to notice soon. There’s just not enough money coming in for her to not notice. So here’s the deal.” Leaning forward in her chair, Tara pointed at Emma. “You, honey, are going to hand in your two weeks notice tomorrow and you don’t breathe a word of this, and I won’t go to the cops. ‘Kay?”

“Yeah, okay.” What else could she say?

“Good.”

Tara pushed her chair back and stood up. She opened the office door and waited while Emma slipped the ledger back into the drawer, locked it, and put the key back in its hiding place. Emma left the office, Tara following close behind.

“You should grab your stuff,” she told Emma warmly, placing a guiding hand on her shoulder. It was like the last ten minutes had never happened. “I’ll take care of setting the alarm."

"Oh, and Emma,” she called when Emma reached the front door, “a word of advice: if you plan on making this a habit, try getting a job with a bigger company. Easier to hide in a crowd.”

“Thanks, Tara,” said Emma, already fitting her earbuds back in her ears. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Let’s talk about John Stuart Mill. Mill came up with the idea of a hierarchy of happiness; that more intellectual and moral pleasures are above baser more physical pleasures. So according to Mill, the pleasure I get from a mentally stimulating game of chess is better than the pleasure I get from stuffing my face with cake. As a hedonist, we would say that both activities are right because they both cause happiness. Not Mill. He asserted that a person who pursues only baser pleasures is no better than swine…..

Emma snorted. “What the hell does he know anyway?” she grumbled. She could already feel a headache beginning. This was going to be a long night.

She had a letter of resignation to write.
 

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