I love Randy Cohen’s column in the New York Times, “The Ethicist.” Every week in the NYT Magazine he answers a couple of letters dealing with the sometimes tricky area of morality. I almost always agree with his advice, and this week was particularly impressed with how he took a moment to pull back and look at the bigger picture surrounding a particular falsehood:
Minutes before my first lunch date with a man I met online, he called to cancel because he was hit by a bicycle and was in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. I later called the E.R. to check on him, and a nurse said he was never there. Weeks after that, I heard about another woman with whom he used the same excuse: hit by a bike; in the E.R. Is it dater beware, or is there an obligation to be honest even online? — BETH ROSE FEUERSTEIN, LONG BEACH, N.Y.
While there is scant expectation of integrity in online dating (six feet tall? 35 years old? full head of hair?), the obligation of honesty persists even at JDate or Match.com. As does the duty not to be a goofball: can this guy not simply cancel? Must he concoct so baroque a lie — one so easily exploded? Has he no professional pride?
From my narrow, crackpot’s point of view (my favorite), the real harm here is not to you but to the many tens of thousands of New York City cyclists. This fellow promulgates the canard of the pedestrian-threatening bicycle. Average number of pedestrian deaths attributable to cyclists each year here? About one. (There were 11 between 1996 and 2005.) Yet in 2006 alone, cars killed 156 pedestrians (and 17 bicyclists) in New York City and injured more than 10,000 pedestrians (and more than 2,800 bicyclists) badly enough to be hospitalized.
The still greater tragedy? Some of the dead and wounded might have been men you could date, gents who would not invent ludicrous excuses but would stand you up honestly.
Hear, hear! Thank you for providing a little (and in my narrow, crack-pot opinion much-needed) perspective.