Honesty Isn’t The Best Paying Policy

Honesty Isn’t The Best Paying Policy
By Michael McCarty

I’ve tried to be honest of my entire life. This has cost me friends, jobs, awkward social situations and my standing in the community. Plus it ruined any chances to enter a career in politics (no major loss there).
I rather be honest and broke … than dishonest and rich. That’s just the way I am, the way I was raised, it is the way I roll.
Billy Joel once sang, “Honesty is such a lonely word.” And this is true. Here are two examples how honesty affected my life….

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(This was a photo of me when I went to Junior Achievement, in high school. Photo by Steve France)

The first happened in 1976, I think towards the end of May, almost the end of the school year; I was going to Williams Jr. High School and walking home with my brother Steve. We walked pass the Des Moines Register office in Davenport, which was next to our barber shop that Steve and I went to.
Steve spotted a twenty-dollar bill next to some bushes, which were near the doorway the Des Moines Register.
I told Steve, “Some newspaper carrier probably dropped the money, we should check with them just to be sure.”
Steve agreed with me, so we went inside and talked to the manager and told him we found a twenty-dollar bill outside their office. The manager said it probably belonged to one of the carriers, but it would be impossible to track them down and “thank you for honesty and by all means, keep the money.”
We were almost out of the door when the manager, impressed by our honesty, offered us a summer job with the newspaper, which my brother and I did once school was out and would continue until school started again.
The route was near our home; it was several blocks long. Steve and I would ride our bicycles at the crack of dawn – my brother would hit one side of the street and I would hit the other. I remember the 4th of July issue in 1976, the newspaper was enormous, it weighed a ton and it was a hot day to boot. About half-way through the route, the manager stopped by with a pick-up truck and helped us finish, he was doing that with all the carriers because of the size of the paper.
All the hard work did earn me the most money I had made at that time in my life; it sure beat my allowance I was making at home. I opened up a savings account at the local bank and registered for a social security card. With all the money I made that summer, Steve and I bought sold out old bicycles and bought new ten-speed bikes – mine had the design of blue jeans, which I had that bike until I graduated high school.

The second incident of this was about four years later, summer of 1980. I was working at the Bel-Air Drive-In (See the chapter The Drive-In) for more details. Anyway, the year before, the drive-in job was fine, except when high school started. Working those late nights started to affect my grades. So I decided I’d only work the drive-in for the summer and stop when school resume.
My last day at the drive-in, was spent cleaning the drive-in. I always clean the trash left from the night before. It usually took a good couple of hours.

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Anyway, when I parked my car at the drive-in, I saw something unusual from the box-office to the manager’s office. From the distance, it looked like lumps of grass, which was weird to say the lease. So I went to investigate. You can imagine my surprise, when I found that they were wrapped dollar bills leading a trail from the box-office to the manager’s office.
I collected all the money; it was two hundred dollars cash. I was freaking out, that was more money than I usually made a month at the drive-in. So I put the money on the floor of the backseat and quickly locked the door.
Remember this is my last day of work. I finish cleaning the drive-in, it took me a couple of hours; I was hot, tired and sweaty. By this time, the manager had come to work. I filled out my time card and gave it to the manager. He was busy filling out so paper work; mumbled an acknowledgment and continued working. I told him this was my last day work at the Bel-Air and thanked him for the opportunity of working a second year there. He mumbled some more things and still worked on his paper. Then I told him, “I found a bunch of money.”
He lifted his baldhead and said, “WHAT?” – not mumbling this time, clear as a bell.
I told him I found all these wrapped bills from going from the box-office to the outside of the manager’s office door.
The manager then mumbled something that the assistant manager probably dropped all that cash last night and asked where the money was at.
I told him I had locked the money in the backseat of my car, fearing someone might rob me for that kind of cash.
I went and got the money. He quickly counted it. Then counted it again, and just said, “Two hundred dollars.”
Which I already knew, I nodded.
Then the manager said something totally unexpected, “You can pick up your last check in two weeks or do you want me to mail it to you?”
I told him I’d pick it up.
Then the manager shut the door and went back to his business. Didn’t say good-bye or good luck, didn’t say thank you for finding the cash. I wasn’t expecting a reward, but a thank you would have been nice.

The moral of the story is this: you should do the right thing — not for a reward or a thanks, but because it is the right thing to do.

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