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In All Fairness

Since I travel so rarely, I've found that when I do, the change in perspective lends itself to me having epiphanies of some kind. I had hoped I'd have an epiphany more on the fun side this time around, but I'm coming to realize that I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness, and that I let it really ruin my day.


When I checked into my first motel, which I had already paid for, suddenly a “resort fee” of nearly $50 was required of me at checkin. (Unfair! Unfair! Bait and switch!) This colored my perception of the entire stay.


And then there was the time I had no choice but to eat at Photoshop World, since in Vegas you can't get anywhere from where you currently are in less than an hour, and so I bought a small sandwich at Starbucks. NINE DOLLARS. And then, of course, there was a space for a tip on the credit card receipt. Because I'm supposed to TIP someone for reaching two feet to their right and handing me a nine-dollar sandwich.


One would think I have money issues. However, that's not actually the problem here, I realized, over the stupid 80-cent issue that happened yesterday.


I ordered a breakfast and told the waitress I didn't want either the bacon or the sausage that came with it, and she asked me if I wanted cheese on my eggs, so I said sure. And then she charged me eighty cents for it. I was really pissed off, and no doubt a psychologist would tell me I should have explained it to her, that because of the way the conversation happened, it seemed as if the cheese was a substitution for the meat. But I also thought that the damage had already been done, I was angry that she'd done it to begin with and didn't feel I should further torture myself by making myself have a conversation I didn't want to have, and that taking 80 cents off the check wouldn't have made me any happier at that point.


As my day progressed shittily, I realized that it was pretty screwed up to let 80 cents ruin my day. It wasn't about the 80 cents, of course. It was about fairness. So I did a bit of research to see if there was any way I could stop torturing myself over things I couldn't control, and found out a few interesting things.


Our resentment over perceived unfairness is related to our serotonin levels - http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=5009305&page=1




Even primates and dogs get pissed off when they get a raw deal - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97944783


Knowing it's a biological hardwiring thing and not a character flaw will, I think, help me to not beat myself up over it. I'm also thinking about the presence of hyperfairness in some of my characters. Michael Davies is really big on it, thus the vigilante career. Victor Bayne, not so much. He might notice the lack of fairness in a situation, but he's very practical, and he wouldn't waste his time worrying about a situation if he had no power to remedy it.


Marianne in The Starving Years has the innate sense of fairness as her defining characteristic—and that's exactly what I like about her.


So, how high does fairness rank on your internal barometers?



( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
I think it really depends on the situation. I know it can make me crazy, so I work on an "oh well" attitude about it.
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
I think I want to find a place in my head where "oh well" doesn't mean "I'm a doormat," you know?
Sep. 7th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
A sense of fairness rates quite highly with me. And I can't seem to explain to people when I think that a situation isn't fair. That's probably because the person I'm trying to explain it to is the one who will end up better off. Fairness becomes a whole other issue when you have kids. Having a boy and a girl with a four year age difference drives me insane at times. She, being the younger but perfectly able to understand the situation, usually ends up winning. Drives me crazy. Luckily my son is easy going. Good karma will come his way, I'm sure of it.
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
For sure, kids are very big on fairness. I think that leads me to wonder how/when/where kids conclude it's okay to start being obviously UNfair. Why there's such a big perceived difference in what's okay and what's not okay, or more simply, why some people are fine with being takers and leeches and don't experience a lick of guilt when they deprive others of what's rightfully theirs.
Sep. 7th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
I so understand! There have been many times I've walked away from a restaurant or store grumbling because of a 'fairness' issue - and it might even be less than a dollar! Like you said, it's not the money (most of the time), but the fairness of it all! If I know going in that I'm going to be charged a 'Resort fee' (or a cheese fee, for that matter!), I can be cool with it. Might not like it because - aren't you getting enough out of me? - but I'm not apt to blow a gasket when the fee sneaks its way onto my bill.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, there is definitely a bonus resentment for me attached to sneaky unfairness! That resort fee was such bullshit. If the room rate were $12 higher per night I wouldn't have thought twice about it. I needed to stay there because it was near my convention.
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
I'm still seething about your $.80.

*has overdeveloped sense of fair play*
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
We'll both need to let the 80 cents go ;-)

If it makes you feel any better, some nice guys from Oregon gave me a can of pop on the bus later. So I broke even.
(no subject) - dysonrules - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
I think sneaky unfairness as Merith noted is worse. If I KNOW I'm going to have to pay for internet at the hotel fine, that's a decision I make when I get there. But if you say it's free and I get there and it's only free in the lobby, I have to pay in the room, I'll be pissed off. It's because you tried to sneak something past me because you KNOW it's unfair otherwise you'd be upfront about it.

I agree with your breakfast. You wouldn't have said "I hope my price will be reduced by $1.50 because I didn't have the sausage." so they charge you for sausage AND cheese. Hello? I'll take those sausage now and eat them later. LOL

So yeah, it gets to me too. Nice to know it's my primitive brain that's trying to make the world a fairer place.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
so they charge you for sausage AND cheese.
Shit, Tam, if you put it that way I'm liable to work myself up into a froth about it again!

I totally agree that making the charges crystal clear and having me come into a situation knowing what everything will cost is the best way to avoid the unfair-freakout. There's a sense of being hijacked when surprise costs are sprung. Like, what am I gonna do standing there at the checkin desk, refuse to pay the "resort fee," ditch my conference and book an emergency $300 flight home? (That would show THEM.)
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
Is Victor Bayne more practical than Michael (well, yes, very much so--but not because Vic is practical but because Micahel is so extravagantly impractical) but is that why he wouldn't worry about it? I think it is more that Michael, for all the shit he got in high school for being gay, was still a sheltered, indulged child. Victor never had the luxury of fairness and I think he just doesn't even see it as a concept that has much meaning, certainly not in regards to himself.

I love Vic.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, I do love the phrase "extravagantly impractical"! I was about to say no, Michael wasn't sheltered and indulged, but yes, compared to my upbringing he was. I gave him the type of family the artsy kids with intellectual parents had when I was growing up, rather than the blue-collar extended family household I grew up in. Those kids got to live in Victorians and go to magnet schools.

Agreed, too, about Vic. I think "fairness" is super-abstract to him. Though I do think he has a strong moral compass that he's never given much thought. When he sees horrendous murders, it weighs on him in a nebulous way. He's disappointed to keep being reminded that some people are so lousy.

I'm glad you love Vic ;-)
(no subject) - hanarobi - Sep. 7th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
Fairness ranks for me to the point that I was nicknamed "Fair Mer" as a child. And drove my mother crazy. And apparently drive everyone I know crazy.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
People should stop being crazy about it and start being fair, I say.
(no subject) - merriehaskell - Sep. 9th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
It's definitely biological - any animal who uses their resources for someone else's advantage and doesn't get some kind of advantage in return, well natural selection is going to eliminate their genes! The reason the more selfish creatures don't take over is that the ones prepared to both take and give soon cotton on to their games.

So yes, we're hyper aware of unfairness and when we're getting screwed over from very early on!

Edited at 2010-09-07 09:10 pm (UTC)
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting way of thinking about it. Maybe that's why being taken advantage of feels so viscerally repugnant.
In - becky_black - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: In - jordan_c_price - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - _litho_ - Sep. 9th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Generally I want things to be fair, but I don't really expect it. Doesn't mean I don't get upset about it though. Nice to know that it isn't just me and I'm hardwired for the reaction.

I worked with someone who was forever complaining about things being 'unfair' - not just to her, but to anyone around her. She would get really angry about these perceived slights. It was tiring and annoying when she was jabbing at situations that weren't a problem before she started labeling them 'unfair'.

The cheese would have wound me up, too. Depending on the state of my other hormones I might have been assertive or just walked away and sworn never to go back there again. I walk away much more than I assert - like you say it wasn't worth having the conversation for 80 cents.

Hope you have a better day tomorrow!
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
You bring up a good point about people who continually complain about perceived slights. I think it's a different beast, which it sounds like you do, too. The whiner complains about how everything is unfair so she doesn't have to take ownership of her own actions. She can just bitch and play the victim instead. Really a downer to be around!

Tomorrow I go to the airport bright and early and I get to see my KITTIES by mid-afternoon. God, I miss them.
(no subject) - _litho_ - Sep. 9th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Sep. 9th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
There are certain situations where I want things to be fair, but in a lot of areas of my life, I've realized that things are just unfair, and that's the way it is. I hate conmen types. I try to be as fair as my nature allows for, and I'm generous when I can afford to be -- and sometimes when I can't really afford to be.
Sep. 9th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
Agreed, there's something about being conned that's a worse level of unfairness. I would like to have the assets to be more generous.
Sep. 9th, 2010 06:47 am (UTC)
I care about fairness a whole lot and get genuinely pissed off when I'm screwed about with, but I think I also have a pretty good handle on the ability to ignore it when there's nothing I can do about it. Something I think comes from my deep seated belief that the world and most people in it suck and are either stupid or bastards. So knowing that people will always try to rip you off makes it less offensive when they do? Maybe... Either way, there's no sense getting too aggro unless there's something to be gained or an injustice that can actually be remedied for once.
Sep. 9th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
That's a very Vic-like attitude, about people sucking. Still, they often manage to outdo themselves.
Sep. 10th, 2010 02:47 am (UTC)
I am all for fairness. Drives me crazy trying to explain to my dad why something is unfair - it's like talking to a brick wall.
Sep. 17th, 2010 02:09 am (UTC)
Fairness stuff can drive me nuts, too
Sometimes what I need in an unfair situation is just a chance to speak my mind. If I tell myself "this won't change a thing" then I am prepared but it helps me to vent a bit (politely, if I can manage it ;-).

But sometimes it leads to an unexpected resolution (sometimes something you couldn't have guessed would happen), which makes it even more satisfying. This happened recently on vacation and I'm so glad I spoke my mind instead of stewing.

(Okay, I stewed a little, but the unexpected resolution was so much better than the alternative, which literally involved pain and suffering AS WELL AS obsessing about the unfairness.)

So that's my recommendation--tell yourself "this won't change a thing but perhaps make me feel better" and then say, "Hey, you probably can't do anything about this, and I can live with that, but I wanted to let you know that XYZ." (If just the chance to speak your mind or point out the unfairness BY ITSELF, without hope of a fix, doesn't work for you, then ignore my advice. This isn't for everyone.)
Sep. 17th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Re: Fairness stuff can drive me nuts, too
P.S. Darn it, I never put my name there.

-Kendall ;-)
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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