When I was a teenager I would often sneak out to the living room late at night sometimes until 2AM to watch MASH. We only had one T.V. in the house. I would wait for my parents to go to bed, which was just down the hallway, in order to creep out and carefully switch on the T.V. My parents probably knew I was up. But I think recognizing it wasn’t doing me any harm besides losing some sleep, they let me get away with it for they saw it was doing some good to the spirit.
I loved MASH for several reasons. One, the male leads were, quite frankly, hot. Real men. Not like those stupid boys MTV kept trying to make me have crushes on. The second reason was because I admired Hawkeye. He didn’t care when he broke the rules. He just did what was right. The army tried to punish him, he would piss off his commander, and Frank Burns was always there to challenge him. He didn’t care. He wasn’t apart of the bureaucracy. He just followed his conscience. While many T.V. shows and movies try to illustrate the high notion that one should damn all consequences to follow their ethics, none did it more inspirational or believable as Hawkeye, Trapper, and B.J.
I find myself at work almost daily stuck in a dilemma that pits me against what my conscience tells me I should do and what my work tells me I have to do. It usually takes places in transactions that should be straightforward. For instance, the other day I was doing a typical surrender/return. This woman and her family had taken home a cat that did not get along with their dogs or children. They had a very busy household. We told them this cat was not a good fit for them. They insisted on adopting anyways because they liked the color of the cat. A week later they came back to return the cat and adopt another one in the same day. Before I had time to even stop the words from coming out of my mouth, I heard myself saying, “Oh sorry. We don’t do surrenders and adoptions in the same day.” A blatant and utter lie. I didn’t care and I didn’t correct myself. I let them walk out; hoping that they wouldn’t come back and they wouldn’t talk to a supervisor about the situation.
Many of my coworkers have taken similar stances on issues they feel as passionate about. We recently have started to charge for people to view their animal after it has been euthanized. Disgusting. We are now charging for people to say one final goodbye. As of yet, not one coworker on the frontline has actually accepted payment for this service. We simply refuse due to principle.
“What would Hawkeye do?” I find myself asking. Sometimes rules need to be broken. Rules and policies don’t always make for the right course of action. My coworkers and I see horrible careless decisions being made regarding the life of so many animals. So we lie, coil, twist, and bend to follow our morals. We do it not because we are righteous, but because we see animals degrade into depression, insanity, and finally death. Some people would argue that this is wrong. Our work’s policies are there for a reason. That stepping in is not our place due to the fact that it’s not our decisions to make. They just might be right. But that is not what Hawkeye taught me.
Last week, I was dealing with a difficult situation regarding a woman adopting a chinchilla. She had just surrendered a guinea pig because it was too much to deal with. I told my lead that we should probably stop this because a chinchilla is significantly more work. It would not be successful for the chinchilla or the girl. My lead told me to ignore it; to stop thinking about it and just keep going on with the visit and the adoption. We couldn’t stop it, she said. Instead of listening to her, I interfered and opened my mouth. I found another supervisor who was as outraged as me. She broke the rules and told them they couldn’t adopt. She plucked that chinchilla out of their hands and found her own inner Hawkeye. Her and I risked getting into trouble. It was worth it.
We’re not saving lives in Korea or in a war zone. The risks are much lower. But I have to believe that Hawkeye existed. That there are people out there that say no when their stomach turns on them. Ideals need to be fought for. If one cannot find the inner strength to stand up in situations so seemly so small, Hawkeye, Trapper and B.J. will always just continue to exist within the T.V. And that just isn’t good enough for me.