Archive | 6:49 pm

He Never Shares!

30 Nov


Last week  our four year old grandson formally announced to everyone,  “I don’t share.” His two older sisters readily agreed that  “no sharing” was his standard  policy,  with the only exception being if  he  was going to   miss out on something he really wanted. In that case he temporarily suspends his no sharing rule. A friend’s three-year old foster granddaughter shows similar tendencies.  If just grabbing something doesn’t work, she declares she wants to share and then grabs it again. I’ll have to  try that.

All this dearth of sharing   reminds me of the “Joey Doesn’t  Share Food !“ episode of the television series Friends,  in which a woman, dating  the Joey Tribbiani character,  causally takes some food off his plate. Like a dog guarding his bowl, Joey reacts with sudden rage.

Our older two granddaughters, after engaging in a fierce life-long competition for nearly everything, have finally decided to call a cease-fire and to share all their belongings. They still have a problems deciding who get to go first and for  how long, but they are improving.

Psychologists study  sharing behavior using   the so-called  “Dictator Game”,  in which one person (the dictator) receives something  (usually  money or food)  and then  may  either  keep all of it, or share it with another person.  Results consistently  reveal,  that  that people usually  share;  often giving  up to  half of what they received. According to Psychology Today blogger,  Daniel Hawes,  one Dictator Game  study  found that   20% of  college students gave nothing,  60% gave up to  half their stake, and  20%  gave  exactly  half of their holdings.  Women generally  tend to give more than men and people can be primed by various means to share  more. For example, using words that evoke  thoughts of sharing, or telling a  story like the Good Samaritan, helps increase sharing.    

            Hawes also reported on  a study conducted by   Harvard researchers Peter Blake and David Rand   at the Boston Science Museum. These experimenters gave young children stickers to either keep or share.  Only 30% of three-year olds decided to share,  while more than 70% of   6 year olds shared their stickers.  Results also showed that all the children, regardless of age,  decided  how much to share based on  how much they liked  the possession. Overall they gave away about 10% less of their favorite stickers.

            Until  about age  four,  most sharing that takes place is not done out of  empathy, but rather  from imitation, or as part  of  the play  process.  Around  4 years of age,  the child develops  a sense of empathy and then sharing takes on a moral dimension  as an obligatory aspect of   social relationships.

            Often times,   people wish   to share certain things, precisely because they  believe the item is  valuable. I once shared two of my favorite books on comedy writing with a young man who was interested in humor.  He ended up leaving town without returning them. I didn’t think that was very funny.

Once  after back surgery  our nephew was laid up for the summer and we sent him a box of videos we had taped of the British science fiction comedy, Red Dwarf.  We wanted to share this show with him,  but were a little concerned   about what  he might think. Fortunately we created another fan and he returned all of the tapes.

This desire to share something we value may be  one of reasons why  many people engage  in  illegal file sharing. Although it may violate copyright laws, it still seems altruistic.  In 2003,  despite a onslaught of lawsuits,  a New York Times poll  indicated that only 36% of Americans believed file sharing was “never acceptable”. The Times said this   highlights a major disparity between “the legal status of file sharing and the apparent cultural consensus on its morality”.

People are frequently placed in situations where sharing is mandatory, like sharing an office or having a college roommate. Roommate issues are among the most common problems addressed in  college counseling centers. An online survey found that 60 percent of  employees  said their co-workers’ annoying habits were  the number one  source of stress in the workplace.

Inconsideration and personality conflicts account for most problems in sharing space, but       specific complaints usually include: 1. Taking or using  personal items  (including food) without permission, 2.Being messy,  3. Violating  personal space, 4. Unwillingness to compromise and  5. Different  styles. Whether it is someone stealing your stapler or eating your last package of Ramen Noodles, sharing personal space can be very challenging. One British study suggests that with smaller family sizes, more people are growing up without learning to share and this may  account for increased difficulty sharing  later in life.     

 Children often receive joint gifts that must be shared and this may aggravate existing sibling rivalry issues. For example on the television series, Everybody Loves  Raymond, there was an episode in which the  two grown brothers are arguing over  a  racing set they both received for  Christmas as children.  The older brother says that he always wanted to set the track up just like the one on the cover of the  box,  with the picture of that “happy brotherless boy”. 

Some parents  set rules for how sharing is to take place or establish mechanisms to assure equity, while others let the children fight it out among themselves. Some authorities think that giving  joint gifts is  useful,  since they give children practice in sharing and taking turns, that they might not get otherwise.

While sharing  might rationally seem contrary to our best interest,  it is an important lesson,  since it is one of the main ways we create  relationships. It is often very difficult to enjoy things alone.  Lord  Byron once wrote “All, who joy would win,  must share it. Happiness was born a twin.” 

For adults in a relationship, sharing things usually isn’t a problem,  unless they decide to breakup. In such situations retired California Superior Court Judge  Roderic Duncan suggests  making a list of all  the items jointly owned, assigning a value to each of them,  and then  deciding who is the logical owner. Having an established value can help both parties  agree on what is an equitable split. When it comes to disputed items,  the Judge  recommends flipping a coin, holding a sale,  or letting each party bid on the item in question.  

Of course, the biggest problem is often deciding what items are actually jointly owned. One partner may have  paid for an item and feels like  it  belongs to him or her, but they only had the  money to do so, because  the other party  was paying for  rent,  a car,  or utilities. These sort of disputes are much more complicated to untangle.

Growing up,  my older brother was never much for sharing,  unless it was my bicycle, after he destroyed his own, or the contents of my bank, when he wanted something. I’m tempted to  say that he never really shared anything, but that wouldn’t be true. There was always the chicken pox.


From a colum in the News Tribune of Souhern Indiana


Neither Hide nor Hair

30 Nov

Taking advantage of the off-season rates, my wife Diane and I  spent a couple days at the beach in South Carolina last year. Such vacations are not for amateurs. Even a short time away from home requires  tremendous logistical maneuvering. You have to drag along enough stuff, so that when you get to your destination, you can re-create a reasonable facsimile of your home. Fortunately Diane is the one who frets over all the weighty issues, like whether or not to take lawn chairs, while my negligible contribution is in the muscle department, lugging things back and forth.  

One of the most frequently over-looked vacation skills is the ability to hide things. It starts before you even leave the house. We left a key behind, so that Mike, our neighbor, could come by occasionally to entertain our spoiled cat, who complains for a solid week, whenever  we leave him alone. We showed Mike the secret hiding place for our house key and  he wasn’t very impressed.

I grew up with an open-door policy, so far as the house and car are concerned. This was   based on my father’s  “we have nothing worth stealing” philosophy and the deeply held belief that a broken window would cost more than anything a  thief  could possibly take.  But now we always lock up the house and hide the key.   Diane has warned me not to disclose the secrets location of  our hidden key. All I can tell you is that it is in an extremely clever hiding place.

Once we got to the beach, all I could think about was that scary American Express commercial,  showing a thief rifling through people’s belongings. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says that at the beach you should hide your wallet in your shoe,  because no one will ever think of looking  there, especially if you push it all the way down to the toe. I admit that I have done this. But what other options are there?

Some people use those nerdy plastic pouches that you pin to your swimsuit or wear around your neck. I can’t believe those things are very secure and I doubt that they are completely waterproof.  Besides looking dorky, they are not big enough to hold your wallet, the  hotel room plastic key card, your cell phone, your Kindle, and your car keys. You would need to wear a keg around your neck like a St. Bernard.

For about $55, you can buy a pair of flip flops such as the Reef Stash Sandals,   that have a secret compartment in the sole, where you can hide small valuables. The assumption here is that a thief would probably think that it was too unsanitary to mess with your flip flops, even if they were suspiciously thick.

  At one point we went to one of those swim-up bars, which are sort of cool, but presents the dilemma of where to keep your money to pay for the drinks. I put some cash in a baggy and kept it under my hat. I don’t know where the people without hats were stashing their money and I’m not sure I want to know.

There is also the issue of where to put your valuables when you leave the hotel room.    The usual sock drawer or under the mattress are ill-advised.   I hate to give the impression that I’m paranoid or that I don’t trust the housekeeping staff, but hotel rooms are notoriously insecure, given all the passkeys floating around, sliding glass doors, and those unreliable cardkeys. We decided to use the in-room safe, although some people advise against this.  Ours was one of those electronic ones, which you lock by entering a 4 digit code and then later  open using the same code. I read on a couple of travel blogs that all these safes have a master over-ride code that the management can use to open it in case you forget your code.   It was claimed that some hotels  leave “0000” or “1234” as the over-ride code. After reading this I checked out  our safe but neither of these  codes would open it. Your valuables are only as secure as the secrecy  of the  override code.

    Some people use the office hotel safe, signing things in and out, while others opt for those containers that look like familiar products, but have built-in secret compartments. Former detective sergeant Kevin Coffey from Corporate Travel Safety refers to these as “diversion safes”.  These devices are designed to look just like real items, such as popular soft drink cans,  wall clocks, dog food cans,  salt containers, water bottles,  vegetable cans, shaving cream cans, and even athlete’s foot spray.  I think you need to be selective, however. A bogus Coke can among several others in a refrigerator might work fine,  but  single can of creamed corn in your hotel room might elicit some suspicion.

There  is also  the disgusting,  but possibly effective, Brief Safe (also referred to as the Skidmark Underwear Safe),  which is a cloth container for your valuables, that resembles a soiled pair of men’s underwear.   The manufacturer says to leave it in plain view in your suitcase.  They claim even the most hardened burglar will “skid  to a screeching halt as soon as they see them.”  They come in only one color—white (and brown).    

You can also still acquire one of those hollowed-out books as a hiding place.   I made one, as a child, to hide my money from my older brother, Norman. I used a razor blade to cut out the center part of a large book and   glued the pages  together. It worked pretty well, since a book was the last place you’d catch Norman looking for anything.

Based on conversations with a former burglar,  writer Jeffrey Strain, from advises against putting  your valuables in common hiding places such as toilet tanks, freezers,  and medicine cabinets.   

Finally there is the question as to where to hide your money while walking around. Security experts suggest using devices such as money belts, neck, leg, or shoulder wallets to foil pickpockets. Travel authority Rick Steves says, “Money belts are your key to peace of mind. I never travel without one.”

Older money belts  looked just like regular belts,   but  had a zippered compartment that allowed you to stash folded currency in them. Modern ones are small, zippered pouches that you wear around your waist, under your clothing, completely hidden from sight.  The ones with metal zippers were known to set off airport metal detectors, but the newer ones   made from fabric and composites are less likely to do so.

 I might consider wearing a money belt if I was doing a lot of travel  in Afghanistan or New Jersey,  but it seems overkill for most  minor trips. In the past I have used traveler’s checks,  but today debit and check cards make them redundant.  I do try to split my cash up  and keep it in a couple of different places, so that I can’t  lose it all at once.    

One reason that protecting valuables is especially important when traveling is because everything is so expensive. On the last few days of the trip I was worried that someone may have taken Diane’s credit card.  I would have reported it as stolen, but whoever took it, was spending less money than her (ala Rodney Dangerfield).      

Originally published in the News Tribune of Southern Indaina