The lackluster “Golden” Rule

In+Mom+we+trust

Mothers tend to believe that the truth to their advice is set in stone — or rather, metal. However, there are instances when taking their advice is indeed the wrong decision. Illustration by Athira Penghat.

Athira Penghat

Mothers say the darndest things.

For the longest time I had thought of my mother as the all-knowing beacon in my life, which is why I chose the life of a Goody-Two-Shoes ever since I can remember. It wasn’t until my mom’s advice left me lying on the marinara sauce-splattered cafeteria floor in search of an abandoned quarter when I began to reflect upon all the times when following the rules has led me astray.

I like to believe that there is truth to my mother’s words of wisdom, but problems arise when she assumes that she always know what’s best for me. Well, she doesn’t. Ever since I was a kid, my mother always told me to treat others how I would want others to treat me. Personally, I take this saying to heart, but not everyone else does.

The other day, I was about to buy a snack from the vending machine during my free period. While waiting for the person in front of me to make his purchase, I counted the quarters in my wallet. I had seven, I reassured myself — just enough to buy the cheapest item available with an extra quarter to spare. I was about to recount again when a voice interrupted me.

In Mom we trust
Mothers tend to believe that the truth to their advice is set in stone — or rather, metal. However, there are instances when taking their advice is indeed the wrong decision. Illustration by Athira Penghat.

“Hey, do you have a quarter on you?”

Why yes, I had seven. Before I could even think anything through though, I handed him a quarter. The stranger thanked me, bought a water bottle and left.

At first, I felt all giddy inside. It may have just been 25 cents, but the stranger was thankful nonetheless, and above all else, I knew my actions would have made my mother proud. After all, I had taken the noble route, and now, I could reward myself with a bag of PopChips.  I fed my quarters into the machine. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

And that was it, $1.25. I needed another quarter. Where was my sixth quarter? I didn’t drop it, and I didn’t put it in my pocket, so where had it gone? I would later figure out that I had never had seven quarters in the first place, but at the moment, I was desperate.

I even tried scouring the campus in search of an orphan quarter, but all I found was the fact that people at this school are a lot more careful about safeguarding their money than I had hoped. Every metallic gleam I saw across the rally court caused my hopes to soar, but within a period of 15 or so minutes, all I had found were a couple of gum wrappers, wadded-up aluminum wrap and a hardware nail. Then finally, lowering my standards to that of a shameless beggar, I began asking around for a quarter. The responses I received were baffling.

“Sorry, I only have a twenty dollar bill.”

“Umm, I don’t carry around coins.”

“No.”

There was no way to tell if any (if not all) of these people were lying, but I felt short-changed — literally. I had done my part of the deal. I had treated the vending machine stranger how I would have wanted others to treat me, so I didn’t understand why my generosity had not been reciprocated. My mother had failed me, or so I wanted to believe.

It’s frustrating because despite the fact that heeding my mother’s advice may have left me wandering the hallways like a hobo, I can’t deny the fact that, knowing I was able to help somebody else, I still feel as if I did the right thing. Even though I may not have received any generosity in return, I’m still glad that I at least provided it to somebody else in need. So sure, mothers may not always be right, but they’re usually dead on three-quarters of the time.