Gaming the System

There are people everywhere who like to “game the system”, by which I mean they adhere to the letter of a social convention in a way which defeats the underlying intention of the convention. There are countless different areas and ways this can be done, and there’s necessarily a wide grey area between what most people would consider legitimate exercise of rights and what most people would consider abuse of privileges. A lot of subjectivity which I won’t bother to cut through.

it happens everywhere but I think there are regional differences. In Europe I often get the impression people are cavalier about abusing insurance-type benefits and don’t see the harm in stretching their facts to fit the criteria for eligibility. In the US you see people targeting the “little things” in this area. Anyone disembarking from an aircraft at a port of entry will notice the armada of wheelchairs waiting in the bridge. People who were perfectly happy to rush through the duty free stores in Zurich to buy chocolate will descend into those wheelchairs to be chauffeured through O’Hare.

As I write this, a bevy of Louis-Vuitton- and Chanel-equipped “this is River North” women has taken a moment to relax in the Starbucks seating group across from me. One of them carried in a small snow-white long-haired toy dog with a large tag attached to its neck. It’s too large for the dog to wear comfortably. At first I thought it might be a price tag, but it’s an official-looking plastic tag reading “SERVICE DOG”. I don’t know what’s afflicting the owner but I suspect the tag is some sort of a trick to get the dog into places which don’t normally allow pets.

“No harm done”, one could say. It’s kind of amusing for observers, so everyone is better off in the end if we just play along. On the sad side, it’s undignified behavior.

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