Off-Ramp

Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Bad Advice - New JR Blog Feature

Today I'm beginning a new occasional feature of the John Rabe Blog in which I kibitz the work of established, respected advice columnists. Today, The Ethicist, Randy Cohen's regular feature in the New York Times Magazine.

He's usually right, but when I disagree with him, he's wrong.

This week, both letters got my attention.

The first is from a man who has a relative (we'll call him Boris) who is still paying on a former employer's (we'll call him Rocky) life insurance policy. Cohen's response is correct ...

The former employee should be told about this arrangement, but if he consents to it and your relative does nothing to hasten his death — no inviting him over for nightly steak-and-fried-egg dinners washed down with a quart of heavy cream and a pack of Marlboros — I see no problem.

... as far as it goes.

Perhaps I've read too many detective stories, but murder is not the only possible motive here. There are several other possibilities, all stemming from the fact that Boris has been paying on that insurance policy for ten years, which to me leaves out murder as a motive.

1. Boris could be aware that Rocky has left his dear wife ill-prepared for his passing, and is secretly maintaing a life insurance policy on Rocky so she won't be destitute.

2. Boris fathered Rocky's wife's child, unbeknownst to Rocky, and wants to provide for the kid.

3. Boris is still having an affair with Mrs Rocky, and wants to have a little cushion for when Rocky dies, which also assuages a little of Boris' guilt in the affair.

If you can think of other scenarios, leave them in the comments section below.

The second letter this week is more problematic.

I am in a committed relationship with the most honest, ethical woman I have ever known, but we have a financial dispute. We agreed to split the cost of a vacation. She bought both of our airline tickets with bonus miles acquired through her credit card but wanted me to pay her the monetary value of the ticket she got for me. -- NAME WITHHELD

Cohen says the woman is right, and that the bonus miles are the same as money. Furthermore, he says Name Withheld should buy her some champagne and apologize.

I say, feh. Exactly how much should she charge Name Withheld? Full price? Bereavement rate? SuperSaver? PriceLine? Will she sharge less because she bought the tickets online, and is she going to charge him for baggage, a pillow, and pretzels?

IMHO, Name Withheld should win a dinner for two in a raffle, take the woman out for dinner, then dump her on the spot. If she's not willing to share the windfalls of life, then she's not good life-partner material. 

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