On my way to work this morning, I passed a Chinese restaurant that had a sign up, reading “$3 beers for gentlemen all day.” Now, I don’t care where you are in Manhattan, $3 a beer is a pretty sweet deal; you can walk out of the place a few hours later completely loaded, and your wallet is only $30 lighter.
But note the condition: The bargain is offered only to “gentlemen.” How on earth could I prove, to the satisfaction of the restaurant managers, that I am a gentleman? The definition of gentleman I try to live by is that formulated by John Henry Newman. A gentleman, he wrote, is “one who never inflicts pain,” who “observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend”; furthermore, “he has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice.”
Now, that might describe me on (some parts of) an especially good day. But what if a friend of mine walks into this restaurant and tells the bartender a story from one of my bad days? All of a sudden I’m paying $8.95 a beer again.
(Incidentally, a prediction: They’ll have to change the sign, because someone threatens a lawsuit for discrimination against women.)