Full Metal Sadness

"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.

In this week's thrilling installment, a soldier learns a valuable lesson about his dumb lady, and a man from New Jersey is so mad about that thing that happened that one time, you know, with the car or whatever?

My now ex-boyfriend gave me a 10-year-old car before he deployed to Iraq. I no longer need it and have asked him about my selling it or returning it to him in November when his tour ends. He says: "It's your car. Do what you want with it." May I sell it and keep the money? Somehow, that doesn't feel right.
L.W., Queens

Sell the car. Buy a gun. Kill yourself.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here is an important message to our men and women in uniform: lock that shit down. Regardless of which branch of the armed forces you are currently serving, MARRY. YOUR. WOMAN. OR. I. GUESS. MAN. IF. YOU. ARE. A. LADY. SOLDIER. If you don't, you will end up giving him/her a 10-year-old used car out of the same selflessness that caused you to enlist in the first place (or the same economic instability that caused you to sign up in the first place, because 10-year-old car, feh) and going off to defend our freedom, and he/she will start fucking your cousin and selling your shit. But first she/he will write to a national newspaper and make sure to let everyone know that she didn't even want the car in the first place and is being forced to sell it because you don't get back for three whole months, during which time there's a totally realistic chance that you will be killed because, let's face it, shit is grim over there.

I do like that L.W. asked the ex-boyfriend if she could sell the car (he said yes), and now is writing to ask again. How much permission do you need? It's one thing if he told you to sell the car and you felt bad about it, but you approached him. If you're really so torn, maybe you should have just broken up with him before he was deployed, knowing that the long distance and the whole embroiled in a tragic war thing might put an unbearable strain on your unlocked-down relationship (reminder: lock that shit down, guys), instead of promising to stay true to him because you knew that when you did break up with him he would be in Iraq, and, you know, free car.

On second thought: Nicely done. You are an example to us all.

As I drove to a stop at a traffic light, a man in an ordinary-looking pickup truck used his P.A. system to scold me. When he pulled away in no particular rush, I observed that the vehicle had E.M.T. plates. Isn't it an abuse of authority for an E.M.T. volunteer to use his P.A. system like this when not in the line of duty?
Nelson Li, Metuchen, N.J.

Let's you and me work together, Nelson, to figure out what you're greatest hope could possibly be in writing this letter.

1. You expect that a man who drives an ordinary pick-up truck outfitted with emergency medical equipment (basically the pizza delivery boy of the health care industry) enjoys a quiet Sunday afternoon at home with some fresh fruit, hot coffee, and a copy of the paper, who will see this letter and realize that perhaps he was out of line in his off-duty interactions and should reconsider the seriousness of his position (that is so serious he uses his own truck or something, what?)

2. You don't expect your particular freelance E.M.T. worker to read this, but you are hoping that other people driving in Ford Tempos and Honda CRX's outfitted with E.M.T. equipment enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon at home with some fresh fruit, hot coffee, and a copy of the paper, who will see this letter and think twice before they themselves use their P.A. system for the razzing of fellow drivers on the road.

3. You are the loneliest man, still embarrassed over a traffic incident that you can't even bring yourself to fully explain to people (because what were you being scolded for? Stopping? I'm no detective, but sounds like someone needs to spend a night in Truth Jail). Lonely to such an extent that you have spent the past few months stewing over this incident, and when failing to come up with the perfect come-back (despite the hundreds of man-hours used towards that effort), instead you decided to get some kind of public reinforcement for your position that the guy was wrong to scold you (for what, again? Sorry, what?). The offending party, of course, now being long gone, off to live his life without even remembering that you exist.

I bet you a 10-year-old used car that it's #3.

Previously: "The Unethicist: SVU"