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Scruples, the game of moral dilemmas

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On a recent walk, I was deep in thought about a note I wrote to my granddaughter graduating from college. My advice was pretty straightforward – do the right thing, even when no one is looking. It was about that time a car zoomed down my street and right through the 3-way stop. That’s when I thought about it – Scruples, The Game of Moral Dilemmas!

Does anyone remember that provocative question and answer board game? It was created in 1984, and according to the company website, it was conceived when the inventor was researching an article about baby boomer morality. He gave a questionnaire to a group of friends who spent the whole evening discussing the questions. It was so much fun, someone said, “This ought to be a game.” And it was a successful one, thanks in part to the nationwide publicity it received on the Johnny Carson Show. it debuted just as my friends and I were entering the empty nest period and doing more things as couples without our children.

Scruples’ questions at the time were rather bold and often awkward in mixed company. For instance, would you reveal your brother-in-law’s infidelity or tell your spouse they were failing in the love department? How about your loyalty to an outstanding employee whom you discovered lied on their resume? Would you knowingly dodge your student loan?

The one that caused the most commotion in our circle was whether or not we’d pose nude for the centerfold of a national magazine for $10,000. The 1984 questions about biracial dating, homosexuality, and an attack on our nation by a foreign power seem strange and surreal to even read aloud now.

One question near and dear to my heart involved the ethical dilemma of a reporter who was given vital information of community interest from a politician “off the record.” I didn’t have a clue in 1985 that I’d be writing for a newspaper in 2020. My answer then was as it would be now, and I’ll leave that for you to guess.

Scruples could be very frustrating if you prided yourself in being a good judge of human nature. For instance, at one of our weekend get-togethers, I whipped out Scruples. There was no straighter arrow or law abiding citizen than our friend Bruce. He was a respecter of all persons and institutions, a true southern gentleman. When my turn came, I looked at the cards in my hand and the reply cards at my disposal, and I posed this question to Bruce, very confident of how he’d respond:

“You are waiting at a red light at 4 a.m. There isn’t a car in sight. Do you go through the red light?”

To my shock and surprise, Bruce said he’d run the light! Shades of the car that ran through the 3-way stop in broad daylight!

That wasn’t the last time I was wrong about a friend. On another occasion when I didn’t receive the anticipated response from Ann, I spent a great deal of time and energy explaining to her that she just wouldn’t do that!

What did I learn from Scruples? I learned that sometimes what we do when people aren’t looking isn’t what we’d do when they are. But in the real game of life I strive to, seen or unseen, be consistent in my behavior.

I highly recommend viewing the 11 minute, 43 second Johnny Carson segment on It’s a reminder of when late night television was entertaining rather than polarizing, when it was funny instead of vulgar, and it might even make you ponder your own scruples!

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.