Likely any student of language and literature from 1958 onward has used one of the little pamphlets now known as CliffsNotes. These magical little books saved many a procrastinators rear end by describing in less detail than Tolstoy, the ins and outs of War and Peace.

When we used them, we may have missed the nuanced use of language of Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. But we got the point. And we passed.

Why, I wonder, did Nebraska’s Cliff Hillegass stop there? It seems the more I encounter the world, the more I am frustrated by some of it’s inhabitants seeming ignorance of how to be a decent human being.

So, let’s call this, the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Not Being a Complete Shmuck.


You are the often absent owner of a business. Your underpaid employees keep things in tip top shape and are highly responsible, accountable and thoughtful.

One day there is an accident involving some unsatisfactory physical conditions in your work space and property is damaged. Though you were not there, and may not have noticed for some time, they call you to inform you of this mishap.
What not to do:

Appear one hour later to condescend to your employees by insisting, repeatedly that they “think next time”. Tell them obvious facts like “repairs cost money.” Rehash the details of said event, and insinuate again that they failed to think before the incident.

Instead, try this:

Get necessary details to locate and assess damage. Say, “thanks for letting us know.” Bite your tongue. Mistakes happen.

And. Don’t be a complete shmuck.