Never Apologise For Saying You’re Sorry

Because if you do, somewhere a Canadian Prime Minister dies.

Mind you, Australians are also into the Sorry game. We’ve been forked into it by successive federal governments – and successful lobbyists – who have arranged for us to maintain a permanent attitude of apology to anyone who has decided to hire lawyers to demand it.

It is a business that changes frequently at the behest of university professors and radical writers. We are presented at intervals with scripts read out on private and public occasions that can be frankly bizarre. The most recent one I heard was an acknowledgement of aboriginal tribal elders prior to a middle east belly dance show held in a Croatian soccer club’s function centre. With portraits of HM Queen Elizabeth and Marshal Tito looking down over the crowd. Frankly, Salvador Dali couldn’t have drawn a more surreal spectacle.

For myself, I agree to apologise for any of my sins that have been detected. So far these have been remarkably few, and as I age, I move out of the danger zone. I still have sins, but people tend to think of them as charming peccadillos. I am not so much forgiven as tolerated. I am hoping to live long enough to get to the point where people will actually pay me for my errors of judgement. Then I can anticipate a steady income…

Should you apologise for the actions of your ancestors…or for the ancestors of other people? Should you apologise for being a migrant in a nation of migrants? Or a native in a nation of natives? Will it not be enough for you to apologise for your own follies, and leave those of others to them and to history?

I think so. I can find a number of cultural links that could place me in either the apologetic or the offended groups…and I would find myself frowning at myself and demanding compensation for things done 100 years ago by people I have never seen. The effort of doing the cultural book-keeping would be insurmountable…

I think I will just leave the past to cope with itself and concentrate on doing my own terrible things in the future.

Keep On Digging

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A news item that flashed though our Facebook pages today showed excerpts of computer correspondence between a client of a sports medicine clinic and the management that turned steadily worse and worse.

There was some sort of disagreement ¬†between them and an initially professional response by the clinic changed later in the day to something entirely different. The language, spelling, and grammar of the responses shifted and the message became vaguely offensive. The client certainly took it as such, but was not intimidated. There’s been a regular little stream of reports about it, and in terms of advertising for the business involved, it would appear to be a disaster.

For myself, it brings back memories of my time in retail service – two occasions particularly.

In the first, I let my mind wander off during a telephone conversation and apparently started whistling under my breath. It was one of those tunes from an advertising jingle that had ear-wormed its way into my mind and as soon as I stopped concentrating it bubbled up. The woman on the other end of the phone became very angry. I apologised for my whistling but she was having none of that apology. I apologised again and again. Eventually after offering the fourth or fifth apology and finding that she was more enraged at each one, I just had to end the conversation. She continued a customer of the shop, but fortunately every time she phoned after that someone else took the call. I suspect that had she heard my voice she would have exploded again.

In the second, a customer brought back a passport photo that was too dark – we had taken it for her son and DFAT rejected it. I offered to retake it or to reprocess the print right there for her to lighten it up. ( Note that taking good passport pictures is a difficult thing sometimes…the criteria are terribly strict.)

Well, this was not good enough. She spent the best part of ten minutes berating me for my incompetence – and exercising herself on the entire scale of scorn and outrage – while I apologised and offered to redress the situation. Each apology brought fresh abuse. NOTHING was good enough. At the end she demanded her $ 18.00 back and I gladly refunded it out of my own pocket.

Then she asked to have the dark passport photos anyway…and at that point something snapped inside me – I said no. No, she had her refund and that was all I was prepared to do. I braced myself for a further blast…but all she did was thank me, took her son, and left. The young lad had the saddest expression I have ever seen on his face as he went. He was dressed in the uniform of the most prestigious private school in Perth, but I would say that his life is a hard one.

Well, that’s the apology game for you. I’ll bet the sports clinic will remember today…and I’ll also bet that they will be able to see it clearly on their business activity records for the next few months as well. Sort of a sharp dip in bookings.