Somewhere along the line, I decided apologies were only of any real value to the person apologizing.
Sure, sometimes people are genuinely contrite and offer their mea culpa—which sounds like an Italian actress from the ‘50s.
“Hey, what was that one movie? You know, the one with the giant squid and the talking dung beetle. It starred Mea Culpa.”
But, much of the time, people use the phrase “I’m sorry” like some kind of bottomless get-out-of-jail-free card.
If I had a get-out-of-jail-free card, I’d punch Jimmy Fallon right in his undeserved success, which I figure is situated directly behind his sternum.
Those words “I’m sorry” are used so often by so many people, they can easily lose all meaning.
“I’m sorry I called you a nag.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you.”
“I’m sorry I asked you if it was mine.”
“I’m sorry I cheated on you with your brother.”
Armed with that little epiphany, I decided some years back that I would no longer say “I’m sorry” … even if I screwed up … and instead sought other, more meaningful ways to apologize, such as with fresh fruit or semi-precious gems not mined in conflict zones.
I also began telling people who tried to apologize to me not to bother, as I no longer recognized those words of contrition.
Am I a bona fide dink? Perhaps.
Then, a tiff with the wife over whether my karate pants had been laundered and put away forced me into the position of having to admit that not actually looking in the drawer before complaining about not having any clean karate pants was the actual problem.
She expected an apology.
She deserved an apology.
I did not apology.
Yup, bona fide.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to couch without supper.
Slowly, and with reservations that had nothing to do with my over-inflated ego, I have begun to think my new way of dealing with folks may not win me any Nobel Peace prizes—I was hoping for the clock/radio or the kayak—and so I’ve begun, when appropriate, doling the occasional “my bad, dog!”
However, upon some bourbon-induced reflection, it occurred to me that there are probably a slew of people (how many in a metric slew?) who are owed apologies or apology-like substances. So, here goes.
- Crazy former neighbor from many years ago who called me a “maniac” after I allegedly tried to run you over with my van, I’m sorry I tried to run you over with my van … allegedly.
- To the police officer who investigated crazy former neighbor’s complaint, I’m sorry I lied about trying to run him over … allegedly. (To be fair, he was standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms like a much smaller maniac.)
- CK, I’m sorry I told you those guys took our last case of beer from Doc’s house party so that you chased them down in your car while I laughed and laughed and also laughed. (I was really pleased with myself.) It wasn’t funny and I shouldn’t have done it. (OK, it was hilarious. But, I still shouldn’t have done it.)
- To my kids, I’m sorry about canceling Easter eggs and candy in 2004 (and every year after). My concerns over the uber-commercialization of what is supposed to be a religious observance may have gotten the best of me. For that, I am sorry. (But … am I the only one who’s noticed Easter has become second Christmas? When I was a kid you got some hard-boiled eggs and jelly beans in plastic grass. Now they have baskets at the store filled with radio controlled trucks, video games and 12 pounds of candy.) This year, it’s chocolate rabbits all around!
- The wife, I’m sorry for claiming there were no clean karate pants in my drawer when there were. I’m also sorry for mocking you in a Kermit the Frog voice when you get angry (even though you sound like Kermit the Frog when you yell) and I’m also sorry I tried stretching the last of the chili for dinner the other night by adding Tabasco sauce and potato flakes.
- To my business partner, I’m sorry I got so upset about that thing last week. I did ask about it a couple times prior but that was no excuse for me to bebop and scat all over you. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything for Christmas, but I’m looking for just the right gift. You’ll probably get it around Easter. (I hope you like kumquats and rhinestones.)
- To the local policeman who rolled up on me and my son while we were out walking a couple winters ago, I’m sorry I lectured you about Henry David Thoreau and the tyranny of the police state. My brother later informed me that you were in the neighborhood looking for a lost dog. (I know, double bona fide.)
- To TR, I’m sorry I said you were the worst writer on the planet. I was angry at the time. Don’t get me wrong, no amount of coaching or practice will elevate you from the literary dregs, but It wasn’t my place to say so. (Take it from a hack, I knows ‘em when I sees ‘em.) Also, I’m sorry I told your husband to do that thing to his mother. I did not know she was deceased at the time. (That’s a lie. I totally knew, and I’m not sorry.)
- To my brother J, I’m sorry I sent you all those angry, homoerotic letters written in the voice of an 18th Century bourgeoisie dandy. I don’t plan to stop, but I am sorry nonetheless.
- I’m sorry I celebrated Black History Month by watching Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and then complaining about how I didn’t think it was very good. (Maybe TR helped write the script?) Before the end of February, I do plan to watch “12 Years A Slave” for the third time because that was a masterpiece. Also, overcome with guilt while bourboning last Saturday, I ordered a copy of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” and I do intend to read it. (I also plan to stop saying “My bad, dog.”)
- I’m sorry it seems like I claimed my grandmother on my mother’s side cooked dry turkeys at Thanksgiving even though she never has. (Apparently I was a little too vague about the matter in my first humor book. This prompted a dozen relatives to mention the issue to me in the same coded language mafioso types use in the movies when they’re trying not to seem like they’re making threats. “We hear you published unkind words about the Grandmother. This does not please us. It would be very unfortunate if any misfortune were to befall you. After all, people fall backward onto knives, and brake lines cut themselves, and people jump headfirst into piranha tanks every day … so be careful out there.”
Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this whole “I’m sorry” thing.
To anyone who feels I owe them a passive-aggressive apology, contact me via singing telegram and I’ll be sure to make a public spectacle of it as soon as possible.