Posted by: JDM..... | April 26, 2014

More on quick-draw apologies.….

and wooden nickels…..

Remember when you were a kid, and you were in the process of taking some sort of risk, and about a nanosecond before anything bad actually happened you found yourself already loading up the phrase “oh, shit!”….? After seven decades of launching that expression, among others, I can say with some level of confidence that the process has very little to do with “instinct” or “gut feelings”. I suspect the World’s Favorite Expletive is solidly based upon foreknowledge, which in turn is based upon at least a rudimentary understanding of the physics, chemistry, biology, morality, ethics, probability coefficients, and human psychology most likely to apply to the behavior in question, as well as to have the greatest influence on the ultimate reward or consequence.

Lest those disinclined to commit potty-mouth flirt with the delusion that absence the expletive equals absence of emotional response, or that it perhaps makes one immune to miscalculation and misjudgment, let me clarify. The Prime Directive, otherwise known as the “Life Happens” rule, mandates that, unless one is a plant or lichen, living things screw up from time to time, intelligence and piety notwithstanding. Upon occasion, the Most Perfect Person in the World (reputed to be a cousin of The Most Interesting Man in the World, of Dos Equis renown) actually steps on his own shoelace, breaks a yolk, or is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when someone on the third floor of the building he is strolling by, in all of his wrinkle-free excellence, forgets to yell ” garde à l’eau!” before pitching the slops out the window. While he may not launch into a tirade that turns his teeth brown just before they burst into flame, the same thought process and response can be expressed quite nicely in any cultural niche. For example, I recall quite clearly how my father’s ears would redden just before he would lose control and bark “Doggonit!” I wasn’t around to observe how he handled allegedly unanticipated events when he swiped his father’s pistol and sneaked down to the local quarry to play ricochet games. I know “aw phooey” wouldn’t cut it for me when ducking screaming chunks of jagged lead in a rock pit.

The point is, the very fact that we universally utter something between “golly” and some filthy Anglo Saxon construction just before the feathers or what-have-you hit the fan is proof that we know darned well the nature of our acts and how they are likely to turn out.
We know. We just choose to go for it anyway. I will make some small concession to the possibility that one’s chosen verbiage might be spontaneous and sincere in that it could stem from dismay or disgust at not having gotten away with breaking some natural or man-made law.

That said, I would like to propose a moratorium on specious apologies and smarmy public butt-bussing sessions on the evening news. Few people actually believe that shtick anyway. It’s like “Have a nice day,” or “how are you?” Most such exchanges are knee-jerk responses based on social conditioning, and completely insincere. Being introduced to a stranger accompanying someone you met three months ago and you only recall by a first name is a social requirement, as is telling the grinning mannequin that you are pleased to meet him/her, and then, that you hope he/she has a nice day. Deep down, most of us really don’t give a toot on either count. Not that we wish plague and pestilence on the hapless pawn of social convention, any more than they would wish it on us, but the feigned interest is shallow and we all know it. In truth, such responses to strangers and shunned acquaintances on my own part would only be sincere if intuition or a surreptitious bribe ahead of time ensured me that my ego or my bank account was about to be significantly inflated.

Whenever yet another politician or some entertainment world Narcissist bellies up to the microphone, dials up the appropriate eye contact and Face of Contrition, and grovels for a positive reaction to some real or imagined transgression, I am reminded of how an errant child, caught elbow-deep in the cookie jar, quickly stuffs a last treat into his cookie hole and then drags out the Drama 101 Countenance of Remorse before spitting out a crumb-encased, muffled, and somewhat untidy “I’m sorry.”

As I try to devise a way to honestly subscribe to such a moratorium myself, I also have to acknowledge that…..

I have never regretted anything that I didn’t most likely enjoy the hell out of first

So, what can one say when chewing on the impulse to blurt out a culturally prescribed apology because somebody disapproved of something one said or did? Nothing? I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer, and that’s the point. Therefore, I think the best answer would be to “wing it”. Each has to do what is natural for him or for her rather than spit out some canned pap that few believe.

If, after having spent considerable time reflecting on my deed and its possible impact, I honestly regret a recent action, and can state why, then I may find it to be in my own best interests to discuss the revelation with those I may have offended. I say in my own best interest because I find it easier to apologize to someone else for something I did than to myself for something I didn’t do. Snapping off a quick-draw grovel-fest before the dust has settled on the suspected transgression is as pointless as it is transparent.

Similarly, what can one say when subjected to such a honey-dipping by someone else, whether one cares about, or is even aware of, whatever it is that the self-flagellator is going on about? Sometimes I might ask whether they are “sorry for the act or sorry for being caught“, but more often than not I do nothing at all. Why bother? I think the empty CYA apologies speak to the times. Genuineness is not the trademark of the twenty first century. Appearances are the gold standard, like the scenery on an old western movie set. We didn’t just switch to such a tune on the spur of the moment. It has taken the rabid dedication of an entire generation to nurture it into self-sustainability, and I don’t expect it to change any more swiftly, but it will eventually. There comes a time when even Narcissus himself has to gag at what he sees.

In the meantime, don’t take any wooden nickels……..or holographic apologies, either.


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  1. Thanks for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment

  2. I was recently on the receiving end of such an insincere, “I’m sorry”, for a slight committed and apologized for numerous times over a span of several years by the same person. My response was, “No. You are not. If you were you would not keep doing the same thing over and over again.” It will not stop the slight from being committed again, I know. But it seemed to have given the person pause. From the look on their face you would have thought I’d just slapped them. However, as I said, I am sure without any doubt, that the offense will be committed again and again, because the person simply doesn’t seem to care. To that end, one can only shrug and go on.

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