Holly Henry: It’s not my fault - but I’m sorry anywayThe gas station clerk was madly swiping my credit card, attempting to get it to register. “I’m sorry,” I said, when it became abundantly obvious that it was not going to work.
By: Holly Henry, Lake County News Chronicle
The gas station clerk was madly swiping my credit card, attempting to get it to register. “I’m sorry,” I said, when it became abundantly obvious that it was not going to work.
“Why are you sorry?” he laughed. “It isn’t your fault.”
Well maybe it was. Maybe I ruined the card last winter when I used it to scrape ice off my windshield. Or did it just wear out from overuse? Perhaps it landed near something magnetic the last time I threw it into the giant abyss known as my purse and become demagnetized. Maybe we shouldn’t have used it to spread peanut butter on our toast on that last camping trip to South Dakota. Yes, I was just sure, it was my fault.
And I was sorry. Sorry the clerk would now have to punch the numbers in manually. Sorry the person next in line would be delayed. Sorry to have to trouble the folks at Citibank to send a replacement card.
You see, I am a sorry person. And I say so regularly.
A colleague pointed this out to me just the other day. Whenever I ask this particular graphic artist to do anything for me the sentence always begins with “I’m sorry, but could you . . .”
“Stop saying you’re sorry,” she commands every time. To which the reply is always (all together now) “I’m sorry.”
But the fact is, I really am. I’m sorry when I give her two column inches more copy than she has room for or when I undo something she’s done with the poke of a button and don’t know how to get it back or when I write a story ten minutes before she has to send the pages to the pressroom.
To compound this sorry state, I am also globally sorry and, on a bad day, will take responsibility for everything from Korea to Iraq. As John Denver so eloquently penned “I’m sorry for the way things are in China” too.
I get this from my mother. Whenever anything goes wrong, she’s pretty sure it’s her fault. When it comes to guilt trips, this woman has enough frequent flyer miles to fly to Chechnya and back and while she’s there, she can take responsibility for the first and second Chechen wars.
A while back I confessed to my mom that I was a worrier, telling her how I torment over how my decisions affect others and about the sleepless nights worrying about everything from global warming to the price of milk and gasoline. “I’m sorry,” she said. “That’s my fault. You get that from me.”
So you see, I come by my sorry-ness naturally.
We have a computer here at the Chronicle that talks. When you command it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it says out loud (in a pretty creepy, militant female voice) “It’s NOT my fault.” I’m not making this stuff up – a voice comes from the computer and it clearly denies responsibility. It’s not her fault. And she’s not sorry. Worse yet, she has sort of a British accent, which lends some kind of royal authority to her denial. “It’s NOT my fault” always sounds more convincing when the “NOT” is spoken on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen. Nevertheless, I tried to make this mysterious aberration do something one night at about 9 p.m. and she kept saying over and over again “It’s NOT my fault.” Naturally I apologized out loud to no one in particular for asking her to do something she obviously couldn’t do, to which the graphic artist said “You should take a lesson from that lady. It’s NOT your fault.”
I’m still sorry. I can’t help it. It’s NOT my fault . . .
It’s my mother’s.