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An Apology

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I owe somebody a big apology. I probably owe a million people apologies of various sizes ranging from "Oops! Sorry!" to "Can you ever forgive me?" But there is one woman in particular that I would like to apologize to, but I will never, ever be able to do it. She is a stranger, I barely saw her face and I would not recognize her if I saw her again.

I try very hard not to be mean. I speak quickly and I generally come to the point, so sometimes I have to apologize for the appearance of being mean when I was not being mean. I have to apologize for seeming mean. But I make a concerted effort, a conscious decision to avoid unkindness.

I was at The Store last month. It was just a few weeks after my father's death, so there was that. I was worried about my mother. I was worried about Traveling Daughter. I was tired and stressed out. I thought that some gardening would fix me right up and with that in mind I bought a bunch of big bags of soil. I told the cashier how many of what kind and she rang them up. Then I drove the car over to pick them up. Only to find that they didn't have any. This meant that I had to park the car, walk all the way back into The Store and approximately half a mile to the customer service desk to get a refund. I had to stand in a very long line. There was a lady behind me who explained to me that they had charged her the wrong price for something. She kept edging up, and up, and up.

At first I just thought that her personal space bubble was smaller than mine and that she just wanted to get closer to me while she told me her story. Then it occurred to me. She was trying to "take cuts." Criminey! So I told her why I was there and told her that we were next. That wasn't the mean part of the story.

We finally, finally, finally got our turn. I explained what happened. The cashier didn't care to hear the details. He didn't care to apologize for my inconvenience. It wasn't, after all, his mistake. Whatever. Whatever. Whatever. He credited me and looked at me blankly as I waited to be told to "have a nice day." He didn't say it. Wait a minute! Is this or is this not the Great State of Oklahoma??? Where did he get off, not telling me to have a nice day? Harumph. I could feel a blood vessel in my brain straining not to burst. We left.

Here's the mean part. I was veeerrrry irritated. Bordering on completely P.O.'d. There was a lady walking past me with her cart, perpendicular to the path I was (admittedly) storming along. She was not storming. She was apparently ambling in no great hurry. Or, she might have been walking normally, and my perception was skewed by my temper. Anyway, I said, "Oh will you please get out of my way!" I did not say "please" in a nice way.

"Sorry!" she said and scooted on. I stormed three more steps. I turned to my son Andy who was wide-eyed. "Did I just tell that lady to get out of my way?" I asked. "Yup," he gulped uncomfortably. YIKES!

I turned around and went back, looking for her. First of all, it was mean. Second of all, she didn't deserve it. Third of all, I knew that she would start to feel bad that she had said, "sorry!" when I was the one who needed to say it. And I was determined to do so. Only she was gone. Gone and I would never see her again and I wouldn't know her if I did.

So, if you are the poor lady I snapped at in The Store in June, I am very and most sincerely sorry. And if you are not her, but something like that has happened to you, I bet that other person is sorry too. The world we live in is a hard enough place to endure without the additional unpleasantness of a stranger being unkind to you for no reason at all except her own ire. I wish I had caught myself just a second sooner and was able to apologize. Really, I wish it had never happened at all. But since it did, I wish I could make it better.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
July 15, 2006 Column
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