I love Elton John, but he’s wrong, “sorry” isn’t the hardest word. The hardest word is “Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu” which is the longest place name in the world (sorry, LlanfairPG).
I say sorry a lot. Sometimes because I’ve cocked up, been wrong or bumped into someone, but sometimes for no reason. Well, other than being British and having manners. We Brits apologise in lots of different situations, many when we’re not in the wrong. Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it, it’s like Tourrete’s or something.
Of course, it is useful, it smooths the waters as David Mitchell explained:
Life goes much more smoothly when everyone’s saying sorry. It’s the second most important social lubricant and, unlike the first, it doesn’t damage your liver. Particularly in large conurbations, saying sorry is the best verbal accompaniment to thousands of situations
Now, normally I’m with Mitchell on this, but today I used an apology when there was absolutely no need to, and had to address it.
I was about to kick off in FIFA (Bristol Rovers now in League 1) when my phone rang, I answered it quickly to avoid waking MWG, who was snoring away next to me.
“Is this Mr Page?” Came the response, in a heavy Scouse accent.
“This is Cilla from SCAM Associates” (names changed to protect the innocent and my rear end) “I’m calling you today in regards to your recent road accident.”
Now, I could have slammed the phone down then, but having worked in call centres I always do my best to be polite with the folks on the other end of the line.
“I’m sorry, but I think you have the wrong person. I’ve not been in an accident.”
Here I apologised for something that wasn’t my fault, but it was a standard polite apology.
“Nothing at all in the last two years?” Cilla fished.
“No, sorry I’ve not had any accidents in the last year, or ever.”
Wait a minute did I just apologise for not being in a car accident. What the hell?!
Now I am sorry that Cilla had wasted her time, that their records gave an error (or that they have to fish for customers) and that I can’t give her any business, but am I really so sorry for it that I need to apologise for not being in a car accident?
Britishness be damned, I had to retract this needless apology.
“Actually, I’m not sorry about that!” I said breezily, laughing at my own stupid turn of phrase.
Cilla laughed lightly too.
“That’s okay. Not a problem.”
And then she hung up.
So, I apologised for her error and my accident free record, but she didn’t even apologise for bothering me.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.