I made an apology the other day.
I made an apology the other day.
Notice how I say, "I made an apology" instead of the shorter, simpler "I apologized." That's because when the need for apologizing came up, I immediately thought of all the public figures who have stood before cameras in recent years, apologizing for transgressions of one kind or another — though when it comes down to it, with the exception of Helen Thomas', pretty much all of the transgressions were one kind.
My transgression was, I'd like to think, milder than some of the antics we've heard about recently, in both substance and public resonance. Still, an apology is an apology, and if I was to join the ranks of all the other post twentieth-century apologizers, I would have to choose my words carefully.
The idea, I knew, was to come across as humble and sincere and genuine and well-intentioned and, if the apologizer had sponsors, as someone who could still sell shoes. Or whatever.
I have no sponsors — which is not to say I wouldn't take a meeting with appropriate candidates — so I didn't need to concern myself about that. All I needed to do was to assemble a decent, coherent statement regarding recent shameful behavior.
In fact, coherency was optional, if I was to model my apology after, say, the one Texas Rep. Joe Barton offered to the congressional committee whose members earlier had listened, aghast, as Barton apologized to BP's Tony Hayward.
I'm talking, of course, about Barton's second apology, the one he made after he looked Hayward in the eye and apologized for the "shakedown" BP was getting at the hands of the United States. When he had been in effect trundled to the Podium of Shame, handed the microphone and told to start talking, he talked, more or else.
"If anything I said this morning has been misconstrued, in opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction," he said.
This is the kind of apology that wins a person a second trip to the Podium of Shame, but suffice to say I realized it would be wise to not model my apology after anything Barton has ever said.
It's difficult, you know, to glean from these apologies nuggets of wisdom that are pertinent to my own situation. Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina whose affair with an Argentine woman was revealed after he told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, hardly knew where to begin. He went on and on, finally wrapping it up by saying "And in this regard let me throw one more apology out there, and that is to people of faith across South Carolina or for that matter across the nation É"
I don't mind telling you I felt overwhelmed. There's Tiger Woods: "For all that I have done I am so sorry;" and former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer, who had a long and colorful association with a prostitution ring: "I apologize first and most importantly to my family;" and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards: "To all those I have disappointed and hurt É"
It was the very abundance of apologies that ultimately made me decide just to ignore the others and write my own, off the top of my head and without stopping to think about it.
My mistake — you've probably been wondering about my mistake — was this: I missed a meeting. Or at least I thought I'd missed a meeting. I read an e-mail that led me to believe, instantly and whole-heartedly, that I had forgotten about a committee meeting and thus had left others to do work I should have been in on, and in five seconds I composed an e-mail of abject apology. Pride prevents me from quoting the whole thing, but I will say that it included such words and phrases as "Oh, oh, oh," "idiot," and "nit-wittiness."
Later, I heard back from someone who explained that I hadn't missed a meeting at all. I had misunderstood the message. This should have been comforting, and it was, or it would have been, had I not sent that babbling message. To everybody on the committee.
Now I know how my fellow apologizers felt, there on the Podium of Shame: Goofy. Inane. Nit-witty.
In the words of Gov. Sanford, let me throw one more apology out there É
Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail mbartlett@ thisweeknews.com