Yes. But are you really sorry?

I received an apology today. From a coworker. It was quite unlike any apology I have ever received. I hope never to receive another such in my life. This kindly middle-aged man with a penchant for accents and a quirky dietary outlook has become someone I really enjoy seeing on a daily basis at the workplace. As quickly as I have become one of his favorite people he has become one of mine. We both burst into song at the slightest provocation and I rarely have to wait more than fifteen minutes before being entertained with yet another harrowing tale of his exploits with the mentally insane in the immigration business. I am endlessly amused.

Today, after the other office member stepped out to lunch, he approached my desk and sat on it. "I need to talk to you," he confided. My guard was up instantly.
"I wanted to apologize for my rude behavior last week regarding [boring project with early deadline]. I realized later that my reaction to your request for help was entirely inappropriate."
"Oh, that's ok, I understand..."
"No! I am really sorry. In fact I was talking it over with my wife because I couldn't get it out of my head what I had done."
I tried to smile with the appropriate mix of solemnity and saintly forgiveness, but the man carried on with his confession. "...and my wife said, and I agree, that I owe it to you to apologize correctly." and with this he stood to his full 6'2" frame. "May I apologize to you correctly?"
I was aghast. I wasn't sure what he meant by the word 'correctly.' It seemed to me that we'd already had a discussion of appropriate length on the matter and further self-abnegation was futile and awkward.
"Sure," I stumbled on the word.
"My wife and I were both raised to apologize the same way."
"Ok." I was completely lost.
"I need you to stand in order to do it correctly."
After a deafening pause I jerked to my feet with no little amazement and a great deal of fearfulness.
And then - I kid you not - and then, this grown man knelt in front of me. My eyes opened wide as fax sheets. I was stunned.
He began his litany in the voice of a shamed child, "My behavior to you was despicable and completely indefensible." My eyes could not shut more than 4 inches in diameter. I was riveted by fear and a vastly awkward amusement. He continued, "Would you do me the honor of accepting my apology?"
I had already murmured more than one, "I accept your apology" and a half dozen "I forgive you's", but the man was unrelenting. I kept an anxious eye on the door. This was a business office. People walked in all the time without warning. I blurted out, "I accept your apology." The man was obviously not going to let me get out of this torture anymore than he would himself.
"And now," he said, and my guts shriveled up inside me wondering exactly what traumatic sentence 'and now' could precede in a situation like this, "might I humbly and most fervently beg your forgiveness?" I stared blankly at the man. "I thought you just apologized!" "The two are very different matters," he stated calmly from the floor looking up into my face. At this point it was too much and I fought back a laugh as I said in as measured tones as possible, "I forgive you." To which he took both my hands in his, bent his head toward them, and touched them to his forhead. "I most humbly thank you." I thought, 'O dear God, when will it end?' To my relief he did stand and I scrambled back into my chair as we tried to resume small-talk and I felt like I had been through the equivalent of a colonoscopy at the supermarket.

What man does that? Was that a ruse? Was he just being dramatic? Or does his upbringing really demand that he undergo that excruciating (for the receiver of the apology at least) tortured ritual? In my world a man only kneels before a woman when he is professing intent to marry and sometimes not even then! I ran to the bathroom to collect myself and eventually burst into full gale laughter at the stupidity of the situation. When I returned to the office I asked him, "Do you apologize to everyone like that?" "No," he said, "only when I think it is deserved." So, I deserved it.

I sincerely hope I never deserve it again!

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Blogger Tara said...

I'm sitting here with my jaw dropped and my hand over my mouth, completely transfixed on that story. OH MY LORD, how strange!! I can see him going through this with every little thing. What if he dropped a pencil of yours on the floor? Would he apologize that way too? And his wife was taught the same thing? Isn't that they way the prepare to be knighted? I would be completely thrown off guard like you were.

20/4/06 19:30  
Blogger Steve DeGroof said...

You should probably tell him how much it embarrassed you. I'm sure he'll be very sorry. But, of course, he won't be able to apologize for apologizing, so his head will probably explode.

20/4/06 20:13  
Blogger honestus said...

I think he must be a Jehovah Witness.

20/4/06 20:27  
Blogger k_sra said...

Steve, you are funny!

Honestus, he is Jewish.

20/4/06 20:40  
Anonymous other sarah said...

Seriously?!? Oh my gosh. Why do people do that-- take a perfectly normal situation, and then turn it into something horribly embarassing for you-- the person who was allegedly "wronged" in the first place? That's what he should apologize for!

I once had a guy (that I knew, by the way) offer me his seat at an assembly in college. Not enough room for all to sit, so I was standing in back with my boyfriend. Seat-proffering-guy says, "Sarah, please, take my seat." No, thanks, SPG, I'll stand. "No, really." No, thanks. "No seriously." No, seriously, like half of the room is staring at us now. "I'll come up and carry you down here if I have to." I shoot daggers out of my eyes, and his fraternity brothers step in and tell him that it's cool, that chivalry only extends so far, and that he should sit down.

Come to think of it, is your coworker's name Ed? Hmmm...

20/4/06 21:26  
Blogger Carly said...

I'm horrified.

I don't trust him.

20/4/06 21:27  
Blogger honestus said...

same thing...

21/4/06 08:02  
Blogger Saint Kansas said...

He took both your hands? Sue his ass for harassment!

That's how we do here in Corporateland.

21/4/06 08:13  
Blogger k_sra said...

honestus: hehe.

Sarah, I think SPG wishes he were the BF.

StKanKan: I can't imagine anything I'd like less than making a public drawn-out spectacle of the whole occurence. I will most certainly tell him today how uncomfortable it made me and ask him never to repeat it!

21/4/06 09:30  
Anonymous AO said...

Maybe he got you confused with someone else who he was really rude to.

21/4/06 10:21  
Blogger Saint Kansas said...

The Catch 22 being that, if you tell him how unfortable his apology made you, he'll be compelled to apologize again... and you just know this time it will involve self-flagellation of some sort.

21/4/06 10:31  
Blogger k_sra said...

mebbe so, ao, I don't know which was ruder, the original sin or the apology for it. (good to see you, btw.)

Please stop, Kansas! I'm not supposed to snicker at work.

21/4/06 11:33  
Blogger lostdog said...

That's slightly sinister. What did he do to merit such self-abnegation? Do I want to know..?

21/4/06 17:45  
Blogger voyeur of destruction said...

thats funny.

24/4/06 16:11  

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