If you’ve been in a grocery store lately, or if you’ve stood in line for movie tickets – if you’ve been anywhere out in public, for that matter – I think you’ll agree that the words “excuse me” and “you’re welcome” must have fallen out of our vernacular. We can’t all be in such a hurry that we forget the little courtesies, can we? Or did some of us never learn them? Is our particular mission so much more important than that of others? Apparently so.

Steadying my 91-year-old mother as she walks with a cane and then using one myself while I recover from minor knee surgery has made me keenly aware of how few of us realize there are others in our little world. And how few care. After Mom and I had been bumped and shoved three times by the same ostensibly hurried shopper in the wide-aisled produce department, I finally said, very quietly, “Excuse me … we seem to be getting in your way.” Said hurried shopper, and I quote, “Then move, b**ch.”

It was one of those rare times when I was glad Mom forgot her hearing aids.

And oh, I can feel the inner crank rising, as I think of the times I’ve received a flippant “no problem” in response to my “thank you.” Really? It better not be a problem.

As difficult as these simple phrases appear to be, there are others that many of us struggle to utter – and with good reason. Stating them means you’ve accepted responsibility for something, and it’s usually not a good thing. Somewhere, somehow a mistake was made.

So? We all make mistakes. We all must deal with challenging situations, often ones that aren’t necessarily our doing. And ‘fessing up can be embarrassing. But it also can be liberating.

“I’m sorry” and “It’s my fault” are among the most challenging words to say. “I don’t know” ranks right up there, too. Why? Because we have a tendency to assume that others will think less of us for having erred. But studies have proved that an apology or acknowledgement of responsibility, delivered sincerely, can help to improve relations and restore trust.

Did we need psychologists to tell us that? I think we all know it instinctively. Put yourself in Bob’s shoes: Don’t you appreciate that he responded to your complaint with, “I’m sorry your order was incorrect; I’ll see what I can do to fix that”? Say there’s a contract dispute, and Bill has calculated incorrectly. He returns to you and says, “Y’know, I was wrong. These numbers don’t add up, but I’ll make sure we rewrite this.” True, he erred. But he ‘fessed up. I’d work with Bill again.

As I write this, my car sits at the dealership, awaiting major repairs. I’d rather support the independent mechanic my family has employed for decades, but it turns out the damage was caused by a simple – but critical – thing he neglected to do the last time he performed routine maintenance. We all make mistakes, so before I had the car towed I called him. “Not my fault,” he said. “Next time, don’t buy a foreign car.”

He just lost three generations of customers.


You guessed it! We made a mistake. In the May issue, we missed a typo that might have confused a few folks making plans for the Farwest Show in Portland: The dates are August 23 to 25, not September. How goofy! Our sincere apologies to OAN, and please don’t miss the show.