"I'm sorry" Loses its Punch

Anger and redemption flow from my appointment at the nail salon, and I finally get an apology that means something.

by Carrie Morris • More.com Member { View Profile }

The ease with which “I’m sorry” is expressed and its power to soothe or incite was driven home for me this week as I was on the receiving end of two distinctively different apologies by two distinctively different owners of nail salons: One, in response to the owner booting me from his salon, the other, in response to my return.

Here’s the story.

Admittedly, I’ve been given the boot more than once over the course of my life; several times, now that I reflect. But none compared to being booted by the Mani/Pedi Nazi, who would have done Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi proud.

The owner was a nice enough “chap” when I stumbled across his shop weeks before, after a falling out from my nail salon. (Least you think I’m service provider challenged, with a history of fallouts – I’m not.) A loyalist by nature, the only reason I sought another salon was that my own manicurist had a falling out with her boss and quit an hour before my appointment. They never phoned to tell me. So, I did what any wise woman in need of nail triage would do, drive to the next shopping center on the Pike and voila! A nail salon, imagine that. This one with a flashing neon sign: WALK-IN’S WELCOME.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s my beef:

There’s entirely too much apologizing going on these days, often issued by the same people under the same or similar circumstances. Ever count the number of times during the course of your day when you’ve been on the receiving end of an apology? I have and after an hour, I stopped counting.

I know. How else do we humans express contrition, regrets, remorse when we’ve wronged another? No sweeter words are these than an apology? We’ll it’s occurred to me that everyone on the planet appears to be sorry and apologizing – at the same time; like some harmonic apologetic convergence. We’re hemorrhaging apologies. So with all this gushing, why do the majority of us feel little, if, any relief after hearing one? Could it be that “I’m sorry,” is losing its power to heal? Gone are the days when declarations of apologies stood for something; had teeth. We’ll, I’m sorry, but I’d like to take this turn-of-phrase and turn it on its head.

Just suppose before we reached for the words as casually as we do our car keys, we asked ourselves first, “Am I really sorry? And if so, why?” Think about those in customer service (when one is fortunate enough to land a live person who speaks clearly) suppose they’re really sorry? Or sorry they got your cranky *** on the phone, and while they’re busy apologizing for something they didn’t mess up in the first place, what they really want to say is they’d be pissed too, but they really need this job and have to follow protocol and their script. Now that’s an apology, I, for one, could live with.

But today was perhaps the best example of the dichotomy of being on the receiving end of an apology. The same two words, issued by two different nail salons: one prompting my head to spin, the other my heart to smile. But first a word about feet.

Women being the curious creatures we are, make no bones or bunions about checking out our neighbors’ feet. Comparing calluses, bunions, hammer toes. Or those women you just hate because in addition to having every other exposed body part buffed and polished, yes, they, too, have the nerve to have pretty feet! I have to say in most departments I’ve accepted the changes I’ve observed over the years, vowing not to turn into my mother, a long-term investor in age management strategies. But my feet? Not my best attribute. So there I was, my feet immersed in the tub’s temperate water, the powdered beads turning the water a gorgeous Caribbean Blue, spa music playing softly in the background, the faint rush of the Zen fountain close by. And seated directly to my left was an elderly woman eating the remains of a Fig Newton. Imagine that. Not a power bar or Starbucks cup in sight, no electronic devises chirping and tweeting, just her and me sharing a quiet moment. That’s until the owner passed me the spa menu, all pretty in pink and laminated.

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