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Appointments, Expectations and Apologies

I tried to get a bunch of people over my place at one PM last Saturday in the hope of running a roleplaying game session for them. Of my invitees, three people said they could make it. Knowing how hard it is to get gamers organised, I double-checked closer to time and discovered that one had forgotten about a favour she promised her parents, which meant she could only come after three, another couldn’t get out of work any earlier than five and the third had children’s birthday parties, locking his whole day out. On the actual day, the friend who was helping her folks wound up with a nasty illness and had forgotten all about coming over, so she didn’t call to let us know. Needless to say, no gaming happened that weekend.

Yesterday, I was at work, and the morning had turned into a rolling panic. Amid the flurry of booking slips and having my counterpart tied up organising invitations to a major event, I did a co-worker what seemed a simple favour that ended up in me splitting the seam of my trousers right along the seat. I had to hustle down to the nearest Lowes, a few blocks away, with my jacket tied about my waist (it was still a little drafty) and buy myself some replacements. I got back to work a little after half past eleven and got stuck back into keeping up, figuring I’d have no time for lunch.

Then at quarter to twelve, I get a phone call from a friend of mine, with whom I’d organised to meet at a nearby café to catch up – at eleven thirty. I’d meant to call her earlier to make sure I had the day right but amid all the ensuing drama of that morning I’d forgotten about the whole thing. My friend had been waiting for me for a quarter of an hour, and as things were crazy bonkers nuts at the office I didn’t think I could get out to her. I apologised profusely, but the tone of my friend’s voice indicated she wasn’t particularly impressed. I can understand it; she had taken time out of her usually very busy workday and driven across town to meet with me.

So what have I learned from all this?

Well, the first and perhaps most obvious lesson is that shit happens. I wrote recently about life’s complexities and how everything is tied into and affects everything else, which means that, in the end, the best-laid plans can come awry simply because we have control over so little. Some might even say that it’s karma; my displeasure with my friends was “repaid”, in a way, with another friend’s displeasure with me.

Does that necessarily mean, though, that I was wrong to be disappointed? I mean, hey, I’m not perfect (as my neglect of the coffee catch-up with my friend surely indicates). What right do I have to expect better of someone else?

I wrote a few weeks ago about trust, and that in a complex world where each individual only has control over themselves (and that control can be taken away under certain circumstances) you can only trust someone else to do the best they can. To me, that means that if you ask someone to be somewhere at a given time, and that person agrees, then you are justified in expecting that the person will arrive where and when agreed. If circumstances render that expectation impossible or unlikely, the onus is on that person to let you know as soon as possible so you can alter your plans accordingly. Because we were expecting to receive guests, Vickie and I cleaned up and laid on supplies, and because my friend was expecting to meet me, she left work and travelled to a location easier for me to meet her at; in each circumstance, a phone call would have allowed us to alter our plans (and budgets) for our days.

So a little disappointment helps, if only to remind others that neglect has consequences. For me, that means I’ll accept apologies with grace when offered, but still ask that the apologiser do better next time. When I’m the one who fouls up, I’ll offer apologies without reservation and examine the circumstances so that can do better next time (like maybe make more use of my ever-present notebook). And I’ll quit the self-flagellation I usually muster when I screw up.

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Comments

I have to put certain events in my phone now to remind me. So I know how you feel. There is a process of learning and accepting.

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