Christina Martin is one more disingenuous apology away from a full breakdown. Or at the very least some seriously loud tutting.
Illustration By Claire Jones
My neighbour has a penchant for coming home drunk late at night and doing heavy duty DIY early in the morning.
But these things don’t annoy me half as much as the limp, disingenuous apologies which come afterwards.
Each time they screw up my sleep or abruptly end my lie in, they’ll catch me in the street the day after and say “sorry about the noise, really sorry!” Then they go right ahead and do it again.
So not that sorry after all then.
Saying “sorry” just doesn’t seem to mean what it used to. It’s tossed around so often and so insincerely these days that it may now have actually ceased to mean anything at all.
It’s not just them of course. Saying “sorry” just doesn’t seem to mean what it used to. It’s tossed around so often and so insincerely these days that it may now have actually ceased to mean anything at all.
Examples? With pleasure.
Last week a man got on the train and sat opposite me. He fancied some extra leg room so he proceeded to push his feet further and further forward until mine were forced under my seat and my legs were contorted backwards. He then decided he didn’t have enough room to read his paper either, so he rested the bottom of it on the front of his knees and used my legs as a tray table.
When I looked at him sternly, shook my head and said “you are joking?” he removed his feet and paper from my space in an instant, and then said “Sorry”.
The immediacy with which he put every single thing right just showed he knew he was being a twat, and was well aware of the actions to take in order to stop being a twat.
He was just chancing his arm – or his legs and newspaper – hoping that my good old British sense of embarrassment would prevent me from saying anything, leaving him sitting pretty and me with leg cramps.
Definitely not sorry.
Then there’s the narrow pavement which fits two people, if those two people stick to their side of the path that is. However the self-important businessman barrelling towards me wants the whole thing for himself – and why not, he’s fuck-awesome after all. He makes eye contact, he sees me, and yet he doesn’t adjust his trajectory or speed in the slightest. Then bang, I’m shoulder barged into the gutter. And as he whisks past what do I hear wafting back?
Sorry for what? The inevitable consequences of your deliberate actions?
It’s the same with celebrities who get exposed for making racist remarks or MPs who get caught committing criminal acts. They just have to issue a full and frank apology and all is OK. Even though everyone knows they’re only sorry because they got caught. Nothing’s changed. One’s still a racist and the other’s still a crook. But it’s over and done with now. They said “sorry”.
Sorry has become something people say to draw a line under bad behaviour. A magic incantation to end all discussion about the offence. A ritual gesture to demonstrate they know what manners look like even if they don’t partake.
And for the rich and famous, it’s a handy, perfunctory PR exercise. Their faux pas might even get them a place on a reality show where they can ‘sincerely apologise’ to the nation over several weeks before telling OK magazine how much they have learned.
So, I’m proposing that the word ‘sorry’ be banned from the English language henceforth. That way, people will have to say something else in its place. The truth perhaps:
“Fuck you, I just want more legroom.”
“Yes I pushed you, but you were right where I wanted to walk.”
“It’s nothing personal, I’m just extremely inconsiderate.”
“My parents never taught me any manners and I’m stupid.”
I don’t know about you but I’d much prefer that to a limp, empty “sorry”.
Oh, and if you didn’t enjoy this article then sorry…oops! I mean, fuck you all.
See? It’s the way forward!
A former stand-up comic, Christina has written for Viz, the BBC, Comment Is Free and New Humanist. Nowadays she mostly writes nonsense to amuse herself, namely joke Amazon reviews and long correspondences with email spammers.