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Excuse Me

Nov
15
2006

I’ve been known to indulge in some pretty energy-wasting activities, like washing my car though I live on a gravel road, but one of the biggest waste of not only energy, but brain space, is making up excuses
A friend and I were discussing what we say to get rid of those annoying political telephone calls before last week’s election. Exempt from the no-call list, candidates made heavy use of the phone line under the guise of taking a poll.
“I told him we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to talk to him,” she said.
Why, I wondered, did she have to give an excuse why she did not want to respond to a phone call initiated by a stranger asking questions she didn’t feel like answering? Say “no” and hang up. If he wants to read his spiel to a dead line, that’s his business.
I am pretty tough to get by on the phone because I hate talking on one so much. However, I have to admit I spend a lot of time making excuses in other areas that are not or should not be necessary.
For instance: social engagements. It’s really no one’s business what I’m doing Thursday that I can’t meet you for lunch. “I’m sorry. I can’t” should suffice but this answer is always greeted with an expectant silence or, worse, “Oh? What’s going on?”
I really don’t want you to know that I’m checking my mother into rehab for the fifth time or that I’m scheduled to have that nasty, contagious rash looked at or that I just don’t want to eat with you because I don’t like you. So I’m forced to smile and say, “I’m fasting all day Thursday.”
I used to feel obligated to make excuses for my kids. This is because I was under the impression that everyone else actually possesses the perfect children they lay claim to. Now when my boys’ behavior is called into question I explain my theory of raising children: stick them in a barrel and feed them through a hole until they are 13. When they turn 13, plug up the hole.
This un-nerves them because I look like the cuddly earth-mother type who would certainly want to hear all the advice I can get so my children can be the paragon of virtue that is their little Baby-face Finster. That I’m not apologizing and giving them a full pathology on why, exactly, Heir 1 is predisposed to driving too fast (the short version: he’s 18) probably only makes it worse. I’d be worried if I didn’t know that as we speak Finster was tooling back to college at 90 mph, hugging the bumper of every car in his path.
I actually understand when people feel obligated to make excuses for the cleanliness of their house, particularly women. The truth is, we’re our own worse enemy when it comes to judging other women’s houses. Men rarely do this except for the few remaining jerks who actually look at it as a sort of Taming of the Shrew competition in spousal obedience.
Women should know better, of course, considering we’re in an equality-of-workload battle with men over this issue. You’d think we’d band together. Instead we’re the hardest on each other, resulting in a simple social visit that sounds more like the mutterings in your local Roman Catholic Church the Saturday before Easter.
Community organizations are probably the only place where excuses are actually listened to, even though it is more from the gossip standpoint than any practical reason. To this day I suspect the worst of a book-club member whose absences were announced: “Ginger is (heavy vocal inflection) out of town this week.” (Wink, wink, snicker, from the older members of the group.) She was out of town a lot and, in fact, missed the meeting at my house. But she call to tell me, giving her excuse much less weight, even though I didn’t ask.
For the most part, though, I don’t think anyone actually listens to excuses. But we still feel obligated to give them.
I really don’t think the Salvation Army bell ringer is going to check and make sure I put a dollar in the pots of the last three bell ringers I encountered. I don’t have to explain my donation policy to every organization selling light bulbs over the phone.
And I certainly don’t have to make excuses to a squeaky-voiced electronics store associate who has been on this planet less time than most of my socks why I don’t want to pay for their Gold Preferred Customer Platinum Four-Star Ultra Service Contract for a $50 piece of equipment that will be obsolete in six months.
If I sound a little testy about this last one, just imagine how he felt. I did apologize. After all, I’d had a bad day, was running late, couldn’t get the car started and ran into traffic.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 11:41 AM | Permalink

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