Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Politesse (III)

There are certain times in life when it is necessary to say "I'm sorry." For example, "I'm sorry I got drunk and smeared your lemon meringue pie on my face so that I could pretend I was a man shaving my beard" definitely qualifies. Or "sorry for ashing my cigarette on your small child, I thought he was an ashtray."

I place "I'm sorrys" into two separate categories. There are the psychopathic "I'm sorry"s where you don't actually mean a word of it. You are just trying to diffuse a situation where the other person wants you to grovel and/or fight them but you secretly know that you're right. (The "ashing on a small child" is a good example, because what shitty parent allows babies to hang around smokers?). And there are the ones where you genuinely mean it, because that lemon meringue pie looked pretty tasty. Or when you're driving with your uncle's stepdaughter that you never met before to Mass, and she mentions that she goes to Mass everyday, and you say "What are you, a nun?". And it turns out, in fact she is. Although you never would have guessed it because she got sunburned that day, and you never knew that nuns could expose that much skin.

And just as there are moments where nothing but an "I'm sorry" will do, there are also moments where "fuck you" is equally apropos. The problem I've noticed is that people keep mixing the two up. Like the bike rider who turned right across my path as I was driving home today, and when I slammed on the brakes to avoid smashing him because Louisiana is a contributory negligence state (which means the jury would have to find that I did SOMETHING wrong in that situation like perhaps I was enjoying that mellow jazz too much and it put me in a semi-trance which kept me from missing obviously suicidal bike riders), the guy had the nerve to yell "fuck you."

Okay, this is a perfect example of what I am talking about. In this situation, you, biker-guy who almost tore up my car and raised my insurance rates, are supposed to indicate that you are sorry. I'M the one who gets to say "fuck you." But now I'm confused. Does two "fuck-you"s equal "I'm sorry"? No, two "fuck you"s equals a world of conflict and hate. Which almost kept me from saying "fuck you" back. But he couldn't hear me, so it didn't count.

I suppose what I'm saying is the world needs a good balance of "fuck you"s and "I'm sorry"s. Both are supposed to tell you which side justice is on. "Fuck you" means "I'm right, and stop being a jerk." "I'm sorry" means "you're right, sorry for being a jerk." And if the world is going to achieve my ideal equilibrium, where sometimes every human being is right, and sometimes they're wrong, we have to know when to say "I'm sorry" and when to say "fuck you."

But until everyone figures out the difference, I'm probably going for the latter.

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