It’s Not Your Fault

I just apologized to the complete stranger that I snapped at five minutes ago while we were both standing in line to be seated at the Terrace Cafe at Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, where I have no place being because I’m not a gambler, I’m not into nightlife, and I’ve cut back so much on my drinking that yesterday at the pool I was drinking free water from a spigot next to the soda machine while sitting next to a cabana bar with a 2 for 1 price deal on margaritas.

So what did this offensive stranger do?

She talked to me.

She asked me questions.

She thought I was kidding when I said I couldn’t hear her.

“What’s wrong?” She asked when I scowled after the 12th question.

And then I snapped, channeled my memories of a teenager daughter in my kitchen. Erupted. Not in a profane or crazy way but in an unfriendly, hostile way, a very intensified prickliness. Not how I normally act, let’s say.

She looked at me, puzzled, a distressed look on her face, and then moved away to stand next to her husband. I was called for the next table way back in the corner near the windows where I could write the blog I wanted to write before my friend came down to join me.

I need to apologize, I thought to myself, and I got up, put my phone in my pocket, and decided to go find her, peeking around the pillars of the restaurant, a hundred tables but she was nowhere in sight. And then, of course, as luck would have it, the hostess brought the woman and her husband and her parents to a table for four practically next to mine.

I got up before she even sat down. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

She looked wounded, she looked like she was wondering why she would talk to me, but she came around the side of the pillar and I just told her. “I have a terrible hearing disability. When I’m in restaurants sometimes the sound is deafening and I can’t understand what people are saying. I get really frustrated sometimes. And I snapped at you. And I’m really sorry.”

“Oh, that’s alright.” She smiled and reached to hug me. Yes, I hugged the offensive stranger with her perfect tan, her sequined off the shoulder top, her pixie haircut and dangling hoop earrings while I was wearing my khaki pants and t-shirt, my hearing aids gracefully draped behind each ear.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Well, first of all, people with disabilities can get tired of coping and get cranky. I’m generalizing from my own experience but I think I’m right. It’s a strain to cope with a disability and it’s a strain to be remember not to blame other people for a situation they know nothing about. I was reminded of that today. I need to do better.

Second, it’s a good thing to apologize. Pretty deep thought, isn’t it? There isn’t enough apology in the world. I’m upping my contribution.

Anyway, not profound maybe but that’s what I’ve got today.

8 Comments on “It’s Not Your Fault

  1. Offering an apology is always a courageous thing to do. It means that we’ve recognized that we may have cause some harm to another person, and acknowledging that to another person means being vulnerable and risking rejection. And facing the fact that we’re not perfect At the G.H., I learned about something that I call the “16 Step” apology, which takes it to a whole other level. It asks me to offer the apology… without explaining why I behaved the way I did. It’s from a book by Charlotte Kasl called “Many Roads, One Journey”.
    I love your writing Jan. It is courageous. It strikes so many chords in me and makes me want to write.

    • Do it, Jean! Start writing. A blog is a great way to begin. Ever want to talk about it, I give tons of advice for a cup of coffee.

  2. You’ve really given me something to think about here. Since changing jobs I’ve had more time to spend with my parents and while they are still as close as ever, I’ve noticed an uncomfortable amount of snapping and snarling between them. Perhaps my father needs to have his hearing aids looked at and maybe I should take my mom aside and tell her what I’m seeing.

  3. I am a big fan of apologizing to someone after I treat them poorly, because it not only helps keep them from continuing the cycle, but it also keeps me from beating myself up over and over for being a jerk. Win win for everyone 🙂

  4. I love that you owned it and apologized. And I think the true test is when you apologize and someone can’t accept it or won’t, and you’re still OK. Just a little something I’m working on . . .

  5. I’ve got issues with my hearing, especially when there’s ambient sounds or white noise like a fan going in the background. It can be one of the most frustrating things ever, when you’re looking right at someone but all you can hear is mumbles. There’s times, though, that I get really annoyed when I say what three times and the person doesn’t speak any louder. I mean, I obviously speak your language, so I’m not sure why you have to actually say the words ‘I can’t hear you’.

  6. We had dinner last night with two other couples, and two of the men (JB is one) have hearing loss. We talked about how difficult it is and I shared what you wrote a while back – about how isolating it is to not be able to hear human voices. We try to be normal with disabilities and it is very irritating when it is impossible. But you are right – we can’t expect people to understand if we don’t explain it to them. I just hate talking about it because I want to pretend I am normal. And I don’t want to be known as a whiner. Another great post, Jan.

  7. That’s all you’ve got for today? I’d say that is quite a lot. We all need to be more polite and apologize when we’re not. Thank you for the reminder.

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