Apologies you'll never get to make

Or, what’s going to remain on your black-as-coal soul for the rest of your life?


I was seventeen.

I had been working at Burger King for almost a year - full time during the summers, part time during the school year. They had offered to make me a manager; I chose to go to college instead. In retrospect, perhaps I made the wrong choice - or perhaps I’m just staring pathetically at the student loan debts that never seem to diminish.

I was working the front register. A customer asked for his burger well-done. I explained that all of the burgers went through the broiler at the same corporate-mandated rate, and that there was no way we could cook a single burger to a preferred degree. He was very friendly, and polite, and asked if there was anything I could think of. I suggested that we could run the burger through the broiler twice, but it would probably end up charred and blackened.

I didn’t bother to explain to him what happened to some of the other items we put through the broiler - buns, frozen french fries, plastic trays (oh god, that was a fiasco). He said that he’d be happy with it however it was, and promised he wouldn’t complain and would still pay if it was inedible.

I forgot. I didn’t tell the guys in back to cook a burger twice, and when I filled the customer’s order, I grabbed an ordinary Whopper and stuffed it in his bag.

I’d like to apologize to you, sir, wherever you are. I truly meant to incinerate the burger for you per your request. I was even tempted to send it through the broiler multiple times just as a prank, but I was a dedicated employee, determined to serve the customer to my utmost.

I failed.

Please forgive me.

My first corporate job was at KFC in downtown Renton. Back then minimum wage was a whopping $1.65.

WE served a Snack box that was a wing and a thigh. This particular KFC was right by an old folks apartment building so they were a lot of the customers. I’d stuff a breast, thigh, wing and a leg in their Snack boxes. When I was working my line was long. Then I got the job I wanted. Union boxgirl at Safeway two blocks down for $3.65 so I jumped the KFC ship.

Taking groceries out for the same crowd and we could smell KFC chicken from the parking lot. Torture!

Back in high school I took an elective in psychology, and the teacher who taught us was, while a brilliant, slyly self-deprecating humorist, still overall a stern, fairly forbidding man. He was a great influence on me and we developed something a bit like the kind of carefully-distanced-but-inherently-affectionate student/teacher rapport you so often see in movies.

During my graduation, that time when all the parents come to meet all the nice teachers and look at all the nice grades and wander around the school in a manner not unlike really, really proud mannequins, I introduced my pair to most of my teachers at one point or another. As my parents were stood talking to one of my favorite teachers, the teacher in question sidled up to us and stood slightly off to the side, a slightly odd smile on his face. The teacher currently talking to my parents excused herself, and there was this moment – this awful, awful moment that seemed to stretch into infinity – where he just stood there, kind of hesitant, kind of half-smiling, just a couple of feet away from us, and my parents stood there, just kind of looking around, and I stood there, just kind of digging my heels into the ground.

And then it passed.

I had been quiet for just a little bit longer than the socially alotted space for introductions allowed, and with an immortally offended swing of the shoulders my former teacher sailed off to find someone who’d actually deign to introducing him to their parents. To this day I haven’t the faintest idea why I didn’t say anything. I just didn’t. I’ve felt bad about this from time to time, but what am I gonna do about it? (I’ve pictured the scenario in my mind: I make a special trip back to my old school to see one of the more sternly unemotional members of the human race, and I say to him “I’m really sorry I didn’t introduce you to my parents at my graduation five years ago. It looked like it, you know, kinda made you feel bad, and I feel bad about that.” Him: “Who are you?”) Nuh-uh. Done is done.

I’ll just have to live with that little involuntary wince that scrunches up my face every time this pops into my head. Oh well. At least I didn’t kill him.

I’m sorry for hitting that guy riding his ten speed bicycle. I was drunk on several pints of whiskey, thats why I didn’t bother to stop when I saw your lifeless body, laying in the street, in my rear view mirror. I should have used better judgement and at least stoped or called someone to make sure you were ok. Again I’m sorry if I f*cked up your life.

When I was 19, I spent the better part of the summer talking to Girl 1 about Girl 2 (with whom I was madly in love). It wasn’t until months later that I learned Girl 1 had a huge crush on me. I felt awful for blabbering on and on about Girl 2 to her. A couple of years later I saw Girl 1 in the mall with her friends and decided I’d apologize. I walked up to her, said hi then followed with “Hey, I found out that you used to like me and I feel bad that I went on and on about that other girl, so I’m sorry for putting you through that”. Her jaw dropped, her face went white then beet red, she screamed a few choice words at me, then stormed off. It took a while for me to realize exactly what I’d done, at which point I felt like an even bigger jerk (of course). Because running my mouth seemed to get me in trouble, I’ll make it succinct:

Girl 1, I’m sorry.

Dear Kim: I’m sorry I called you “Roach” in 5th grade.

And Robbie, in high school I’m sorry I never defended you to my friends.

I dunno. Tiny things, but they’ve bugged me.

Walter: It’s been almost 30 years and I still feel like a rat for ducking out when I was supposed to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family. I let someone else’s opinion sway me and even as I did it, I felt like a complete scum. I am truly sorry and I hope you’ve had a good life.

To the man who yelled at me for driving too fast through his neighborhood, I’m sorry that I was driving like such a maniac and I apologize for flipping you the bird in response. I was 16 at the time and didn’t think about what a danger I could have been to your children or other people’s children, pets, property, etc. I can’t blame you at all for how you reacted, and if I saw someone today driving like this down my street the way I was driving then, I’d feel inclined to do the same. I’m just glad I never caused anyone any harm.

To the kid I ridiculed in junior high for being an even greater dweeb than I was, I’m sorry that I felt compelled to join my few trusted classmates in mocking you for your clothes, your hair, your hygiene, your glasses, your tastes in music and even your name. So what if you share the name of the cartoon dog in the Garfield cartoons. I mean, it’s just a name, after all. Having an inferiority complex myself, you were one of the few people I saw as being lower than myself, but on the grand scale of things, we were both equals in being paragons of unpopularity. One day I saw your name in the marriage announcements, so at least you managed to find someone who overlooked your faults or did not see them as faults, so you’ve done better than me in that area. I hope you are having a good life.

Weeeeelllll… theres so many sins.

How about this one. My friends were down for a week. I backed my car into his. I checked and saw no damage. So I said nothing. A few days later he noticed one of his wheel rims was broken.

I am an ass. Please forgive me.

To the couple with the 2-year-old son that used to live in the apartment next to mine:

You weren’t the jerks I thought you were. If someone next door to my family behaved like I did, with the wild parties & loud music all night long, I wouldn’t have had your patience. I’m sure I would have called the law or threatened them with violence.

I’m sorry, and thank you very much.

Mine’s something that I have no idea why I said it…probably just a stupid kid’s way to deal with the illness of a loved one, but:

When I was 10, my grandmother was dying of lung cancer. We wen’t to the hospital, and on the way up to the room, we passed a gurney that was being wheeled down…the patient had died. When we got to my grandma’s room, we started talking, and to this day, I have no idea why I did this: I told grandma about the dead guy in the hallway. That didn’t bother her…but then, I made up details: I said “Yeah, and he died of cancer.”

I will never forget the look on her face. I will always regret that. I know I was just a kid, but damn…it was heartless, and scared the hell out of her…something she didn’t need. I still feel absolutely awful about it, and it’s been 15 years. I never got the chance to truly apologize…she died a few weeks later.