I wish there were a graceful way to admit partial fault without sounding like an irresponsible weasel

Like when the pastor emailed me a document three weeks before a big meeting, while my printer was broken, and headed it “for your future reference.” I asked him if I needed to do anything with said document and I reminded him my printer was broken. He said hang on to it. He emails me shit about every other day that I’m supposed to hang onto but that I never use. I have an email folder called “hang on to it.” But ten minutes after the Big Meeting started, the pastor asked me to pass the thirty stapled copies of the emailed document. I smiled as sweetly as I could and apologized before heading off to my office at a run to print the document on his printer, photocopy it, and collate it.

Presumably I was sorry that I do not have the power of mind reading. Although, to be completely fair, I might also be sorry I didn’t ask him if he needed me to do anything the day before the meeting. But you can’t say “I’m sorry you didn’t tell me what you wanted me to do and have made me look like an incompetent boob.”

I was supposed to meet with another senator today to talk about human trafficking. Unfortunately I received an email from the organization I volunteer with that said this (I’m copy and pasting): Church- I’ve set up your meetings for Wednesday, August 3rd and Tuesday, August 9th, both at 2pm. Et cetera. Et cetera. Now maybe you’ve noticed something I didn’t: that August 9 is today and today is not Tuesday. I just finished a truly shiteating phone conversation in which I apologized to what must have been every staff member at the office of a senator whom I truly disapprove. My fault I stood up a sinister Republican? Yes. But not as my fault as my profuse apologies would suggest. I also apologized to the woman who scrambled the dates. You know, because I was sorry she can’t read a calendar. I am pretty sorry about any sort of negative impression this kerfuffle may make on this senator’s staff in as much as it may affect this anti human trafficking bill. But that’s really the extent.

Before I was a church secretary, I worked in customer service and made all kinds of apologies. I was kind of awesome at that, actually. I would always feign dismay–but very well: I’m a good feigner–and say something like “oh my gosh! I can’t believe that happened to your order, sir. That’s awful.” I’d then say, with feigned sadness, how sorry I was because I knew he’d been inconvenienced. Then I’d take a lusty breath and say with maximal cheer “but don’t worry, sir, I’m going to fix this for you.” Customers loved me. Unfortunately I hated me. Especially on the occasions I played along sympathetically with tremendously misplaced wrath.

If you want to get upset about something, try Sharron Angle’s senate campaign. Don’t give yourself a heart attack over UPS smushing a package.

I used to have a job I was awful at and that I hated. I screwed up periodically. I would apologize with wide eyes and swear not to make the mistake again. But mostly, though, I was just sorry to be there. I was sorry the job existed at all, in fact. I was sorry my boss was my boss. And, let’s face it, that my boss was.

Fake repentance is a nearly daily part of our lives it seems–especially the lives of us with shitty jobs. I wish there were better words for these little power-driven transactions, words that didn’t so cheapen the times we must apologize to the people or the God who love and who loves us.