Yesterday, I’m sitting in a cafe/coffee shop in Williamsburg – The House of Small Wonder Cafe – and it must appear as though I’m working. Makes sense – it’s a business day, mid-morning, freelancers run rampant around here like the bed-bugs that have apparently infested the homes and minds of many in NYC. I haven’t seen any – bed-bugs that is. Freelancers? Yes; O’Plenty.
What sparks a necessity for this post is the man and his child who spent approximately 15 minutes in this cafe. During this time I recall the child, a toddler, babbling normal toddler babble twice, maybe three times. My ability to accurately count the number of individual babbles could have been a result of my relaxedness, not actually engaged in work that required a specific type of quiet and a plethora of other reasons ranging from my mind wandering to thoughts of an impending meeting, distractions from the smell of baked croissants, etc. During one of these “babbles” however I did glance up, of which the father/guardian of the child looked at me, smiled and apologetically said, “I’m sorry to bother you.” My response was, “No, it’s not a problem. She’s not bothering me at all.” The father/guardian’s reply was, “Well that makes one of us.”
Now his remark may not have been the most fatherly or representative of a PTA board member, is my conjecture. It could’ve been a result of limited sleep, a lack of caffeine, a disappointment in the UFC season 12 premiere, who knows – but what I do know, or more wonder, is when did everyone suddenly feel the need to apologize for things that are normal, natural and in this case, unnecessarily apologetic?
Since returning from Korea I’ve found an unmeasurable number of people who apologize for the littlest things, actions and behaviors that don’t warrant an apology but perhaps a more thoughtful, accurate response is due. Prior to Korea this phenomenon was not so startling. Living in a country where pushing, shoving, and cutting in line (there) are akin to doling out apologies (here), it’s no wonder this response causes me to do a double-take, glancing back over my shoulder after they’ve “I’m sorry’d” wondering how their apology applies. I’m not complaining, just curious and thankful for the casual communication.
People who are not familiar with urban living or NYC may have heard the misconception that NY’ers are rude. I’d like to clarify and dispel that attitude because contrary to belief, NY’ers are not rude and neither are Americans (and c’mon, we have our days). For that matter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a culture that shoves and pushes without apology (Korea) falls into that category either, it’s just a matter of cultural differences. We may be too happy with our customer service, tell you our life story within 10 minutes of meeting, but fall short of apologizing we do not. Well, perhaps for matters that require an obvious and immediate apology, yes, but our government is still learning.