What Went Wrong This Week For … Half-Assed Apologies

A photograph of the writer.

SCAACHI KOUL was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, BuzzFeed NewsThe HairpinThe Globe and Mail and J...

Welcome to Well, That Sucked, our weekly compendium of exactly what it sounds like. Thrown in this week’s garbage: look, we all know you’re not sorry.

There are a few ingredients essential to a good apology: speediness, charm, and sincerity. Trust me, I do a lot of apologizing, like the last time I accidentally walked into a men’s bathroom and then stood and stared for, like, 48 full seconds before deciding that maybe I should leave and let all the boys in that junior high go about their businesses. If you can’t get at least two of these three right, your statement is less of an apology and more of a roundup of the dumb things you did.

Consider the recent example of OfficeMax sending out a truly inexplicable letter to a Chicago man named Mike Seay. Seay received an envelope addressed to him and his daughter, which was strange enough, since his 17-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash last April. What made it even stranger is that the second line was addressed to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash.”

OfficeMax released a statement apologizing to the Seay family while also blaming the envelope on a third-party mailing list. It’s still not entirely clear why a third-party would also have this kind of information on hand, but let’s rank OfficeMax’s apology. Was it quick? Not really—it took a few days for them to say they were sorry. Is it charming? Nope. It’s pure boilerplate. Is it sincere? Well, it is if you look at it from the perspective that OfficeMax is really, really sorry that someone else was dumb enough to put “Daughter Killed in Car Crash” on any piece of paper and they ended up on the hook for it. Are they sorry they’re using a third-party in the first place? Oh, ha ha, you’re cute.

Zero out of three.

But wait: there’s more! Last week, Grantland published “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” a misguided attempt at a long feature about a fancy new golf club and its inventor, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt. Dr. V herself was an oddity, and much of her professional and educational background was either faked or difficult to verify. The twist in the piece was that—surprise!—Dr. V was born a man and had since transitioned to a woman.

Dr. V worried the article would out her; in the course of the writer’s reporting, she committed suicide. Grantland ran the piece regardless, complete with the implication that, intentional or not, they may have had some hand in driving a woman to end her life.

Sure does sound like poor judgment, doesn’t it? Well, Grantland editor Bill Simmons found a way to make it worse, taking five days to post a lengthy apology. It wasn’t quick, but at least it was well-written, so points for style. As for sincerity, the second-worst kind of apology you can give is the one where you say something about how you’re eager to “learn” from this “learning experience.” Oh, phew. You’re all going to come out of this so much stronger!

One out of three.

At least Simmons’ apology was slightly more dignified than whatever happened to Toronto’s favourite misfit toy Rob Ford, who, earlier this week, got drunk, cursed out the police chief, and rambled in Jamaican patois late at night in a local restaurant. Ford’s outburst was caught on video, of course, because he is the mayor of the largest city in the country and not merely an average man having a very severe mid-life crisis at a place called Steak Queen. So, as he tends to in these situations, he had to acknowledge that he got drunk and went out in public again. His apology was equally redundant, promising one more time that this was but a “minor setback” and don’t worry, he’ll definitely stay sober this time.

This would all be funny if it didn’t increasingly appear to be an episode of Intervention where the subject refuses help and then starves to death when he gets stuck in an elevator for 11 days straight.

His apology for speaking in Jamaican patois was possibly even worse. “I have a lot of Jamaican friends,” he said. “I am from Rexdale. I coached football. Of course, I am close with a lot of Jamaican people and this is how we talk to each other.” If this argument sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the one used by people who think they can throw the word “faggot” around because they hung out with one gay guy one time in 2004.

Say what you will about Rob Ford (namely that he’s an incompetent, ignorant, churlish, laughingstock), but he’s never not adorable in the way that he twists logic around to fit his convoluted sense of self. It’s charming in its own way, like watching a panda get his face stuck in a Nutella jar while trying to lick the residue off the bottom of the container. And he was pretty quick, too, even if he did spend most of his time this week hiding in bathrooms and shoving cameras away from his face, as one does.

As far as sincerity goes, Ford has been through this routine so many times that it’s almost a part of his daily routine. Wake up, dab night-sweat off brow, bask in self-denial, pour a drink, be filmed in a situation unbefitting a used-car salesman, let alone the mayor of a major metropolitan city, say you’re sorry. It’s hard to believe someone’s sorry when they have to do it so often that it’s barely even a headline anymore.

Two out of three. Congratulations, Rob Ford! Can’t wait to hear what you’re forced to apologize for next week.

Well, That Sucked appears every Friday.

A photograph of the writer.

SCAACHI KOUL was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, BuzzFeed NewsThe HairpinThe Globe and Mail and Jezebel. She is the author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.