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July 2, 2012
Life on Planet Kathy
Excuses, Excuses!
by Kathryn H. Kidd

As someone who has spent a lot of time editing online magazines, I'm used to getting late submissions from writers. This is something that doesn't exactly make me happy, because I like to do my work weeks ahead of time and it's a little bit hard to do that if I don't get a column until the day before it is scheduled to run.

Sure enough, I got to work last Monday to find that I still needed a movie review for Tuesday's issue of the Nauvoo Times. I sent off an email to Andy Lindsay, and this is what I got in response:

"OK, I know I'm late. But I have a really good excuse. Actually, I have several really good excuses, and I hate to use them all up at once, but since this is actually a truthful summation of my week, I can't really bank them and use them later. Anyway, since returning from DC, I have experienced the following:

Other than the aforementioned reasons, I have no good explanation for being behind schedule. Here's an article for Tuesday; two more coming later today or tomorrow."

You know, if somebody's going to give me an excuse, I really appreciate getting a good one. Anybody can get a cold, but it takes someone with a creative life to have a facial encounter with a bat.

I like people like that.

I wrote back to him and said,

"I laughed so hard I almost had an accident. I'm tempted to write a column about your letter. That's the funniest thing I've seen today.

"I take it the bat didn't make it?"

Here is his response:

"The bat incident occurred in my bedroom at 2:30 in the morning. Someone (I am unable to mention my wife's name here) left the attic door open and the little winged fellow found his way into our room where he was overcome with sudden affection for me and landed on my sleeping face. I woke up and shooed him off, then opened the window to let him out. It wasn't until a few days later that it dawned on me that I should have captured him and taken him to animal control to see if it was rabid. Since I didn't, and at the advice of several qualified medical professionals, I presented myself at the ER for a series of not-so-pleasant inoculations designed to prevent me from turning into a vampire. I have to go back three more times, as well. As for fodder for your column, well, help yourself. I have my own column to worry about, and it has gotten more difficult to type now that I find myself hanging upside down from the curtains trying to hold on to my laptop."

Now that's the kind of email I like. It was short, and to the point, and it left me with a wonderful image of Andy hanging from the curtains by his toes and futilely wondering how to use his mouse.

Of course, excuses (even good ones) are part of the human condition. We strive for perfection, we fall short, and then we make up stories to explain to ourselves (and to others) why we failed to toe the mark. Some of those stories are better than others, as Andy's emails can attest. Most of the time the stories are true. Most of the other times the stories are at least partially true, or even mostly true. (Most of the people I deal with regularly don't deal in outright fabrications, and that's a nice thing.)

I've known people who are pretty intolerant of the shortcomings of others. I'm not one of those persons. I can't afford to be. I mess up every day - not once, but dozens of times. Some of those things I catch immediately. Other things I don't catch until they're pointed out to me.

I don't ever make mistakes on purpose. Otherwise, they'd be "purposes" and not "mistakes." No, every time I goof up, it's because I'm human. That means I'm careless, or I'm stupid, or distracted, or sometimes all of the above. I've been distracted a whole lot lately, and that means I've been swimming in my own mistakes.

The reason I am so cheerful about the shortcomings of others is not that I'm a normally cheerful person. It's that I want others to be kind to me when I mess up, and the Lord's Prayer specifically implies that we are forgiven to the same extent that we forgive others. That's something I need.

When I mess up, I don't want somebody telling me how stupid I am. I know that already! What I want is for somebody to say, "Well, you made a mistake here but you'll do better next time." When somebody says that to me, I want to make sure to do better next time, just to prove him right. And I assume others feel the same way, so I try to give them the same consideration I'd want for myself.

Of course, it always helps if a person can write an apology letter as good as Andy Lindsay's. Yes, it might involve importing a bat and ruining your draperies and undergoing a whole raft of painful injections, but that's a small price to pay when your travails cause people to laugh all over Planet Kathy.

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