This column prides itself on honesty and openness, full disclosure and all that.
It thus behooves me to make a long-delayed confession to those readers who
mourned along with me the demise of my faithful, 20-year-old car (“Wheeling and
dealing,” December 6, 2011).
The true fact of the matter is that Mr.
Useful – battered, but with his hood held high – is still faithfully serving as
our family car, giving newer models a run for their money.
When I wrote
the piece, it did look like the end of the road for our loyal retainer, whose
gears had gone, leaving him standing idle and useless in our parking lot. I was
on the point of calling the towing company to arrange his final journey when we
learned about the Transportation Ministry’s safety plan to pay old-car owners a
NIS 3,000 “scrapping grant” to encourage them to take their vehicles off the
The plan has been suspended several times owing to ministry budget
constraints; but we reasoned that once it (hopefully) got off the ground, the
grant in question would defray the cost of installing new gears. So why not
delay the inevitable a while longer? ALL THIS is by way of introduction to an
incident that occurred last week.
My husband and I, paying a Pessah call
in a nearby neighborhood, had pulled up perpendicular to the sidewalk, where the
parking allocation was generous.
As we emerged from our friends’
building, however, we saw a car swerve rapidly into an adjoining space and heard
a hefty bang.
“That’s our car he’s hit,” I exclaimed, shocked, and strode
over to confront the careless driver, who meanwhile had climbed out of his
vehicle. He had smashed into the corner of our bumper, prising it away from the
body, while his car, a shiny new Mercedes, sustained damage to its
The offender, a burly fellow, looked over our car, and our bumper,
“It’s nothing,” he said aggressively, referring to what he
had inflicted on us.
“That’s an old car, worth NIS 100. Look, there are
This really made me bristle. “It doesn’t matter
whether our car is worth NIS 100, NIS 100,000, or NIS 5,” I retorted heatedly,
“you smashed into it. Its age and condition, moreover, are irrelevant. If an
elderly person is involved in an accident, doesn’t he deserve medical
treatment?” This outburst had some effect, and he became less confrontational.
It transpired that he owned an auto supply shop down in the industrial area, and
mentioned the name.
“Look,” he said, “I’ve no tools here. Come over
tomorrow morning and I’ll screw your bumper on again. Good as new.” He didn’t
sneer, which I suppose was to his credit.
Next morning, I drove to his
shop, where he suited action to word. Our bumper is now probably more firmly
attached than before – and, undeniably, all’s well that ends well. But two
things still troubled me.
He had revealed the day before, in answer to my
question, that the reason he had crashed into our car when there was plenty of
space to park comfortably alongside it was that he had been busy with his
“Suppose there had been a small child standing in that space?”
I asked him the next day. “You weren’t looking as you swerved in, so how did you
know there wasn’t anyone there?” He brushed this possibility aside with “Nothing
like that happened, so let’s not worry about it.” Clearly he was not the most
imaginative of people. Multiply him by any number of drivers who concentrate
more on their iPhones than on their driving, and the possible – probable –
scenarios are scary.
The other troubling thing continued to occupy me
long after we had parted.
“You drove into our car,” I remarked before I
left, “yet you never once said you were sorry. Don’t you think you ought to have
apologized?” I wish I could relay his answer to this very understandable
question, but he didn’t really offer one. As it turned out, he wasn’t a bad
fellow, his aggressiveness notwithstanding; and yet the notion that he had done
something that called for an apology on his part clearly hadn’t occurred to him
– nor did he deem it necessary after I had drawn his attention to it.
caused me wry amusement to ponder this incident in the context of the place I
hail from – Britain – where, even today, if someone treads on someone else’s
foot on the bus, both treader and treadee are liable to apologize profusely. I
guess it’s a question of different cultures, a topic which has been on my mind
quite a lot lately.
CULTURAL DIFFERENCE is partly what makes our prime
minister’s recent apology to his Turkish counterpart over the Mavi Marmara
flotilla affair a cause for concern despite the overwhelming support for it in
government quarters. Pragmatism is important in international relations, yet
more than one strategic affairs expert has pointed out that we Israelis live in
a tough neighborhood where every act is viewed through the prism of power and
any concession – an apology, for instance – is most likely to be interpreted as
weakness and exploited, something Turkey’s leader has – predictably? – rushed to
While only time will tell whether Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology to
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was politically justified, about apologies in general it
seems fair to say they have real value only when proffered in good faith and
with grace, and received in the same way.
SADLY THE field of politics is
not known for those qualities. But moving from the macro to the micro, the
narrower and perhaps less complex area of personal relations thrives on grace
and good faith. Throw in some honesty and a bit of courage, and chances are
“you’ll never walk alone.”
Whoever came up with the line “Love means
never having to say you’re sorry” didn’t know much about love, or about the
deepening of intimacy that can follow when one partner has hurt or offended the
other, which is almost inevitable at some point in all close
That may sound paradoxical. But achieving intimacy is a
journey of discovering another person – a journey for which, moreover, no
detailed maps are provided at the outset. Acquiring deep knowledge of the other
almost certainly involves witting or unwitting intrusion into his or her areas
Which is why we should never hesitate to apologize to
those closest to us when we have injured them.
“In marriages,” write
author Gary Chapman and counselor Jennifer Thomas, “domestic turmoil is often
rooted in an unwillingness to apologize.... For lack of an apology, [the couple]
declare war, which sometimes lasts for years and often ends in divorce or
When you apologize, moreover, you give the other person the power
to forgive, which can lead to an enormous sense of mutual relief and healing, a
feeling of gratitude, and a stronger relationship.
Apologizing might feel
like “giving in,” but it’s more often a win-win situation, giving a relationship
a new lease on life.
IT WOULD have been really nice if the aggressive
fellow who crashed into our car last week had apologized, but apologizing
clearly wasn’t part of his personal repertoire. Perhaps his ready, if clumsy,
offer to fix our bumper was a kind of unstated apology, the best he could
In the end, you can’t get away from it; we all respond differently in
different situations. As my mother used to say, “God has a large zoo.”