Category Archives: Karma

The power of a real apology…

We’ve all done it; said something that had unintended consequences, made a choice without regard as to how others might be affected, just basically did something that hurt someone else.  Fortunately, we have an amazing thing called an “apology” that, while it can’t undo history, it can go a long way toward getting the feelings involved back to where they were.

But to achieve that, it needs to be done correctly.

I have had two situations in the last week, one for which I am merely a spectator to both sides and one in which I am somewhat in the middle, and in both cases I am baffled by the seeming unwillingness of people to just apologize.  Correctly.

Now I know this is a judgment on my part, but let me explain.  If a friend has a tragedy in life in which you are not involved in any way but you are rather just “there for them”, then saying you are sorry for how they feel makes total sense.  The way they feel has nothing to do with your own actions and choices, and so to say “I’m sorry you are sad”, or “I’m sorry you feel hurt” and any other similar phrase is often quite helpful.  This is because your job at this point is to SYMPATHIZE.

An actual apology should not phrased the same way as sympathy.

If the person’s feelings are a function of your own words and actions, I don’t think the other person is looking for your sympathy.  They don’t need to know that “You are sorry that they feel hurt”.  They need to know that “You are sorry that you hurt their feelings.”

These are not even remotely the same.

The obvious difference is that one takes responsibility and the other does not.   And what the hurt person needs to know is that you take responsibility, not that they have your sympathy.

Now this does not mean that every situation where someone gets hurt requires an apology.  Sometimes things need to be said that may hurt someone else and there is not a way around this.  It may seem counterintuitive, but the actions which I find MYSELF apologizing most often for are those that had completely unintended consequences, where I hurt someone feelings without realizing my actions could be hurtful.  Just because it was not INTENDED does not mean it is not my fault that their feelings got hurt.  if you back into someone’s car in a parking lot, you had no intent to damage their vehicle but it is STILL your fault, even it was an accident.

In the situation in which I am a spectator, the person’s response is “but I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings!”, which may also be the reaction of you, the reader.  There is the argument that how they interpret your words and actions is up to them and if they are hurt by them, then it is their problem and not yours, but I think if you try tack that in every situation you will not be pleased with the results.

And certainly the people around you won’t either.

Lastly, a real apology seldom comes with a a lot of conditions, explanations, caveats, and the like.  If you need to fill out this form in your head when apologizing, you’re probably not really apologizing.  You are justifying.

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So try this the next time you want to apologize: do it in as few words as possible and see how it goes.  I try to keep mine to this:

“I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.”

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The full story of finding my stolen bike on Craigslist and GETTING IT BACK!

Some of you who know me in real life may know that several months ago my friend Nathan and I were able to retrieve his stolen bicycle from the thief who had taken it 30 minutes earlier.  Time for round two, this time with MY bike.  Anyone who knows me knows I love my downtown bike, built for me by my friend Chris a few years ago:

On Wednesday, March 20th, I went to see a movie at the downtown Phoenix AMC Theatre in the middle of the afternoon and when I came out, my beloved bike, which had been locked to a bike rack on the side of the building, was gone.  After going through the usual “maybe I locked it somewhere else” routine for 15 minutes I had to accept the fact that someone had STOLEN it.

After walking home, I got in my car and started cruising around downtown looking for it but really had little hope.  I made a flier to put up in a few places like the downtown ASU campus and then because I had read an article about finding their property on Craigslist, I started looking on there.  I didn’t really expect to find anything, so imagine my surprise when I see this ad placed four hours after my bike was stolen:

Not much to go on, but I just had a feeling.  My bike fit the (limited) description, and since I had my frame powdercoated there were no markings as to the manufacturer, and usually people selling bikes will put at least the make and model if there is one they can see.  I decided to call the guy up…

I got the guy on the phone (he said his name was Al) and gave him a story about wanting a simple single speed bike for my wife (I’m actually single) and asked a few questions but nothing too detailed; I didn’t even ask the color.  Al volunteered that it had “big tires” on it and I responded that I didn’t really want a bike with knobby tires because she was going to ride on the street.  He responded that the tires were large, but smooth and not knobby.  Gotcha, man!  Who else but me has a single-speed 29er with 2.25″ Schwalbe Big Apple tires on it??  THIS WAS MY BIKE.

I said maybe I could come see it the next day and acted like I was in no rush and he said that he could show it to me anytime the next morning up around I-17 and Northern.  I said I would call him in the morning and see if we could arrange something, trying not to act too eager, which I certainly WAS at this point.

Needless to say, sleep was difficult if not impossible that night.

I called Al the next morning after having picked my buddy Nathan to help with this (as I mentioned, he and I had caught a guy who stole his bike months earlier; I still need to write about that one, which was pretty interesting).  I had filed a police report online, and then called the Phoenix Police to ask how to handle the situation.  They said the way they work it is to have me arrange the meeting, then call the police about 15 minutes before from a nearby location to show them my ownership evidence (photos of me with the bike, a list of components and markings on the bike) and to devise a plan.  So here we go…

I dropped Nathan off at the meet location about 40 minutes ahead of time to act as a scout and we stayed in constant contact through text.  A typical interaction:

Nathan: “All still clear.”   Wayne: “Roger.”

Yeah, we were playing spy, but why not?  We might have a chance to get my bike back!

I wasted some time before calling the police about 25 minutes later.  They showed up, I showed them my report and ownership evidence and explained it all.  We decided that I would wait for the guy at the meeting location and as soon as Nathan saw him riding up he would call one of the officer’s cellphones and tell him the guy was there with the bike.

Then I get a call from Al asking if I was there and asking if my (fictional) wife was with me.  I said she couldn’t make it because of work but if it would fit me then it would be fine for her.  I don’t know if he had spied me and called to see why I was alone, but he said he could be there in a couple of minutes.  Like two minutes later, the guy rides up ON MY BIKE (I knew it!) and we started to chat.  I kept my composure though I wanted to throttle him, but didn’t want him running before the police arrived either.  I looked the bike over and asked a question or two to waste some time until the police arrived, and the next thing I know Nathan comes flying around the corner and two Phoenix Police SUVs roll up fast and box us in.

STUNG!

I then got pissed and told the guy “You need to talk to these officers; you stole my fucking bike man!” then gave him a hard shove away from my bike before the one of the officers told me to stop because I think he didn’t want me getting in trouble.  I wanted to punch the guy but doing that in front of two police officers would probably not be the smartest thing.  Plus this may sound weird, but a small part of me felt sorry for the guy; he was probably in his forties and didn’t seem agile enough to have stolen it so I’m sure some one else stole it and then he just sells them.  I’m not saying that makes him a good guy, but he certainly didn’t look like he was getting rich off of this; I guess it is just his (bad) way of getting by.

Just before we left, this was the scene:

Yeah, my buddy Nathan looks pretty pleased but I guarantee you that my smile on the other side of the camera was at least as big.  And as we get into the car to drive off, Nathan turns to me and excitedly says the exact same words to me as I did to him several months ago when we caught the guy who stole HIS bike:

“Dude, can you believe it??  We got your bike back!!”

Maybe the excitement comes because so few people are fortunate enough get back what gets stolen from them.  A sad fact.

Well this time, score one for the victim.

Doing the right thing again.

It must be my time to find other people’s stuff that they have lost; my previous post on the iPod Touch I found in an aircraft seatback while flying from Washington DC to Florida is the most recent example before this one.

So I am headed to get some coffee at 10am and I see this in the middle of my street; I mean like right in the middle:

Looks like a wallet, though hey, it could be just empty.  Let’s see:

Whoops!  I’ll bet someone wants this one back!

So this was much easier than the last time: quick jump onto Facebook, find out that we have FIVE “friends” in common (when talking about friends on Facebook, the word “friends” screams out to me for air quotes, and sometimes actual quotes), send a quick message with my cell number, get a phone call back in no time, then the person came and picked it up at my house.  It’s amazing that the person got it back as they had dropped it while bicycle bar-hopping around downtown at 10pm the previous evening, and we have a lot of people who walk the streets in the early morning.  It sat there for 12 hours just waiting for someone to do the right thing.

And of course, just like last time, when asked what I wanted in exchange, I asked that this person just do something to help a stranger at their next opportunity.  Just pay it forward, to which the person wholeheartedly agreed.

I don’t offer this story to make people think I am some great person; big deal, I gave back a wallet.  I think returning a wallet to an owner is something every person I know would do as well, so I am just using this to make a point about doing for others, because sometimes your small efforts on your part can have big results for other people.  And not for the reasons you might think.

Our country seems to have become so divided and argumentative that we seem to seldom realize we are still all just human beings trying to get by in the world.  So what can a good deed do?  Aside from the deed itself, it can remind us that most people DO care about other people, even those with whom they might disagree.

We get to see that people care all the time with any BIG crisis, like a hurricane, or earthquake, or any other devastation that affects lots of people.  People volunteer their time, food, money and whatever they can to help when lots of people are in trouble.

But what about when ONE person is in trouble?  We don’t know when that might be because it often not obvious; there is seldom news footage of just one person having a really hard time in life, especially one who happens to cross our path.

So it seems simple: when given the chance to do good, take it.  When given the chance to do bad, steer away.  But pay attention, because the smallest efforts might end up being the most important.

Lecture over, and thanks for listening.

Doing the right thing.

I recently flew from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL; when I went to get my iPod Nano out of the seatback pocket after landing in Orlando, I found this:

Sweet!  An iPod Touch, loaded with music, games and all sorts of apps!  I’m a winner!

But then I noticed something else; it also had access to the Gmail account of the owner, so I had his email address.  And there were pictures of his recent vacation to Costa Rica.  And of his kids.  It was obvious that this is something he would like to have back.

So I emailed him twice with no response, which was interesting since I could SEE the emails getting to his Gmail account and see that they were unread.  I don’t think he uses Gmail for much so it was starting to look like “Hey, I did my part and now I have a new iPod Touch!”.

But no.  I didn’t feel good about that.  As someone who loves to research things and find answers, I KNEW I could track this guy down somehow and give him a nice Christmas gift.

So after some further legwork, I found a reference to where he seemed to work.  I looked up that place (in Washington DC), called the organization and asked for him and was informed that he had left for the day.  I mentioned to his secretary that I may have found his iPod and that he could call me so we could arrange it getting back to him.

He called in about two minutes, and in fact while I was on the phone with him another of his colleagues called me to tell me that he was going to call.

Obviously he was REALLY excited to get this back.

He asked what I wanted to get it back to him: a reward, at least paying for my time and shipping charges, whatever.  The shipping charges were only $5 with a USPS Flat Rate Box so I asked if he could do me a favor instead, as he did sound like a pretty decent guy:

“As corny as it sounds, just pay it forward.  The next time you have a chance to do something for someone, please do and we’ll call it even.”

It felt right.  I wish during these crazy holidays when everyone is so stressed about the economy, finding the perfect gifts, dealing with crazy family and all that we could remember that we are all just trying to get by in this world, and that doing the smallest thing for someone else can have an effect far beyond your own effort.  And the more goodwill circling in the world, the better chance there is that some will come back to you.

And even if it doesn’t, it still feels good to do the right thing.

I’m the Bird Whisperer…

So several weeks ago I was downtown to meet my friend Jill for lunch and while I was waiting for her a woman who was on a cellphone asked if I could help a bird that was flopping around all over the sidewalk.  I saw the bird and thought it was having seizure or had a broken wing or something; having watched Wild Kingdom every Sunday night while growing up, I knew I had to jump in and do something; little did I know that Jill was catching this on her cell phone camera.  She also blogged about this in her “Saving Captain Jack” post; get it?

Here is me in the “capture phase”:

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And then holding it while we figured out what was wrong with it, which turned out to be some bird netting. I thought bird netting was meant to keep birds out of things, not detach and tangle them up. It was so wrapped around the bird that Jill had to go get some scissors which she used to cut the netting while I spread the birds wings out one at a time so we could get to it.

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Here is the netting; nasty stuff!

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My name is Wayne, and I am the Bird Whisperer.

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