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Mistakes and Apologies

Can You Spare the Time? (Photo by Marc Kornblatt)

IF YOU rarely make mistakes, don’t waste your time reading beyond this sentence. What follows are two stories, set forty years and an ocean apart, for your consideration.

LUNCH HOUR in midtown Manhattan, a young man in a hurry to get to work is headed for the subway. Pedestrian traffic around Columbus Circle is heavy, but he’s a nimble walker, snaking his way through the crowd. As he reaches the stairs leading down to the subway, he is accosted by an older man.

“Do you have a dime?” the elder asks.

The young man hesitates, glances at the older man and shakes his head.

“Sorry,” he says. “No change.”

“No, man!” The elder barks, “I said the time.”

“What?”

“The time!”

The young man stops and looks at the other man who sports a clean, white dress shirt and dark slacks. The elder’s black scowling face is a study of anger and frustration.

“I said the time,” says the elder, pointing to the young man’s wrist. “Not a dime!”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t…” 

Embarrassed, the young man consults his watch, tells the other man the time, then hurries down the steps to catch the Broadway local.  End of story.

AFTERNOON in central Tel Aviv, a gray-haired man, returning from an x-ray appointment at a medical clinic, sees an elderly woman in a wheelchair parked in the middle of the sidewalk.  A somber look on her face, the woman cradles a plastic cup in her hands.

The man stops and reaches into his pocket. He pulls out a coin, is about to set it in the old woman’s cup, when a young woman emerges from a shop to stop him.

“She doesn’t need that,” the young woman explains with a good-natured laugh. “That’s for water.”

“Oh. Sorry,” the man says.  He looks again at the cup, which is empty, save, perhaps, for a thin film of water at the bottom. “I thought…”

“Thank you.” The younger woman laughs again. “Thank you.”

The old woman nods her head, but says nothing. The man continues on his way, but after a few steps, he stops and heads back to the old woman.

“Could I give you a hug instead?” the man asks.

The old woman nods, smiles. Whereupon he leans over and gingerly drapes an arm over her shoulder and squeezes it gently.  

The young woman laughs. “Thank you, thank you,” she says again.

The gray-haired man continues on his way, feeling lighter on his feet. He hasn’t repaired the world, or his arthritic knees, but he has made a young woman laugh and an old woman smile. End of story.

THE OTHER DAY, after mistaking a wheelchair-bound woman for a beggar and going back to give her a hug, I wished that I had been as quick-witted and capable of making amends when I, in hurry to get ahead in life, encountered a black man asking me for the time. 

Mistakes based on false assumptions followed by sincere apologies can bring smiles. Maybe more.

About the Author
Filmmaker, playwright, and children's book author Marc Kornblatt is the producer/director of the award-winning documentaries DOSTOEVSKY BEHIND BARS, STILL 60, WHAT I DID IN FIFTH GRADE, and LIFE ON THE LEDGE, among others, and more than 20 web series, including MINUTE MAN, ROCK REGGA, THE NARROW BRIDGE PROJECT, and BLUE & RED, RESPECTFUL ENCOUNTERS OF THE POLITICAL KIND. He and his wife made Aliyah in 2019 and now live in Tel Aviv.
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