My journey has not been inconvenienced

Vincent 10:44 am, Mar 1st 2010

The train service that runs from where I live to where I work is terrible. For the last few months I have heard the following message nearly every day: “We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to your journey”. But it wasn’t my journey that was inconvenienced. It was me – the man who parted with ridiculous amounts of cash in return for the right to wait on a crowded platform. And inconvenience means having to park 50 yards from your front door, not being an hour late for work.

But what’s really annoying about this statement is that it tells me that they want to do something, not that they have done something. If I say, “I would like to hold your hand”, it kind of implies that I’m not holding your hand at the moment. Similarly, if I “would like to apologise”, I’d better get on and do it.

If they’d said “we’re sorry”, that would be much better. Sorry is what we say in real life, when we really mean it. Sorry is a word that is also an action. Saying sorry means you are apologising, like saying welcome means that you are welcoming someone.

If you don’t believe me, try it out with someone you really care about. When you’ve done something you shouldn’t – taped over that programme, sworn in front of the children, failed to take the bin out – try mollifying them by saying “I would like to apologise for the mistake that I made”. Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor and applied ice packs to the parts of your face that hurt most, try saying “I’m sorry for the mistake that I made”. I’d be really interested to hear your results.

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