Yesterday I got a run-of-the-mill question via email from a woman whose path I cross every spring, when we work on a project together.

Her email caused me to flash back to the first time I met this woman.  Let’s call her Leona, as in Helmsley, because there are similarities between the two.  Both very rich, and both capable of being very mean.

The first time I met “Leona” in person, I was helping out at a silent auction.  These events are detail-heavy to begin with, but to make matters worse, it was the first time I had anything to do with this particular silent auction (with very high stakes items), and I had agreed to work the check-out table.

This is the worst assignment, because people are clamoring to pay, get their stuff, and get out.  Quickly.  The check-out people, meanwhile, are fumbling with credit card machines (always outdated, never the swipe kind), and trying to match up items with the proper gift bag.  I was sitting at the small table with Suzanne, a not-so-closeted gay woman (this is important later), who was in charge of the credit card machine.

So my job was quite simple.  Find the proper gift bag inside this giant bag of bags.  However, having been thrown into this cold, I didn’t know the details about any of the items or which store they had come from, which made finding the right bags very difficult. 

Leona, who had chaired the auction, was hovering around, berating me.  “No, not that bag!”  Loud sigh.  “I had everything all organized!  Why is this so difficult?”  Her eyes rolled.  Her hands were planted on her hips.  Her pointy-toed shoe tapped. 

I was regretting my offer to “help.”  Clearly, my Good Samaritan act was going over like a lead balloon.  But why?  I wasn’t THAT incompetent.  Plus, we were all adults here, in a high-income, well-educated crowd.  Everyone else had lovely manners.  So what was with the boorish Leona?  Had she missed etiquette classes at boarding school?

I knew it was more about her than me, but not until a few weeks later did I get the real story.

Leona and I happened to run into each other in Philadelphia.  She smiled and called me by name.  “Oh Jennifer!  I’m so sorry I was rude to you at the silent auction.”  I smiled back, thinking “So far, so good.”  Then she dropped the other stiletto.  “But I thought you were  a lesbian.”

WTF?!  That’s her apology?  “I’m sorry I was rude to you, I thought you were gay?”  I must have looked blank, becuase she rushed on.  “I assumed you were Suzanne’s girlfriend because you were sitting there with her.”

I was so flabbergasted, I could only smile and nod,, although on the inside, my first thought was, ”Worst. Apology. Ever.”  My second thought?  “At least I was the lipstick.”

I still run into Leona occasionally.  Since she’s associated with a client of mine, I can’t make an enemy of her.

We’re civil-verging-into-friendly, as if nothing has happened.  But I get a lot of mileage out of the the tale.  Proving, as I’ve said here before, that the most appalling incidents make the best stories later.

What is your most memorable apology, given and/or received? 
Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter