I Forgot

I was supposed to go to a workgroup for creating comics and graphics novels today. Although it’s well known that I miss every other week because of trips to Tampa, and while I believe I had already made it known last week that I’d miss it, I’m still not 100% sure they knew I’d be gone. I had planned on calling someone to let them know, you know, just in case, but…

I told a friend I would call him after I got home last night from Tampa. It was about 10pm, and while I got home alright (a bit tired from the 4 hour drive), I didn’t. Guess I just…

When does someone stop being accountable? At what point when you say “I’ll do something” which you don’t do you stop being accountable? We’ve all forgotten about or been prevented from doing things we promised we’d do — the dishes, throwing out the trash, calling at a certain time, meeting someone somewhere — but at what point does a person go from being accountable to being someone who can’t really be counted on?

I’d love to say that the demarcation point is either one big item (not going to a big party you promised you would), or a lot of small items (always saying that you’ll call, but being sporadic about when you would), but is it really that easy?

Here’s a guess: the level of tolerance is denoted by the relationship between the people involved and the subject at hand. If you’re meeting a stranger for business and you forget about the meeting, calling afterward to tell them you forgot is the equivalent of telling them that you’re either disorganized or they’re not important enough for you to put in a calendar. To do the same with a friend may mean you either don’t value the relationship, value them, or that the meeting isn’t really all that important anyway. While never in any of these cases is it generally acceptable to say “there were more important things going on at the time,” irrespective of how true this may be, how do the situations change if the person calls afterward to apologize?

In the business meeting with the stranger, I presume that will generally kill the business relationship. In the meeting with the friend, I presume that will sour the relationship, the level of which will be dependent upon the occasion or the number of times it’s happened before. How far an apology will go in either of these cases will depend on the position you and the other person find yourselves in and what you expect of the other within a given social framework.

  • How a young business person looks missing a meeting with a prospective client will often depend on the client’s prior business experience: if the client has been in the business world for 20 years, then missing the meeting will be deemed unacceptable due to the lack of professionalism. if both are college students, then a certain level of slack will usually be given by the client.
  • How a friend looks missing a meeting with a person will depend on the relationship between the two (and what each is willing to accept from the other) and the nature of the meeting (face to face, or phone?). If it is accepted that your friend tends to be absent-minded, then missing a call to say “hello” probably won’t be seen as such a big deal. If the matter at hand is of grave importance, then you’ll probably begin to question how important that person is in your life.

In both of these cases, I often wonder whether accepting that a person forgot is a matter of understanding, or is the unacceptability of breaking a promise (whether mentioned or implied) a matter of self respect? At what point do you simply not accept an apology? And does society ever demand than an apology come in a particular format? (For example, if a friend misses your play, or a concert you invited them to, or your wedding — something for which money was expended — is calls apologizing that they forgot enough? What about an email? A handwritten letter? A check for the costs? Or is forgiveness simply not an option after a certain point?)

By the way, here’s a little revelation: I tend to be a fairly forgiving person, and an apology will usually be enough for me to give a person a second and even third chance in any of the aforementioned scenarios. Yes, even business with a total stranger, though first impressions are usually lasting. Part of it is because I do tend to be a bit on the forgetful side, so I treat others how I’d want to and to a certain extent expect to be treated. The other part is because I’m not particularly judgmental.

I got up this morning at about 4 AM, realized I had forgotten to call when I got home and emailed that person an apology.

I’ll be calling the artists I was working in with the workshop to inform them I’m back from Tampa. Funny enough, I was told by one I’d get a call during the week, but never did. Never really thought much of it or minded it much. It’s just the way things have worked out. That’s probably fairly telling of how the relationship has been defined.

Luckily, I don’t think either of these will be friendship- or deal-killers.

Think about the questions mentioned here and posit your reaction in these and other scenarios. I’d like to know what you consider acceptable and what’s not in regards to accountability.

  • At what point do you draw the proverbial line? And what happens when the line is crossed?
  • Are you the type of person that passes judgment without allowing the violator to recompense, or will you accept apologies when someone forgets?
  • How do you expect to be treated when you forget?

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