Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's Your Excuse?

by Tory Butterworth

For those of you who pay attention to our blog schedule, I’m subbing for Annette today. Her father passed away on Sunday and the funeral was today. Annette wrote a really sweet piece on him (it made me cry) in her blog.

My dad used to say, “There’s no excuse!” when he was referring to some behavior that made him mad. But I think, “My father died,” is an excellent excuse. My father died a few days before taxes were due. Definite excuse to file an extension. My mother died a few days before Christmas. This was an excellent excuse for not sending out Christmas cards that year.

My mom hated Christmas. Every year she asked us, “Can we skip Christmas and go to Mexico this year?” My dad hated taxes. You can’t convince me, the psychotherapist, that my parents’ unconscious wishes didn’t play a role in the timing of their deaths.

My dad was cremated. My mother, for some reason, wanted to “see the body off,” (really the casket, praise the Lord) as it was headed towards the flames. I couldn’t see her doing this alone. I had a class the morning this was scheduled, and as I’d missed class the week before I wanted to go to this one if I could.

The professor of the class in question was a self-important psychoanalyst (that is, orthodox follower of the practices of Freud.) He conducted the only 8:30 a.m. class in the entire psychology department and reputedly showed up after having seen his first patient of the day. Let’s just say that “rigid” was his middle name.

The week before my dad’s passing I had asked him for a copy of a paper a friend of mine, since moved to Massachusetts, had written for the course the year before. I knew that if I didn’t catch him that day, it was likely the paper would be lost forever.

I stood in the line of other students after class, waiting to talk to the professor. He and the student before me were engaged in an animated conversation. The minutes ticked by, and I imagined not getting to the crematory in time.

I attempted to briefly interrupt him, expecting I could get the paper, run, and he could return to his conversation. “Excuse me,” I said, as politely as I could.

He turned and glared at me. “What, young lady, is your hurry?”

Damn, you don’t get handed those sort of lines often enough. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t tell him. At that age, I was too timid. But I still think, “I’m late for my father’s cremation,” would have made an excellent excuse, even for a rude interruption. And one I can never use again.

What’s on your top list of best excuses?


Anonymous said...

I'm really bad at coming up with excuses. I tend to be as vague as possible so I don't get myself into trouble. (Yeah, I take the easy way out.)

Nancy said...

I was once a junior high school English teacher, so I heard a lot of excuses in those days. My favorite excuse for not turning in homework was one girl's, "I had to go bowling."

Gina said...

I came up with my best excuses in 1994, the year my house burned down. I serve on a bar association committee that used to rotate the responsibility for taking minutes. Since the committee's proceedings are confidential, the minutes were never circulated. They were just brought to the next meeting for discussion and approval. This committee also goes on hiatus every summer, and it was my turn to take minutes at the last spring meeting. I didn't have them to present when we met again in the fall because my house had burned down in July, taking the minutes with it. No one questioned that excuse!

Tory said...

Kristine: I think vagueness has its virtues. Harder to catch you lying!

Nancy: One potential client said to me about therapy, "I'm too f__ed up now, I need to wait."

Gina: That has to be the best excuse, ever! Must have been pretty miserable to have your house burn down, though.