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“Sorry” Isn’t Always Good Enough

Marina

The dock in the foreground is covered in sea lions. They’re not apologizing for eating all the fish. I don’t think they’re sorry.

I’m on vacation this week, and my mom has come to town to join me on a couple of road trips.

A few days ago we were in the tippy-left corner of Oregon, visiting the historic city of Astoria.

Nestled in the hills at the mouth of the Columbia River, the town has a generous supply of hotels with river views. We checked out several on arrival before selecting the one that seemed to have the best location and amenities for our purposes.

It was by no means the least expensive, but it seemed like paying a little extra would be worth it after a long day of travel.

Although the hotel was empty when we arrived (we had our pick of rooms), it was well before check-in time and our room wasn’t ready.

No problem; we had places to go and sights to see.

We were given our keys then and there, which was convenient, but told to come back at 3pm.

Vintage trolley

The restored 1913 trolley takes you on a guided tour for $1.

We gave them an extra hour and returned at 4pm after riding the vintage trolley and strolling the downtown area.

We were ready to put our feet up, so we unpacked the car and went straight up to the room, loaded with bags and eager for a rest.

We were greeted by the sight of unmade beds and garbage on the floor.

An hour past check-in time, the room had still not been cleaned.

I made my way back down to the front desk. The person was very nice.

She explained that they’d been having some “communication issues” with Housekeeping due to their computer system.

She explained that the hotel had been full the day before, and there were many rooms to clean.

She gave me keys to a different room.

She may or may not have said she was sorry. With all the explaining she was doing, if she apologized, it didn’t register.

The 125-foot Astoria Column stands on a hill and commands a birds-eye view of the city if you're willing to endure the 164 steps to the top. Um ... maybe next time.

The 125-foot Astoria Column stands on a hill and commands a birds-eye view of the city if you’re willing to endure the 164 steps to the top. Um … maybe next time.

Once ensconced for the night, my mom clicked on the TV to find out what was on the many channels offered by the hotel.

(My mom likes her TV in the evening, so the many-channels thing is a big deal when choosing a hotel.)

She pressed the “Menu” button on the remote. Nothing happened.

We tried pressing every button but couldn’t locate a TV guide channel. What do you do with 500 channels and no guide?

We called down to the front desk to get some coaching on how to use the remote, and a nice young woman came up to check it out.

She couldn’t get the TV guide channel, either.

She explained that all the remotes had just been replaced, and they may not have been programmed correctly.

She said, “Sorry about that.” There was no offer of recourse or amends.

We asked whether there might be a local newspaper with TV listings available. The young woman was dubious, but did manage to locate a rumpled copy of a national newspaper.

My mom made do with the bare-bones listings in the paper, and was soon enjoying her many channels.

Although everyone we dealt with that day was friendly, I got the feeling they were more interested in making us understand their difficulties than apologizing for ours.

Obviously, they hadn’t read my post on How to Apologize. 😉

Not being able to check in to a clean room or find out what’s on TV are “first-world problems,” to be sure. Then again, my mom and I live in the first world.

We’d been traveling all day. We were tired. We wanted to relax and watch TV.

We were expecting a clean room and a working TV remote for the money we paid.

It wasn’t just the problems themselves; it was the lack of visible concern about them by the staff that threw us off.

But you know what?

Thinking about our experience on the way home, I realized that if I go back to Astoria, I’ll probably stay in that same hotel again.

My disappointment, while real, was not big enough to outweigh my satisfaction with the hotel’s location.

If we’d had a worse experience — say, been robbed by the maids or found a mouse in the oatmeal — then it would be a clear case of “never again.”

But the problems were easy to live with, and so my view of the hotel is more gray than black or white.

When I think of it, my thoughts are that it’s not perfect, but the location is terrific.

All in all, our visit to Astoria was very pleasant. Apparently the city gets six feet (yes, six FEET) of rain per year. We were there for a couple of the rare dry, sunny days.

Life is definitely like a box of chocolates.

Which we had with us, of course. What’s a road trip without chocolate?

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado.
She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations.
The author of “Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them” and the “Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children,” Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships.
Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called “Constructive Wallowing.”

0 Responses to "“Sorry” Isn’t Always Good Enough"

  • Peggy
    April 25, 2015 - 12:40 pm Reply

    Sounds as if you and your Mom made some wonderful memories on that trip. How fortunate to be able to spend time together. Life is good…. sometimes a little kerfuffle makes it even better, makes you appreciate when life is almost perfect.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 25, 2015 - 3:30 pm Reply

      Peggy, you are so right. I can’t tell you how much I cherish this time with my mom!

      I hope to keep traveling with her at least once a year as long as she’s able. She’s 70 now but still running circles around me.

      We’re both looking forward to many more adventures together.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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