As a shallow person I’ve never been one to turn a blind eye to a cliche. Let’s face it. Trite sayings can be useful on all kinds of levels. Like when you’re walking down the hall at work and you inadvertently make eye contact with someone you tangentially know, and at the most inopportune time, perhaps when your mind is wrapped around whether to have soup or a sandwich for lunch, and the only thing you can come up with in the moment your paths cross is, “Hi, have a good day!” Well, that’s not so bad. I mean, who doesn’t want to “have a good day”? Certainly there’s nothing wrong with letting someone know you hope they do. And it’s miles ahead of trying to pull up something slightly more meaningful on the spur of the moment which, more than likely, will result in some sort of unintelligible garble spewing from your otherwise preoccupied mind, making neither you or them feel any better. Isn’t it easier just to make someone smile and go away a tiny bit happier?
Or when someone at work comes into your office to tell you that the sky is pretty much falling and they simply don’t know what to do next and you try to come up with something, anything really that will make them feel slightly better and all that comes out is, “well keep calm and carry on.” You’re fully aware of the fact that the chances of that happening are about the same as finding a needle in a haystack but what are you supposed to say? Even if you are thinking there’s a pretty good chance that before too long your co-worker is going to be offered the opportunity to “be successful elsewhere” what good is it going to do either of you to say so? Think about it for a minute. Given the alternative, and the fact that just about anything else you say is likely to lead you into some very uncomfortable territory, perhaps the best advice for both parties at this juncture is to “stay calm”. But none of this explains why lately I’ve been thinking more about cliches than usual. Truth be told, I’ve actually been thinking about one cliche in particular, but if you can hold your horses for just another minute or two, I promise I’ll get to that.
So the other day I’m minding my own business while walking to work. More to the point, I was actually walking from the parking lot to work when I looked up and saw a bus and there, displayed across the top where the destination would normally be, was the following: “Sorry…not in service”. And that’s when it occurred to me. There’s been a lot of that sort of thing going on in Canada lately, and while I am painfully cognizant of our reputation for being apologetic, I don’t think it has ever been regaled quite as publicly as it has been over the last few months. And I know this because I watch TV and lately there seems to be a proliferation of advertising that exploits this apparent predisposition. In case you have missed it, let me fill you in.
There are the Americans who, for some unknown reason are being taught how to “pass” as Canadians. In order to do this it seems, one must bone up on their knowledge of beavers, have a love of VH sauce and, when push comes to shove, automatically declare you are “sorry” to someone who doesn’t allow you to share their food. Is this really all that it takes? And who says that Americans don’t like VH sauce? Then there’s the “tire guy” who apologizes for changing the name of “all season” tires to “all weather” tires since, it would seem, that for many years we have been fooled into thinking that our winters and “theirs” are one in the same. Not only does he apologize for the name change, he also makes the ultimate apology and apologizes, on behalf of all Canadians I am to assume, for our propensity for apologizing. Come on people! What we should be sorry for is not having won a war that would have given us free and clear access to at least one southern clime.
But that’s not what the bus triggered for me. At the moment I realized that the bus was apologizing for being out of service, even though that’s not an entirely unreasonable state for a bus to be in, the first thing that popped into my mind, and I have to say I’m not sure why, was the well-worn and as we all know, terribly overused cliche “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”. Heads up my northern friends. It seems this may not be the case for us Canadian folk.