I am staying with my parents until I go back to college in September. A few days ago, while I was driving home — way below the speed limit! — the neighbors’ dog darted into the street. (It looked like he was chasing something.) I slammed on my brakes and felt a thud. I got out of the car and saw that I had hit the dog. He was dead. I carried him to my neighbors’ house, but no one was home. So, I left him on the doorstep. I was going to write a note, but I chickened out. Now, the neighbors have posted signs around the neighborhood asking if anyone knows what happened. I feel terrible! Is it too late to speak up?
It’s never too late to do the right thing. (You know that!) I get that you panicked in the moment. By not telling your neighbors, though, you have added needlessly to their anguish. Can you imagine coming home to a beloved pet lying mysteriously dead at your door? Still, I’m glad you wrote. Let’s think of this as the first step in redeeming yourself.
Tell your parents what happened. (They will continue living near your neighbors after you return to college.) If, for any reason, they ask you to keep quiet about the accident, tell them you can’t do that. Speaking up will be better (and more healing) for you and your neighbors.
Then go next door and tell them what happened. Do not embroider your account with excuses: The dog bolted into the street. You hit him. He was dead. They were away. Then apologize sincerely for the accident, your failure to speak up earlier and the pain you’ve caused them. I have no idea how they will respond, but I am certain that this is the right and kindest thing to do.
On Again, Off Again
In 1972, one year after graduating from high school, my best friend dumped me. He never said why. At our 10th reunion, he ignored me rudely. Last week, after 49 years of silence, he sent me an email asking if I was going to our 50th reunion. He wanted to catch up. I told him I wasn’t going, but I asked about his life, which he described in great detail. He wrote about his sexual exploits as if he were still 17. In return, I sent him a Playbill from a Jefferson Airplane concert we attended together 50 years ago. Weeks later, I still haven’t heard from him. This hits a nerve. Am I wrong?
Of course you’re not wrong! I’m sorry your friend hurt your feelings 49 years ago, 39 years ago and last week. You see the pattern, though, right? If you think it may help, call him and tell him (calmly) how his behavior has made you feel.
I worry that this may be an unsatisfying encounter, though. (A 70-year-old who brags about his sex life, after 50 years of silence, doesn’t sound like great friendship material.) Instead, can you use this opportunity to reflect on, and appreciate, the people who have been there for you? That may be more useful.
I recently started a new job at a large company. We’re working remotely until Labor Day. Still, I’ve started coming into the office voluntarily. I love my new standing desk! Occasionally, I exchange emails with co-workers who say they’re in the office too. I’d like to ask if I can stop by and meet them in person. I’m fully vaccinated, and we’re required to wear masks when moving around the building. Still, I work in a senior role, and some colleagues may be reluctant to refuse me. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. What do you think?
It’s great that you’re being sensitive to some people’s reluctance to meet in person these days, as well as the power dynamics at play. If these colleagues feel comfortable going into an office, though, they may be open to meeting you. Just be sure to give them the information they need to decide and an easy out.
Say: “I’m in the office too! May I stop by to say hi or meet you outdoors, if you prefer? I’m fully vaccinated and masked, but I understand entirely if you’d rather keep it virtual for now.” Volunteering the necessary information (without making them work for it) and respecting other people’s boundaries is likely to make you a welcome new colleague.
To Disinvite, or Not to Disinvite …
I have an extra ticket to Shakespeare in the Park. I’m excited to go to the theater again! The friend I invited accepted. She said she hates Shakespeare, but she’d love to see me and hang out in Central Park. I’d rather go with someone who likes Shakespeare. What can I do?
It’s tricky to rescind an invitation you’ve already made. I see some wiggle room here, though. Say, “If it’s OK with you, I’m going to invite someone who likes Shakespeare to come to the play with me. Can you hang out in the park the following week?” Hopefully, this will work for both of you.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
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