Monday, February 21, 2011

The Void of Apologies

Over the weekend I had an incident that I'd like to share with you. I think this is a great example of a social issue that can start out small but quickly snowball into something more.

This incident didn't happen in person, but rather was an incident on the racing game iRacing that I talked about last week. Thankfully I can say though that the incident I am about to describe was not caused by my sightseeing tour of the game.

So what happened? I know most of my readers probably aren't race fans so I will try my best to keep the race talk to a minimum and focus on the issues, but first I must describe the incident. I was in an Indycar race at the Michigan oval and was running third with twentysomething laps to go. The guy in 2nd got along side the leader and made a pass on the curved front straight. I was tucked up behind the new leader and decided to try and pass the former leader. Headed into turn one there was contact between the new 2nd place driver and myself. It was light contact, but it sent my front wheels into the air.

When the tires that steer are in the air turning becomes an issues. As my car settled back down right before the long sweeping turn one my car would not turn. I went up towards the wall at a fast pace and the driver in fourth didn't have a chance to avoid me and he clipped my right rear tire which sent him into the air and into the wall ending his race. (below is a picture of my car with the front tires in the air)

My car sustained some damage, but I was able to continue on. The driver who was in fourth though did not realize I had had contact which caused the incident. I believe he thought I tried to block him and he was upset. And probably rightfully so seeing that all of us up front had a shot at the victory.

His replay didn't show the contact and he said that he was waiting for an apology. On iRacing, if you have a headset, one can communicate orally as was the case with this driver out of the race. I have a headset but elect not to use it because I just don't feel comfortable communicating with people I don't know. Sure, I talk on Xbox Live, but it has been a long time since I talked to someone I didn't already know.

The race was under the yellow flag after the crash, just like you'd see in real life, and we were behind the pace car. I was still on the proverbial clock to apologize, but could not come to terms to put in, "I'm sorry" in the chat box. Why should I be sorry? It wasn't my fault as I was steadfast in my belief that the driver in 2nd came down on me. Even if I did say sorry, because I knew I wasn't at fault, the words would be meaningless so why say it? Furthermore, because I struggle with, "I think therefore you should know" my words would instantly be seen through so why say it?

The debate raged on between the driver out and the drivers in front and by my silence I was made into a villain. Right before the race went back to green flag conditions I stated that I think my car took damage by the contact I had. This was my way of apologizing, but it just threw more ethanol on an already volatile situation.

I tried to block the wreck out of my mind as the race resumed, and I also had a car that was out of control due to the damage, but I was unable to get out the words I had heard. I quickly realized that if I had just simply stated, "sorry" things would be fine, but the concepts of apologies have always eluded. What I mean by that is I don't understand an apology. If someone does something intentionally and then say sorry did they mean it? Words can be so empty and be said without feeling so why even say it? Now, if I am turning around and my arm somehow clobbers someone else in the face I will say sorry instantly. But if time goes by doesn't it become empty words? This, again, is probably something that only I feel.

Hopefully that last paragraph didn't make me sound like a cold person; I'm not. I simply don't understand the art of apologizing.

Once the race finished the debate flared up again and the driver that was out stayed in the race room to watch the conclusion. The anger level was rising and just as he let me have it I typed, "I'm sorry you made contact with my car after I made contact with the other car and that resulted in my car not turning". If was as factual as I could make it, and I was sorry he wasn't left in the race because the more cars in the lead draft pack at Michigan the more fun it is, but for me to apologize I had to make it as factual as possible.

As quickly as the words of anger flew the words of peace showed up and all was fine. Before I apologized I told him I'd send a photo of my car in the air to prove the contact, but this didn't help (that photo was the photo I had used) and only the words I'm sorry helped.

Now this whole ordeal lasted about 20 minutes. This was 20 intense minutes for me, but it didn't have to be. If I could have just done the common social rules and quickly blurted out, "I'm sorry" I would have been fine. But I struggle with this. It is like there is a wall in my mind that doesn't allow this to take place. When I get taken out I don't expect an apology, but then again not everyone is me; and it is this concept that I get stuck on. Just because I expect or don't expect something doesn't mean everyone else does and while I may realize this as I type this in the heat of the race I don't. I truly have to have time to think about it and time to process before I can come up with how I feel about something.

This was the first time in a while I was in an incident that I was in that took another driver out of the race. It probably won't be the last as it seems the racing is getting closer and closer on iRacing, but when the next incident happens will I be prepared? I know I could just blurt out, "sorry" but what if it is empty? Going all the way back to grade school I have had this same issue and while a quick apology usually ends the situation right away, I have always taken time to think about it and with each passing second it becomes harder and harder and the void between myself and whoever is expecting the apology gets farther and farther away. I'll try and give the quick apology, but if history repeats itself, and it usually does, I'm in for another intense 20 minutes.


  1. Sometimes I say "sorry" when I don't really mean it just to pacify the other person and make them leave me alone. It is pretty empty, but sometimes I'll do anything to get people off my back.
    I hate to do that, though, because I hate being forced to say anything I don't actually mean. It makes me very very mad - and misanthropic.

  2. Well, saying sorry when something's your fault (whether you meant to or not, doesn't matter to me, as long as you truly feel sorry about it), I can understand that and actually demand it from others too. It shows that you truly feel like you shouldn't have done something and that makes it easier for the other person to forgive.
    Only thing is... I don't see why you should apoligise when something's not your fault either. Yes, you threw that person out of the game, but it wasn't by any fault of yours. You didn't accidentally randomly slide to the side and you didn't do it to stop him from winning either.
    So honestly... In my opinion you didn't have anything to apoligise for. You had as much bad luck (you were hit badly too!) as he had and he was being very childish, making a 20 minute argue about a game.
    I don't know if this is because I have Asperger's too, but this is how I feel about it. He shouldn't have been so thickheaded as to not believe you, even after promising to present him with the evidence, and making it a 20 minute arguement. He should've just stated he wasn't happy with what happened and then raced on. It's a game for crying out loud, you can run the lap again.

  3. People take iRacing seriously and some people (not me) take offense to calling iRacing a game. They'll say, "It is not a game, it is a simulation"!.

  4. Well whether IRacing is a game or a simulation doesn't really matter in the point I'm trying to make in my opinion... He can still run the lap again. If he's a good driver and he wants to prove that by winning, then he can also win a second time.

  5. Think about in real life terms- say somebody bumps into you which causes you to bump into somebody. You decided to not say anything and then explain to the person you bumped into 20 minutes later about what really happened. Will that person be mad at you for a) waiting that long to say something and b) telling him/her that it is not your fault at all after all that wait?

    A lot of people will be mad at you for sure and the fact that you wait that long doesn't help either. Yes, the situation is not completely your fault (and not even your fault in some instances). But, a quick sorry and then a quick explanation of what happened is what I would have done. Whether the person accepts the apology is another thing.