Excuses, excuses. What would life be like without them? In some societies, excusing oneself is considered, "being polite." In others, it is more popularly known as, "being defensive." People often find it necessary to excuse their behavior as a function of how they perceive themselves in situations that have invited (or inevitably will invite) criticism. People who remain resourceful internally see themselves doing the behavior that is being criticized. The criticism is "out there", apart from that individual. From this distance, it is easy for someone to calmly evaluate the criticism, how specifically it was useful, and how to respond to it. In contrast, those who become devastated at the prospect of criticism, "take it right in." They internally associate to both their behavior and the criticism (that is, they are "in the scene", rather than watching themselves going through it).
Witness those who literally feel the negative aspects of criticism piercing their chests, as if impaled by an arrow or lightening. The subsequent attempt to remove the arrow-- to maintain some distance and dissociate from the experience-- occurs as, the excuse. And they are generally bad, portraying the individual tripping over himself on his way to justifying his existence.
Some illustrative examples of bad excuses may be found in traffic control. Several years ago, a great deal of time, effort, money and inconvenience was expended to build a highway between downtown Poughkeepsie, New York and several of the surrounding townships. The road was designated, "East-West Arterial", and was assigned a speed limit-- for the most part-- of 30 miles per hour (the road could more appropriately have been named the "East-West Areterio- sclerosis!"). Many an unsuspecting motorist fall victim to police radar on this road, get cited for speeding and then clumsily attempt to tap dance through their embarrassment and humiliation by offering, the excuse. Understanding the plight of these citizens, perhaps I can be of assistance. Consider the following... When excusing yourself, an implicit assumption is that your excuse will produce a desired outcome, namely to "be excused"; to enable you, internally, to maintain sufficient distance from the event and consequences so you can accept it without feeling devastated. If on repeated occasions, your excuses fail to produce that outcome, stop offering them and do something else! Try a novel change. For example, sit there quietly. Who knows, perhaps your silence will be impressively discomforting to the officer and he will excuse himself...or just pardon you. And for the officers among you who cannot pardon a silent offender but, nevertheless, prefer silence to "lame excuses", being quicker on the verbal draw may eventually teach motorists how to remove their feet from their mouth. A few examples will suffice:
1. Motorist (M): I was distracted by the signs of spring-- you know, flowering bushes, those passing birds...
Officer (O): Sorry I had to pull you over, but I was aiming my radar gun at one of those passing birds and your speeding car got in the way.
2. M: Look, Officer, this is the first time I've driven the company car, and I didn't realize how fast it goes.
O: Yeah, I can appreciate that. But, you know, it's hard to believe I caught up with you. My company must also lease fast cars!
3. M: But officer, I didn't realize I was going that fast, I was eating my lunch on my lap.
O: So I decided to follow you in case you threw garbage out the window and I'd have to also write a ticket for littering.
4. M: Officer, what is the meaning of this? I swear, I was only going about 42 mph!
O: I realize that is only 12 mph over the speed limit, but look at it from my point of view. I am new on the force, trying to make Sergeant by summer, and turning in "excuses" doesn't carry as much weight as does summons.
5. M: But officer, why me? Didn't you see those other three cars running away from me like I was standing still?
O: I spotted several speeding cars back there, but I stopped you first because those others were running away from me like I was standing still!