Sorry is the hardest word
It's been two weeks now, but so far I haven't come across any apologies from the bus drivers. Not for the mega chaos in the streets - enough's been said about that - but for imposing their naked sweaty beer guts and man-boobs on us. They would still have been breaking the law even if they had to-die-for six-packs, but at least the whole scene would have made good television.
As it was, they owe the public and all news viewers an apology for going almost nude on us (the builder's bum has to be factored in as well). At the very least, they should apologise - with a stack of fragrant wipes - to the poor policemen who had to hold and push them back from their perspiring bellies. No wonder most had a look of daze and shock.
But, of course, a show of regret is rarely on the cards. And this is not surprising because in our society the word 'sorry' is not exactly in our vocabulary. We ought to have traded the butter and chips British colonialists left over, with their compulsive dash of peppering 'Sorrys'.
For the Brits mirror our behaviour: they apologise to the bartender who messes up their drinks order, or to the friend who turns up late. Try jostling someone on the Tube when you're next in London and they'll instinctively blurt out a 'Sorry' while nursing a bruised arm. Try jostling someone on a Tal-Linja and, erm, actually don't dare try.
It is unthinkable in Malta for anyone to apologise for minor breaches of etiquette such as not holding open a door. You're lucky if you get an apology for more obvious gaffes such as belching. And, of course, this lack of remorse seeps even into our relationships, which, in turn, becomes a family trait, and before you know it, a national characteristic.
So it's a vicious circle. But I think the problem can be traced back to 1970. Back to the days when people flocked to cinemas in coach-loads. Erich Segal's Love Story must have been a real hit and consequently everyone got brainwashed on the silly little phrase which is the film's catchphrase: Love means never having to say you're sorry.
I e-mailed a few friends for some feedback on this. And within a couple of days my inbox was inundated. The e-mail was passed round and friends of friends of friends were asking if they could please also have their say, resulting in an impromptu straw poll in which almost everyone disagreed.
Comments verged from the saintly 'Love is forgiving, over and over again' to the resigned 'It's pointless. The Sorrys never come'. A friend even referred to a reading of St Paul: 'You know the one which is always read during weddings ... ironically, he says 'love forgives' but not 'love asks for forgiveness' ... you have to be a man, I guess, to come up with something like this', she says.
Here are some of the most original and heartfelt quotes I was sent. If we abide by them, I'm sure we'll eradicate this nasty habit of ours:
• Love is when you say sorry and you suffer as much as the other person because you see the pain in their eyes.
• Love is learning how to say sorry, learning to be humble and admitting to a mistake.
• Love is being honest, and honesty is realising you've made a mistake and saying sorry.
• Love means saying sorry and meaning it, with a happy heart, knowing the one you love will appreciate it.
• Love means not acting in a way that you know will hurt your loved one, but if you do, love means say you are sorry and act like you mean it.
I think we should all look up to the current king of rock: Bono. One of his songs, The Sweetest Thing, is an apology to his wife Ali for doing something out of place (we're not told exactly what it is, but some say he forgot her birthday, but when asked, he said 'that's not exactly the truth, but close').
The video of the single, which was shot in one take, features a surprised Ali taken on a horse cart ride and joined by her favourite bands, entertainers, animals and even her favourite dish. 'I'm sorry' banners float and fly by throughout the whole clip.
This is not romantic. This is just a man who knows how to say sorry. The video clip should be com-pulsory viewing for schoolchildren. And part of the training for bus drivers.