#38: Ain’t Nobody’s Fault, by Liz Mathews

People are fallible. I’m sorry if this is news to you, but you were probably going to learn it someday. The thing about everyone—every single darn person in the world—being capable of making mistakes is that so many of us don’t really want to accept the blame for them when they happen.

Case in point: a recent Monday. So many mistakes were made. Or they were discovered, having been made and covered up previously. And I am included in the mistake-making, of course I am. Allow me to illustrate:

As the copywriter, the time had come for me to copy and paste some previously written copy to make a nice little email blast featuring a letter from one of our editors. I had no copy of the letter that I was supposed to copy. So I emailed the editor, and the other two people that I deemed in charge of giving me the work to do. “Are we still doing this?” I asked. “I need this copy ASAP, if yes.”

The editor responded with an email attachment of an email about the letter, featuring its final draft. She’d initially sent this email with letter attached to the other two people I’d included on MY email, and she’d sent it exactly one month prior.

I emailed her back, “Okay, can you please just send me the letter? No one seems to have included the copywriter on this.”

“It’s part of the email I just sent,” she replied. “And I thought I was supposed to email it to the other two, and they would send it to you.”

“Technological failure on my part!” I responded. Because that was my mistake. And then I thanked her and email shrugged the whole thing off by writing, “No worries—they were supposed to pass it on ha ha!” (Though I didn’t include the “ha ha.”)

Inside, my brain was having little explosions of blame and anger. Why would you not send the copy on to the copywriter so she can copy it? Why!?

One of the other two chimed in, and suggested that she’d immediately forwarded it on the third person, way back exactly one month before.

I did not respond, for the tiny brain explosions.

Finally the third party piped up, and said she’d sent it on to Design, and ooops, “Sorry Liz!”

The mostly gentle, action-movie chase scene explosions turned into a mushroom cloud. I saw red, too.

Because there are three things from this example situation that make me upset:

1) That everyone forgot to just include me from the beginning. Feeling forgotten is the worst thing, I think, that I have ever experienced. Even when it’s about work.

2) I had checked and rechecked my email with all sorts of subject lines and to/froms and anything else, and had no record of this email, AND I’d made Design do the same, also to no avail. So someone had obviously not done what she said she’d done.

3) The la la la oh well nobody’s fault everything turned out okay in the end response that we are all so quick to do. And the letting others off the hook when they offer that response.

I will make a deal with you: when I am made aware of a mistake that I have made, I will own it, and I will apologize for it, and I will fix it. Please, can you do the same?


Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.