What is it about realizing you’re wrong that is SO paradoxical?

I mean, if the truth comes to light and the whole misunderstanding or mess can be righted in one clean-sweep moment of humility, why wouldn’t I be pleased? What is it with this khaki green mist of embarrassment that diffuses through my soul? And the rationalization that displaces it? (How could I have known? What’s the big deal? Anyone would have done the same thing given the circumstances….)

I can understand a flash of guilt or shame — I’ve discovered I was wrong. I can also imagine a quick effort to retract and repair — but do I do this?

Nope. I sit convinced about all the ways I am now too preoccupied with other matters to make the same urgency of texts or phone calls or accusations I did when the original “crisis” happened. No one’s the worse for my inaction now…right?

Case in point:

They were brand new glasses. (Quick note: I despise wearing glasses but love to see, so finding a pair I actually liked was a momentous occasion.) I hadn’t even worn these in public places yet, and we were about to have a night on the town.

The occasion was a family getaway to the big city — dinner out, a touring Broadway musical, overnight stay at a Marriott, a dip in the pool in the morning, brunch at a restaurant — all in honor of Dad’s birthday. It was a wonderful weekend…till we were part-way home and I couldn’t find my new glasses in my purse or in my overnight bag. What?! I must have left them in the hotel room!

Quickly locating the hotel number, I was eventually transferred to housekeeping…a recording.

“I left my new glasses in their case in room number 216…probably in the back of the closet.” It had been dark in there; that must have been the reason I didn’t see them. “They’re blue and in a black case.”

By the time we arrived home, there was a message on the phone.

“Mrs. Burton, this is Raoul from the Calgary Marriott. Our staff searched your room and we couldn’t find the glasses.”

Keen disappointment.

I called back. Another voicemail recording.

“This is Heather Burton. I stayed in Room 216 last night. I’m sure my glasses were left in the back of the closet. I would really like to get them back — they are brand new, and will be difficult to replace. My number is….” Yadda yadda yadda…..

The next day, it was a personal call that my husband received.

“Heather, the head of housekeeping says they double-checked your room and the glasses aren’t there.”


What if they show up later? I decided to email the head of housekeeping to make sure he, himself, was getting the message.

Then I started to think…

What if they threw them out knowing what a hassle it is to return forgotten items? What if they were absentmindedly put in a cleaning supply cart, and everyone’s too complacent to actually search for them?


What if someone stole them? What if one of the cleaning staff decides to sell them at a pawn shop? What if Raoul didn’t actually talk to his staff, just said he did?

I found the hotel’s website and wrote the following review, feeling rather powerful and indignant:

Hello. We love staying at Marriott hotels. The service and accommodations have always met our needs. How disappointing is it, then, on a family weekend away to leave my brand-new glasses in one of your rooms, seek to recover them, and realize they were probably taken or discarded by hotel staff? I fully acknowledge it was my carelessness that brought about the situation, but I am SO dismayed by this lack of integrity.

That would show them.

Four weeks later, we had to haul sizeable packages in our family vehicle and pushed the passenger seat forward to make room. You already know what happened then.

A black glasses case was under the seat, nestled between an empty water bottle and a hamburger wrapper.

Funny how easy it was to find the hotel website when I was steamed. Funny how quickly I called to report the loss, then again, then by email.

REALLY funny how it’s been several weeks and I’m still sitting here in my khaki mist, pondering a) the dubious necessity of following up with an apology and b) how unlikely it is that anyone at Marriott cares.

But, apparently, some remote, shiny recess of my conscience isn’t quite settled with my particular brand of justification…with the ongoing fiction I’m supplying myself about how big wealthy corporations are not actually made up of human units that breathe, strive, and have feelings — and are impacted by indignant, self-deceiving customers.

So, I’m laying this down right here, right now:





Yours truly,
An apologetic customer,
Heather Burton

Heather Burton is seriously a certified facilitator with The Arbinger Institute, a consulting organization dedicated to promoting outward mindset, conflict transformation, and generally less self-deception in society…and in ourselves.

Arbinger’s Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace are yearly reads for Heather…and, apparently, a necessity.

More here: heatherburton.ca

Originally published at medium.com


  • Heather Burton

    educator, writer, whole foodie, coach, wistful idealist. Keeping it real {to make it better}.

    My life is pretty glorious and messy: nine awesome kids, working mom (teacher), writer, struggling member of the 5 am Club, believer. I'm thinking "life awkwardness empathy" should probably be my unique value proposition -- if it weren't so long and awkward. Did I mention my messiness loves company?