My flippant tongue extends even to the keyboard

Published 1:53 pm Saturday, February 15, 2014

I was mentally digging in my heels for a few days this past week after I was confronted with an accusation of being unprofessional. Wisely, I saw that would only cause me to become stuck for much longer.

Here’s what happened.

Last Saturday I was at a library’s computer surfing the Web and checking email. I received a message asking why had there been nothing in the newspaper about (omission). Anyway, the phrasing was actually much more blunt, which caused my eyes to pop.

Sorry to be a bit of a tease, but really the subject of the conversation is secondary. You may fill in your own topic.

The reply was that my editor and I had evidently neither seen nor heard about the matter.

All the while of typing I could feel warm. Cain and I had missed a story, and it wasn’t a good feeling.

Recovering, I asked the messenger what details could be offered.

Later, the only reply was to please not use the name given.


That’s when I started my own trouble. Feeling piqued that my question wasn’t answered, I replied… well, it’s easier to reproduce my side of the conversation:

“A touch late for that, isn’t it? 😉

After all, you gave it to me in your initial email.

As there is yet no story, there’s no need to mention your name.

Besides, why would I quote you? The facts would come from (omission).

Speaking of which, you have still not answered my question.



You be the judge and, naturally, feel free to weigh in with your comments.

The reply came that I had evidently surprised the messenger, who thought it a rude answer.

My turn to be taken aback. I couldn’t see the harm, but thanked the correspondent, nonetheless.

That’s when the digging started. I couldn’t – and then wouldn’t – see how the response came across wrong. After all, I used an emoticon, and at least assured that the person’s name wasn’t needed to any story.

Later, I confided the matter to a friend. Without giving the full text, it was carefully explained to me how my reply could come across as unprofessional.


So I mulled it over, all the while my feet getting more dirty with the digging into the dirt of my own creation.

Back and forth in my head the arguments ran for and against an apology that was not demanded, but inferred by me.

Ultimately, I decided that my reply was glib, to put it somewhat politely. In a contrite mood, I crafted an apology and sent it forth, hoping it would be accepted.

A simple “Thank you” came soon after.

Then I cleaned my heels and walked on, feeling…lighter.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer at The Tidewater News. He’s more of a half-wit than witty, and often too clever by half. You may contact him at 934-2688 or