Holocaust Cantata

by admin on March 19, 2013

Several years ago, I worked for a Jewish attorney (I’ll call him “Joel”) who, along with his parents and sister, was a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. from Germany when he was a small child. His extended family was virtually wiped out by the Nazis. I believe his wife’s immediate family were also Holocaust survivors.

I sing with a local community choir, and a few years back we had the privilege of performing the “Holocaust Cantata” on Holocaust Remembrance Day. A number of Holocaust survivors and liberators attended the concert, and the college where we performed had set up a special exhibition of photographs, memorabilia, etc. in recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day. (One especially exciting moment was when one of the liberators met a survivor from the camp he had helped to liberate.)

I was very excited about this concert, and invited Joel and his wife to attend as my guests. Joel expressed elation at the invitation, and I bought the tickets and mailed them to him and his wife.

Three days before the performance, Joel called to tell me that he was sorry but he and his wife could not attend the concert because one of his clients was throwing a birthday party for his (the client’s) 85-year-old mother that day, and he opted to attend that instead. He asked me if I wished to be reimbursed for the tickets, and I told him just to mail the tickets back to me so I could turn them in with the money for the other tickets I had bought. I haven’t spoken with him since (but not because of this).

My question is this: Was I wrong to be hurt by this? I have to admit I was really crushed when he backed out, but of course I didn’t let him know this. In fact, the only person I’ve told is my husband, who disagreed with me when I said I thought what Joel did was rude. His opinion is that the client is Joel’s livelihood and that’s where his first loyalty should be. My opinion is that he accepted my invitation and that constituted a commitment, and he should have explained this to the client (who also happens to be Jewish, so I thought he would totally understand).

What say you out there in e-hell land? 0315-13

Your husband is wrong.   We owe our first loyalty to the integrity of keeping one’s word even when it results in a financial loss.   When you accept an invitation and respond that you will be delighted to attend, you have done so based on reviewing your calendar and having seen nothing conflicting, you reply that you will be attending.   Nothing short of severe illness or death should change that commitment.   You gave your word, you keep your word even if something better comes along.  Yet we live in a modern culture where people routinely wait until the last possible moment to rsvp to an invitation as they try to maximize their possible options for that particular weekend or evening.    And many people think nothing of going back on their word and bailing out of an invitation to go do something they find infinitely more interesting or enjoyable than the first invitation they accepted.

Our word should mean something.  When you say you will do X, those around you should have trust that you are a person of your word and you will do X.  There is an element of self sacrifice in keeping your word, in the context of invitations, because invariably you will attend an event which happens to coincide with a more attractive situation.   People who renege on their acceptance of an invitation are fundamentally selfish as they pursue the best invitations that most make them happy with no regard as to how their sudden change of plans affects the host and hostess.

Joel and your husband have valued a business networking opportunity over the previous commitment to attend the concert at your invitation and your expense.   Joel’s desire to increase his business connections was more important to him than the fact that he accepted your offer of paid tickets and has now rejected them.  His offer to reimburse you for the price of the tickets was nothing more than another business transaction.

Joel’s client being Jewish actually has no bearing on whether he should be understanding of Joel’s prior commitment to attend the concert.   Joel should have said to his client,”I am so sorry,  my wife and I cannot attend your party for your mother this year.   We have been invited and have tickets to hear the Holocaust Cantata at XXXXX that evening.  Please do wish your mother a ‘Happy Birthday’ for us and I look forward to seeing you sometime soon for lunch.”    Follow it up with a lovely birthday bouquet of flowers to the client’s mother and all would have been good.

 

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

kingsrings March 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I’ve also experienced this flaky RSVP’ing issue several times with friends in the past. My favorite was one friend who always volunteered to host some kind of social outing, then would flake out on all the invitees shortly before the event by saying she’d double-booked that night, and thus wouldn’t be having said social event after all. Well, at least she actually admitted to it instead of making up some silly excuse, I guess. Other people just plain wouldn’t show up to an event, not call and say they weren’t, and then act incredulous when they were asked about it after the fact. No apology, and no realization that what they’d done was rude. And lastly, let’s not forget the people who will grill you about every detail about said social event before they say yes or no to it. It’s really not that big a deal – just make up your mind and don’t annoy me with five million questions about every intricate detail.

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Margo March 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I agree with Slartibartfast. This was not a social event where OP invited Joel & his wife to spend time with her. It was an event at which OP was performing, and Joel was given tickets.

When Joel found he could not attend, he offered to reimburse OP or return the tickets. He wasn’t rude.

If OP had invited Joel and his wife to go with her, as her guests, in circumstances where all three of them would be members of the audience then I agree it would be rude to then accept a new invitation (although as this was a client, Joel may have felt under pressure from his client, or his boss) It’s also possible that Joel felt the specific nature of the event was difficult for him or his wife (A concert isn’t like a museum. It’s much harder to take time out, or to leave discretely if you find, unexpectedly, that it has a greater impact than you anticipated)

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Snarkastic March 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Though I personally have never felt the need to visit the Holocaust museum in D.C. (which purportedly exhibits all the hair that was shaved off the Jewish people brought into one of the camps), it seems like Joel is moved to look back into his past.

However, knowing this can we truly say why he did or did not want to go to some Holocaust memorial concert? Yes, he should have stuck to his commitment, but if I were him, I would have declined the invitation in the first place.

I enjoy history (family, American, World, or otherwise), but there is something about drudging up tragedy that is really difficult for me to tolerate.

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Yet Another Laura March 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I have a doozy of one such and is the reason why I despise Call Waiting.

Me: curled up on couch with book.

Phone rings. I answer it.

Friend: Hey, want to see a movie?

Me: What movie did you want to see? (Movie negotiation ensues. We agree on one. Friend’s Call Waiting kicks in)

Friend: Just a moment. (picks up call waiting without giving me time to agree or disagree. I sit on hold for about longer than I should have.)

Friend: That was Friend #2 with tickets to Big Name Professional Live Theater. I accepted.

Me: You called me first about the movie….

Friend: But the tickets were free, let’s see the movie some other time.

From that day forward, I never stick around when someone picks up a Call Waiting call that isn’t an emergency. If they’re expecting someone to call them for an emergency, it qualifies. But when YOU call ME to invite me out and get a better offer just as we’re making the plans, the polite thing to do is ask me before accepting the other offer. Chances are I’d have told you to go ahead and have fun. The way it actually happened just made someone seem boorish.

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Library Diva March 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

It’s interesting to see some other perspectives here, but I still think Joel should have honored his commitment. I can’t imagine the person who would take offense to the admin’s suggested course of action: sincere regrets, flowers sent, follow-up of later plans. I don’t think it’s necessary to say what the plans are — in fact, it’s not really desirable since it opens you up to criticism (surely that’s not more important than what I’m inviting you to!) or maybe even awkward situations you’re not aware of (wait, you’re going to Stacey’s party? She told me that was cancelled!)

I do think exceptions can be made for social events that are truly once-in-a-lifetime. If you accept an invitation to go to the movies with your friends and later find out that’s the weekend they’re doing your great-grandfather’s 100th birthday party, OK. If you say you’re going to your best friend’s birthday party and then later learn that your grandmother who lives in a foreign country and who you haven’t seen in 15 years will be in town just for that night before she goes on to stay with your cousin’s family 15 hours away, OK. Otherwise, you have to keep your word. It’s hardly “entitled” to expect a friend to do so, and I think it’s a little childish to slot people into different “grades” of friendship, ditching your eighth best friend when your third best friend comes up with a better offer. If you do that on any kind of regular basis, prepare to have the invitations from your “eighth best friend” dry up.

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Garry March 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm

All commitments cannot be treated at the same level. RSVP’s for personal invitations like dinners, outings, trips, weddings are and should be honored. Backing out of these events can ruin it for others also.
Concerts are more in the grey area. These are entertainments you paid for, and the show will go on whether you attend or not. OP’s former boss not attending the event did not affect the proceedings at all. OP is getting reimbursed for the tickets so there is not financial loss either. It is also clear that OP has several tickets leftover, so it was not like the show was houseful and seats were wasted due to this last minute change.
One is not obligated to go to the movies or plays just because they bought the ticket, the option to return them is always there. Why should this memorial concert be treated any different just because OP has organised the event and sold the ticket personally to her boss.

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Rap March 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm

“Rap, if your job doesn’t allow you to make plans at all, you need to find another job. No job is worth alienating friends and family. If that isn’t feasible, don’t accept invitations if you know there’s a chance you can’t go.”

You might be assuming too much with what I said. Clearly I can make plans but yes, sometimes things that really pretty much mandatory come up – dinner with important clients, social events with important clients, etc. Sometimes its short notice… It usually isn’t but when it is short notice, yes, I’m expected to drop “going out with friends to a concert”. Others better than I have explained the the reality that sometimes one’s work requires things like attending a client’s mother’s birthday. ou may very well have employers begging you to work with them, the job market is not so easy for some of us that we can afford the potential negative consequences that come with saying one’s personal social life is more important than one’s job.

That’s what I am getting at about using manners as a club to be rightious with. Yes, I live in the world where yes, it can be important to a client that you show up at the social events they invite you to, and sometimes those invites can’t be turned down without risking the entire professional relationship (and yes, there are people in this world so petty as to dissolve decades long business associations over incredibly minor things). In Joel’s case, it sounds work related. He offered to reimburse any expense and really, given the choice between an 85 year old’s birthday and a concert, odds are that he didn’t pick the better offer. Sometimes unavoidable things come up. That’s why manners includes the concept of saying you’re sorry.

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amyasleigh March 19, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Rap, I greatly concur with you in the matter of “using manners as a club to be righteous with”. I feel that etiquette should not be a free-for-all; but should allow for a not-too-narrow spread of reasonable extenuating circumstances.

I have always taken the view — rightly or wrongly — that etiquette is basically about setting reasonable guidelines to lubricate life to run more smoothly. There seem to be a few people who consider etiquette to be a matter of many ironclad, inflexible rules, unbreakable except in the case of (metaphorically) world-ending events — with people being expected to equal, or exceed, the ancient Spartans in instant, total obedience to harsh rules — and for any failure therein, to deserve scorn-and- contempt-to-the-max — and if complying with the rules makes life difficult and miserable for people, all the better. (I’m indulging in some hyperbole here; but this is the picture which I get from some material — not the majority, at all — which I read on eHell.) I don’t feel that etiquette should come to be about contempt towards anyone who falls even a little way short of the commenter’s notion of perfection.

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Barbarian March 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Sometimes our guests do have other seondary plans that come up. One year my son invited another boy to his birthday party which included a movie. The young man’s mom was very apologetic when she called and said she needed to decline her first RSVP because Dad got an unexpected leave from a military deployment. She offered to pay for her son’s ticket, but I said there was still plenty of time for me to change the reservation at the theater and not to worry about it.

Think of it this way – if you were in your guest’s situation and had a sudden change of plans come up, then treat them the way you want to be treated – with gracious understanding.

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GroceryGirl March 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Snarkastic: I wouldn’t consider the Holocaust Memorial Museum to be drudging up a tragedy. It’s a huge part of history and their goal there is to keep the history alive so that it may never be repeated. They don’t actually have the hair there, just pictures. The hair was left at the camps.

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Marozia March 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Your word is your bond. If you can’t keep your promises, you cannot be worth too much to the people that love and admire you.
Make sure Joel reimburses you for those tickets.

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Kate March 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm

@spartiechic, I don’t know very many men who would be comfortable coming right out and saying “Oh, wait, I may not be able to do that. This is too emotionally triggering for me”. Obviously, some men are expressive and honest about their emotions, but based on the men I know, a lot of them would rather make up a half-hearted excuse than admit that something would upset them. My fiance has social anxiety and he has used a lot of excuses to RSVP no to events, when the real reason is “My anxiety is so bad I can’t cope”.

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Smalldoc March 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Rap, I agree with you, there are many jobs where you may have to cancel plans with friends and family last minute. This has happened to me many times. People who do not have jobs like that just do not understand. Yes, I do lose a few friends because of the fact that my life is not predictable, but I’m left with the friends who are True Gold.

I think that if one values a friendship there needs to be a lot of give and take. If OP cannot forgive Joel for what he has done, it’s her decision – he cancelled on her in full knowledge that OP would be offended, tried to apologise and make amends to the best of his ability, but apology was not accepted. I feel like the reason for cancellation really has no bearing on the act of cancellation. OP has every right to be offended, however, I think that the true issue is whether or not OP can be the gracious one and forgive.

Sounds like both OP and Joel have since not bothered to maintain their friendship. The thing is, if OP felt this was a friendship worth maintaining, she would have been able to overlook Joel’s slight. Obviously, she did not. It’s a natural drop-off point for the friendship.

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Kimstu March 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Admin is right. This was not a situation where somebody casually spots you a couple of spare tickets for a concert and if you end up deciding not to go you just give the tickets back or reimburse the giver. In this case, the tickets were offered and accepted in the context of a personal invitation to attend the event, and that puts the recipient in the position of a guest with the responsibilities of a guest, not just a freebie-ticket-holder. Bailing out on your guest responsibilities for such a concert invitation isn’t quite as bad as bailing out on them in the case of, say, a dinner party or a wedding, but it’s still not okay.

Sure, it’s appropriate to give Joel the benefit of the doubt about possible complicating factors in the situation, but the bottom line is that his backing out in favor of a subsequent business-socializing event was bad manners. Both as his hostess and as an amateur performer, the OP is justified in feeling that Joel should have been more respectful of his prior commitment.

@Lady: “I am so confused by Admin’s stance on this one. How is it possible that such an emphasis is placed on keeping one’s word in this post, when in the prior post about the MIL who would promise gifts that she never delivered the basic message was to just let it go?”

Because they involve two different questions: namely, “Was this person’s behavior unmannerly?” versus “How should I respond to this other person’s unmannerly behavior?”

Admin is not advising the OP in this case to confront Joel or do anything other than “just let it go”, she’s simply explaining why Joel’s behavior was indeed unmannerly. (In the case of the “jam-yesterday-and-jam-tomorrow-but-never-jam-today” MIL, everybody was already clear on the fact that her continual empty promises constituted unmannerly behavior, so the focus of the discussion was on how the OP should respond to it.)

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Schnickelfritz March 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Excuse me if this is my 2nd post – I chose “submit” but it did not turn up for “editing”
In short, my point:
1. The OP seems to think her “survivors” dissed her – as if she knows what pain remains in their hearts, and that maybe the wife disagreed with attending; the husband was put on the spot. I cannot believe that they would have thought this was an enjoyable night of entertainment. “Elated” – really? If you were really close enough to this couple, you would understand a floundering back-peddle on attending.
2. Regardless of OP hearing of a previous museum visit, or whatever it was; assuming that any Holocost event was so welcome to this elderly couple – they have their own post-traumatic stress to deal with. You are not close to these people – you are a “years ago” employee. I personally would have felt like I was being put on display.
3. This was not about YOU, OP. It was not about the 85 year old b-day. The guy accepted, probably felt on-the-spot. Let these survivors go in peace. Depression circles around, throughout life. Just because someone is in a good place years ago, does not mean something doesn’t surface later. I once canceled from a dear friend’s important event, because I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone shower on that day. Until you have been there, don’t make it about YOU. Don’t think every guest owes you an excuse, when they can’t even get it right in their own head. The fact that you still think it was all about you, survivors of this horrifying life event, says more about you than this elderly couple. Think it through – no, you do NOT know they were / are up with a “reminder” of the horror of their life, just because they related a previous event to you. This is the most selfish post I have ever seen on this site, given the subject. I read into this – you were disappointed you could not put them on display.

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badkitty March 19, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I’m with Rap and others: I’ve had to cancel social engagements for work issues, and so has my husband. Friends who do not understand this issue and blame us for taking our work seriously (or being passionate about it enough to care deeply about work emergencies, etc) aren’t very good friends in our opinion. We actually had this issue recently, where someone is very upset with us and isn’t sure if they want to stay our friend because we didn’t go to a planned event with them – my husband had some meetings pop up and other work obligations and we had to change our plans. We do not regret this decision because it led to some amazing opportunities that just wouldn’t have come up unless he’d shown that he was a team player and a person who can be counted on to do what is best for the company and his project.

I feel like the argument on this issue comes from the fact that some people have jobs that are just the place they go to earn the money that pays their bills and allows them to do the things they really enjoy, while other people have jobs that ARE the thing they really enjoy and care about. We’ve been lucky enough to make our way in such careers (and now I’m going back to school to do what I’ve really REALLY wanted to be doing) but I know that my friends for whom work is the place they go for nine hours in exchange for a paycheck don’t understand why we aren’t as willing as they are to blow off work events in favor of ‘fun’. It’s not that I’m choosing work over my friendship, it’s that my work is my pride and my accomplishment, and my friends should know that if I started handing off work to others so I could attend a concert, I wouldn’t be happy – I wouldn’t be me.

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Barbarian March 19, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Here is one way to put business socializing into perspective. Would your clients or associates still be your friends if you did not do business with them? If you left your business today, how many friends would you have left? If the answer is not many, maybe you need to rethink where you are spending your time and who you are spending it with. My last job choked off many friendships due to round upon round of networking events and doing favors for clients and owners and having to cancel my own personal plans at the last minute. I’m not proud of that. That’s why I left my last position after 8 years-no time for a relazed unstructured personal life.

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Nancy March 20, 2013 at 12:56 am

It’s also possible that Joel decided that he wasn’t up to one more Holocaust thing. PTSD and all that; and the friend’s birthday party was much more socially acceptable than saying “that kind of thing really throws me off my game.”

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MichelleP March 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

Thank you, Barbarian. I realize I may have been harsh in my post to Rap. I am absolutely sympathetic to those who must put their jobs first, as I have been there as a single mother. However, I did the same thing as Rap and badkitty, and now regret it. I put my job first instead of family, and now it’s too late for me to spend time with some family members.

Didn’t mean to change the subject of this thread, but stand by what I said about “Joel”. You don’t back out of plans you have made. If you are that dedicated to your career that you will put it first above anything else, don’t make social plans.

Never heard anyone on their deathbed say, “Gosh, I wish I’d spent more time at the office!”

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MichelleP March 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

@Rap, I apologize for my harsh tone.

@badkitty, I hope you don’t wake up one day and find out all you have is your husband’s career.

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Cathy M March 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

badkitty:

Hopefully your clients and colleagues will be there for your own personal events, ’cause in a few years of being a “team player” you and your DH won’t have any friends.

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Kimstu March 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm

@badkitty: “It’s not that I’m choosing work over my friendship, it’s that my work is my pride and my accomplishment, and my friends should know that if I started handing off work to others so I could attend a concert, I wouldn’t be happy – I wouldn’t be me.”

Okay, but in that case you should not accept a personal invitation to attend a concert or any other social event where backing out after accepting (except in case of a real emergency) is considered bad manners.

If you like your work activities better than most recreational activities, that’s just fine. But if you consider your work activities more important than honoring the prior social commitments that you voluntarily CHOSE to commit to, that is NOT fine.

Nobody gets a special pass on bad manners just because they really enjoy their job.

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Joni March 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I’m a little baffled by the hostility shown towards Badkitty. Friends, even good friends, don’t pay your mortgage. My husband and I have been through unemployment enough times to know that a well-paying job, in *this* economy, is the last thing you should take for granted.

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Smiling Charmer March 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm

What if Joel thought that, since the OP had worked for him, she would understand how important it is for his business to socialize with his clients? He was probably counting on her understanding his reasons.

I’m Jewish. My four grand-parents were among the very few who were able to flee Poland before being sent to a camp. Their families and friends were all killed. My ex mother-in-law spent 2 years of her childhood in a camp. I guess I can say that, for a Holocaust survivor, a planned visit to a Holocaust museum is NOT the same thing as an event where you’re going to meet people who share the same horrible, awful memories. I don`t know why, but I have the feeling that OP is over-reacting and is not being very understanding.

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Anonymous March 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm

@BadKitty–I’m just wondering, what “planned event” did you have to back out of at the last minute, that your friend is upset with you about? Was it something that you could do another time, like a movie, or dinner out, or was it a more “special” event, like tickets to a specific showing of a specific performance at the opera, that had to be reserved and paid for in advance? After you and your husband had your work emergency, was your friend still able to attend the event without you? I’m not trying to have a go at you, but these kinds of variables make a difference.

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Politrix March 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm

MichelleP and Cathy M: My husband and I are very much like badkitty, and we know many other couples who are as well. We’ve befriended many “successful” people who’ve have had to make some tough sacrifices in order to further their careers — but in the end, they really have no regrets. This is what they’ve chosen, and they appear to be very happy with their lives and satisfied with those choices.
Our daughter happens to be good friends with another little girl whose parents are often stuck late at the office, but we DO manage to get our families together from time to time, and we enjoy each others’ company. We completely understand if an unforeseen emergency comes up that results in them having to cancel at the last minute. Sure it’s a pain, but if it doesn’t happen TOO many times, then in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really a big deal. They’re our friends. We deal with it.
The result is that we have very interesting stories to share about our lives outside of the day-to-day routine of immediate family (not that there’s anything wrong with that either, of course!), and the time we spend together is highly treasured, and NEVER taken for granted, by EITHER party. (They certainly appreciate our forgiving natures!) And our kids see that both parents can be more than just “mom and dad,” and that there’s nothing wrong with working hard to pursue your dreams and achieve your goals…. even if it means having to let someone down once in awhile. It happens.
Badkitty, if you have kids then I applaud you for the example you’re setting for them; if you don’t have kids, then enjoy your and our husband’s success, and don’t let anyone discourage or undermine all the hard work you do to live life to its fullest.
:)

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ItsyBitsy March 21, 2013 at 12:25 am

I’d just like to say that the juxtaposition of the words ‘holocaust’ and ‘cantata’ seems jarringly inappropriate to me.

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Weaver March 21, 2013 at 5:44 am

I agree with admin 100%. Sincere regrets to the client and a bouquet of flowers to the client’s mother would have been a perfect response. Apart from anything else, at least the client then knows that his attorney is someone who keeps his word and honours his commitments.

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Rap March 21, 2013 at 9:25 am

Michelle, no need to apoligize. For what its worth, its not something that comes up all the time at my work place, I’ve had maybe four occasions in the last year that I had to cancel due to work, and two of those events were with coworkers who also had to cancel. The other two events were casual dinner and a movie friend outings that my friends easily understood, because the job market is what it is. When I look at the situation with Joel here – I’m not seeing the concert by a friend as on the same level as a wedding, or a family reunion, and the client’s mom’s birthday does sound like its more about pleasing the client than skipping one event for something better.

Like Joni above says, friendships are great, but they don’t pay the bills and when its understood that skipping a work activity because of a prior engagement with friends means possible unemployment, I really think the manners club is being used too harshly.

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Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

@Rap–I still don’t know what event BadKitty had to bail on, but I’m glad that the events that you backed out of were just dinner and a movie type things that can be done anytime. However, cancelling on the same friend repeatedly can kind of make that friend feel unimportant, especially if you initiated the invitation in the first place. If I had a friend who cancelled on me like that more than twice in a row, I’d probably back away from the friendship–not maliciously, but I’d figure that this friend didn’t have time to socialize, so I’d choose to spend time instead with my other friends who did.

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Grey March 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I disagree. If you invite somebody to an event, it’s not your place to determine how much of a financial loss that person can endure in order to keep the commitment. The OP’s boss had to work that night. She shouldn’t assume that he could afford to lose the client.

Really, how many of us would risk getting fired in order to use tickets that had been gifted to us?

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Kimstu March 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm

@Joni: “I’m a little baffled by the hostility shown towards Badkitty. Friends, even good friends, don’t pay your mortgage. My husband and I have been through unemployment enough times to know that a well-paying job, in *this* economy, is the last thing you should take for granted.”

@Grey: “The OP’s boss had to work that night. She shouldn’t assume that he could afford to lose the client.”

“Had to work”?? Remember, the reason that Joel in the OP’s story gave for reneging on his guest responsibilities after accepting the OP’s invitation to her concert was NOT an actual work emergency, but rather his choice (excuse my capitals) TO ATTEND A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR A CLIENT’S 85-YEAR-OLD MOTHER. For heaven’s sake.

If Joel is really feudally enslaved to his business clients to such an extent that turning down invitations to their aged parents’ birthday parties, even with the excuse of a prior social commitment, might seriously jeopardize his job, then of course the poor guy has my sincere sympathy. But in that case Joel simply should not be attempting to make ordinary social commitments like a normal person who is free to have an autonomous social life.

A doctor friend of mine had a similar problem when he had a job that required him to be on call many nights and weekends. Any social commitment he made for a time when he was on call might have to be cancelled at any time at very short notice, because his job duties came first. But because he made that very clear whenever he made any such commitment, his hosts always knew what to expect, and he wasn’t rude.

Likewise with @badkitty’s situation. As I said in my previous post, if @badkitty and her husband tend to prefer their work activities and the “amazing opportunities” they provide over ordinary social activities with their friends, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But in that case, @badkitty and her husband should not be making social commitments with their friends without warning them in advance that they will abandon their commitments if any opportunity for work activities comes up. Then their friends can decide whether they still want to take a chance on going out with the @badkittys, or whether they’d prefer to focus their social energies on friends who are more reliable about honoring their social commitments.

The problem with the attitude illustrated by people like Joel and the @badkittys, as opposed to the doctor who warned his hosts up front when he was on call, tends to be classic have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too. They want their clients/employers/business associates to appreciate them as dedicated go-getters who can be counted on for support and collegiality even at short notice. But they also want their social circles to keep on treating them normally as fellow participants in social activities, even when they’ve made it clear that they’ll willingly dump their social commitments for any work-related opportunity, emergency or not. Can’t have it both ways.

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badkitty March 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I’m really surprised at the amount of judgement I’m seeing in this thread… when did we all gain the ability and insight to judge the priorities of others? We don’t know the state of OP’s former boss’s practice, so how can we say that attending an event with a client was an unimportant or optional thing? For that matter, why is it any of our business? He gave a reasonable explanation, did so before the event, the OP’s plans for the event were not affected AT ALL, and he offered to pay for the tickets which had been given as a gift. I don’t see that he did anything wrong here, other than possibly not being aware of the upset he caused the OP, but we have no indication from her that she expressed it to him so he can be forgiven for not being a mind reader.

I have to laugh at the amount of speculation on my own life, when my intention was only to provide an alternate view based on my own values. For the record, “had to work” is a totally forgivable excuse for any of my friends, acquaintances, etc. I’m not the only one who uses it, and when I’ve run this scenario past other people, they are all surprised that the (otherwise reasonable) folks on this site are so unfriendly on this issue. I don’t feel that I need to warn everyone who invites me to do anything that I might have some work obligation, nor would I expect to hear that caveat from anyone else: it’s understood.

@MichelleP, if I come to the end of my life and find that all I really had was the love and respect of my son and husband (both of whom are proud of how dedicated I am in my field) and the lives I changed through my work, I’ll count myself a VERY lucky woman.

And, since everyone’s so curious about the “event” I mentioned… it was a convention. It went on just fine without us. Our friend went and had a good time with the dozens of other people he knew there. We got together with him (after my first comment, so very recently) to discuss his attitude about the situation, and he’s admitted that if he’d had a similar situation he would have done exactly as we did, so all is well there – all it took was asking him what he would have done in the same circumstances and he got off his high horse pretty quickly, lol. That’s the first time I’ve ever had such an issue, because most of my friends are capable of asking themselves that question, and nobody I want to give my time to is so self-centered as to believe that they should be at the center of my universe. I have never missed a wedding or a funeral, though I’ve missed more than one rehearsal dinner, potluck, fun weekend away. I’ve delayed holiday dinners while I dealt with other emergencies, and my husband and son have never been anything but proud of my dedication and skill.

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Rap March 26, 2013 at 9:27 am

Kimstu, I think at the end of the day, the question I would have is this. Would you look your boss in the eye and say “I have to honor my committment to my friends *first* and if you don’t respect that, oh well, the important thing is that I’m showing my manners to my friends and honoring my social committments no matter what.”

The assumptions being made here, that Joel is slavish feudal, that he’s actually incredibly close to the OP etc… Here’s what I got out of this. Joel and the OP are more than aquaintences but probably not extremely close friends. OP invited Joel to something the OP thought he’d enjoy. Joel said yes, and then was hit with what sounds like a work obligation (there’s also the possibility that he might have rethought on how he’d be affected by a holocaust concert). He contacted the OP in plenty of time, didn’t wait until the last minute, and offered to mitigate any monetary damages.

Does the OP have the right to feel hurt? Sure. Is the OP such a close friend that they’d support Joel financially if Joel had put attending the concert over the client’s mom’s birthday and gotten fired? If the answer isn’t yes, then Joel made a reasonable decision.

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