A blunt women who often lacks a filter myself, I loved Amy Alkon’s I See Rude People. But don’t let the title fool you, she doesn’t just recount her horror stories of rude people. The corrupt, inept and just plain mean all make her black list. In possession of some pretty impressive investigative skills, freelance journalist Alkon is a force to be reckoned with if you treat her shabbily – some of her ‘victims’ – and I use the term extremely loosely – must have rued the day they ever crossed paths with her.
She starts with what seems to be a pet peeve of hers (and for most of us, I would imagine) – people conducting their private business in public spaces, the loud mobile phone conversations in cafes, public transport, various reception offices and even the movies. She’s outed, in details that do not identify specifics such as address, phone number and banking details, people who have had public conversations where they freely give this information to everyone in earshot. She’s copped flak for invading people’s privacy by saying ‘I know your name, where you live and your social security number’ on her blog (without actually putting these details in the blog), but I’m inclined to agree with her – if you don’t want those details shared, maybe don’t share them in a conversation where dozens of people can hear you.
She talks about her experiences with the Bank of America, which made me very glad I didn’t live there (though I have a several issues with my own bank…) and an encounter with a car thief who was no doubt sorry he ever spotted her bring pink piece of crap. When the police would do nothing on account of the cars worth (it was considered petty theft) she found the guy and pursued him for the car, the value of its contents that he helped himself to and the damage he wreaked on it. While I’m sure it must have been hugely frustrating for her, she also admits it was something of a sport and it probably made him think twice about stealing again, if only for the fact whatever he stole might be hers.
But my favourite chapter was about children. Namely, that bars are not designed for children. Neither are fine-dining restaurants. Yes, it sucks that you miss out on some things you used to love once you become a parent, but it is your responsibility to minimize the disruption they cause to everyone else. Spare tables in nice restaurants (hell, any eating establishment that isn’t your own home) are not change tables. A Michelin star restaurant does not have an obligation to provide chips and nuggets for toddlers. And to be fair, she recalls several encounters where parents handled their children’s disruptive behaviour with consideration and awareness of others, including a charming anecdote about a mother with a special needs child whose neighbours in the crowd were only too happy to accommodate when she explained her son’s excitability in advance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are other etiquette books out there, of course, but Alkon’s pull-no-punches frankness appealed to me. Almost as easy to read as a work of fiction, and far more enjoyable knowing someone like Alkon is really out there, calling people out on their bad behaviour and making them sorry they ever did it, if not out of genuine remorse then at least for ever crossing such a BAMF.