“I seem to spend my whole life wrestling resentfully with automated switchboards, waiting resentfully at home all day for deliveries that don’t arrive, resentfully joining immense queues in the post office, and generally wondering, resentfully, “Isn’t this transaction of mutual benefit to both sides? So why am I not being met half way here? Why do these people never put themselves in my shoes? Why do I always have to put myself in theirs? Why am I the one doing this?””
So writes Lynne Truss in her new volume Talk To The Hand. The writer of the essential Eats, Shoots & Leaves exclaims: “This book is, obviously, a big, systematic moan about modern life.” before going on a fascinating 200 page rant about why she is annoyed by these scourges of modern society before inevitably concluding “It is time to be plain at last. Rudeness is bad. Manners are good.”
I found it so soothing to read an entire chapter by someone else who is as frustrated as I am when sitting in a quiet restaurant only to have to listen to the person five tables away verbally abusing their better half or discussing personal medical issues or arranging a series of trysts with a number of eager lovers. Don’t they understand this is not appropriate?
I shared her fear of confronting that person who drops the remains of their McDonald’s meal on my front lawn lest I receive that universal disclaimer to “F. off!” before being threatened with some kind of injury. Her conclusion, with which I can only concur, is that “F. off!” has become the universal substitute for “I’m sorry” and is the default, knee-jerk reaction to anything which resembles criticism.
My own personal anecdote in supreme rudeness started when I was once nearly killed on my bike by an enormous SUV which lurched out in front of me in busy traffic before coming to a sudden stop. When I banged on the window of the truck to complain I watched as a small woman struggled to juggle the gears, the electric window, her child, a king-size, hot, foaming latte and her cell phone. “What’s your problem?” she whined when the window finally descended. When I explained that she had very nearly killed me she replied: “Can’t you see I’m on the f***ing telephone?”
Of course the very people who need to will never read this book and that’s just frustrating in itself.