Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Preaching to the Choir, I'm Afraid

Lynn Truss' Talk to the Hand addresses the decline of manners with wit. It's an enjoyable read and I especially enjoy how she weaves in facts from history and science. Exasperated by rude customer service? At the end of your rope because there seems to be so much more spitting, swearing and out of control assertiveness? Truss provides the comfort you crave.

It's a fast, delightful read. Truss admits she's giving a homily, but you sense that she just can't sit idlely by watching civilization erode, or perhaps disappear, one moment longer. She offers many personal anecdotes such as the time she was with a friend driving in Denver and a fellow motorist waves at them. Thinking they might want something, her friend rolled down the window and asked, "Can I help you?" The other driver yelled in reply "What do you mean, can I help you? I was only being Effing friendly! Why don't you get back to your Cherry Creek Country Club, you rich bitches!" before speeding away.

The sad thing is so many of us can add our own stories. We've all had to wait for the clerk to finish his or her personal call before being able to give them money. We've accepted that we will not get an apology from said clerk. At the other end of the spectrum we get what Truss terms "aggressive hospitality." In other words, simply giving an operator your address merits a "Great!" or "Perfect!" As if you had zero self esteem.

The problem with this book is that it's rude to give it to someone who needs it, unless perhaps you're his or her parent. Only people who consider themselves polite would buy it. Hmmm. I do think the only way around that, and the only way this book could have influence would be if it were used in schools and discussed. It could lead to some great discussions, hopefully civilized ones.

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