Some months ago I was on a train, headed from Washington D.C. to central Florida. I like traveling by train. Or at least, I find I am more likely to enjoy a train ride than I am to enjoy the cattle call cluster of a mess that commercial air travel has become. What I never expected however was an evening of thoroughly satisfying conversation that included an excellent book recommendation. I guess sometimes, you get more than you pay for.
My table mates at dinner were an older couple on their way to catch a cruise ship in south Florida. As we rolled through Virginia, the husband, a large, jovial man with a gift for conversation and a zest for life, matched me story for story. Retired now, he related that when he was a working stiff, he’d been a doctor. An anesthesiologist in fact. I found this ironic. How was it possible such an excellent conversationalist could have made his living by putting people to sleep?
The world is full of oddities. Thank goodness we stumble upon them from time to time.
During dinner, when the subject of books came up, as it invariably does, his smile brightened up to an even higher wattage than he’d shown to that point, exclaiming that his niece had just published a book that he was quite proud of. He said it was good. Funny, perceptive, and well worth reading. Yet he admitted with some slight embarrassment that he wouldn’t say the title out loud. Instead, he fumbled for his phone, tapped away for several seconds, then showed me the screen. On that little Chinese built glass panel was the cover of Amy Alkon’s masterwork, Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*CK.
The conversation continued, dinner was consumed, drinks were had, and eventually we all trailed off to our rooms for a rocking and rolling good night’s sleep on a train headed deep into the southern United States. To this day I have not seen my dinner companions again. That’s a shame, too. I liked them.
The book title that was too embarrassing to say out loud, stuck with me. I’d seen it on the rack at my local bookstore. I saw it on Amazon. Although I’d never heard of Amy Alkon before, her book nudged at my thoughts, encouraging me to pick it up, flip through its pages, and benefit from the wisdom and wit that might be hiding within. Finally, with a long road trip on my horizon, I did it. I bought the audio-book version because it fit nicely onto my iPad, and because I could listen to the soft, comforting female voice relating the tale even when I was far from any of the women who are so central to my life.
Don’t judge me.
Let me synopsize my review into one clear, concise sentence. Amy Alkon can tell one hell of a good story, and she does just that in, Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*CK.
Buy it. Read it. Or listen to it. I don’t care. Just make sure the words in that book find a way into your cranium where they can wash around in your brain pan providing context and insight and humor that you can actually make use of. She’s brilliant, if not a little tightly wound at times. But who could blame her? Life is a challenge made only more challenging by rude people who surround us on all sides, at all times of the day, at home, at work, at social gatherings. Damn, they even reach out and annoy us with their phones.
Amy’s stories cover all those scenarios and so much more.
This woman has put together an excellent piece of work that’s perfect for our times. Have you ever had a neighbor who habitually makes too much noise late into the night? Have you ever had a glass of wine spilled down your front at the beginning of a major social event? Has Marlon Brando ever prank called you or shown up late for a scheduled appointment? Well, other than that last example, which has indeed happened to Ms. Alkon, we all deal with doofuses who ruin our sleep, stain our clothes, assault our senses, and sideswipe our car. Thankfully, we have Amy’s book to help guide us during the more demanding moments of our lives. Sure, she may doggedly track down some international losers who dumped trash on her street then beat feet out of the area, but she hasn’t stabbed anyone, or shot anyone, or jabbed anyone in the nose as far as I know. Not even when they really, seriously deserved at least one of those options to be delivered to them with great haste. Yet she does tend to get satisfaction to some degree, which is a lot better than I can say for myself most of the time.
I am old enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to admit that I am an imperfect man. I have been consistently so since the days when I made the transition from my time as an imperfect boy. That being said, I think I may be a slightly less imperfect individual thanks to the beneficial insights and stellar advice of Amy Alkon, her extraordinarily unusual book of manners, and her uncle, who I would be happy to share dinner with again.