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"I See Rude People," Amy Alkon 

Hard-bound lessons from our own advice goddess

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Amy Alkon wants Barry the Starbucks patron to stop yelling into his cell phone about his herpes. She wants tailgaters to get out of her rear-view mirror and then get a ticket. And she wants that guy who stole her powder-pink Rambler to receive a sweet karma smack-down. The syndicated columnist known as the Advice Goddess (see page 52) is on a one-woman mission to teach the world a thing or two about manners.

Yet it’s not our fault. Humans, according to the scientific data collected by Alkon, are programmed to be selfish, maniacal bastards incapable of thinking of anyone but themselves. We may live in the 21st century, but our brains are still programmed to live in the Stone Age.

In the tiny communities where our ancient ancestors dwelled, everyone knew everybody else. If you got out of line, you got ostracized. And when you’re talking about living by yourself in a wilderness full of saber-tooth tigers and other creatures who want to eat you, living in isolation generally meant death.

Now we live in large societies that are simply too large for our cave man brains. Frequent interaction with people who do not know you and cannot exile you means that you can pretty much be as rude as you want without any consequence.

Alkon wants that to stop. And she has a plan for making it stop.

For example, how about blogs that post pictures of reckless drivers and compulsive voyeurs? (That has actually led to arrests that have gotten some really obnoxious people off the streets.) But Alkon doesn’t stop there. She uses her insight and humor to arouse a little common courtesy and good manners in our crude society. She personally takes on a car thief, telemarketers and Bank of America in her mission to make the world a little more polite, one hysterical quest at a time. For those of us tired of the boorish members of society, her book is an inspiration.

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