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Why Don't I Shut The Hell Up?
Yes, I am living "the engaged life," one rude asshole at a time.


self-portrait of the irritated as a relatively young woman

Yesterday, I wrote about a woman I encountered on Friday who let her dog trot in front of her into the street without a leash.

Only the fact that I drive with an eagle-eye out for ignoranuses like her stopped me from hitting her dog. I laid on the horn and screeched to a stop just as he was about to cross diagonally in front of my car.

When I rolled down my window and yelled at the woman for having him off-leash and in the street, she said the sidewalk (a few paces back) was out of commission -- as if that explained her dog being allowed to wander off into traffic.

It became apparent that she wasn't exactly the brightest lightbulb in the package when she complained that I'd probably awakened the neighbors with my honk (I should have avoided honking and let her dog run in front of my car?), and then called me "stupid" repeatedly.

Stu "El Inglés" Harris posted the following question:

Sounds suspiciously like over-horning to me. If, because of your exceptional alertness, you were able to screech to a stop in time, what purpose did the horn serve?

Which I answered:

I honked the horn and screeched to a stop at the same time. When a dog is on a direct trajectory in front of my car, I'm not really thinking about the neighbors. Besides, it wasn't exactly 4am (I think it was about says 8:20am, but I think that's because my camera time wasn't changed for daylight savings time).

P.S. If somebody has to wake me up to keep a dog from getting run over, they hereby have my permission.

And again, I didn't say I honked five times, or even twice, but one of those people, a "Bruce," commented on the entry, I guess to try to shame me into "just taking it" in the future:

P.S. If somebody has to wake me up to keep a dog from getting run over, they hereby have my permission.


You say this now, however when someone is actualy honking in your neighborhood you will probably write some blog entry about how some rude person was honking incessantly in front of your house.

I have never known (or heard of) anyone who has had as many altercations with other people than you appeared to have had. You ever think you bring these things upon yourself.

My reply?

I absolutely do. Another person would have driven on and said nothing to the woman. I live an engaged life. When you sit at a coffee shop undisturbed by a would-be abusive cell phoner who is deterred, not because he or she has good manners, but out of fear of being exposed to the world because he or she has read about what I did to the woman who shouted next to me at the Rose in the Wall Street Journal, blow me a kiss.

The other day, I saw the neighbor whose window is directly across from where the woman parked with her car doors open and the music booming from her radio. He didn't come outside. But, he thanked me for speaking out.

Just a couple of examples, no need to list them all.

P.S. If only more people spoke out I wouldn't have to do all the speaking out myself. But, I find that I do influence people to speak out. Recently, Kate Coe called me up and told me I'd inspired her to say something to a woman in a bank who was annoying everyone while shouting into her cell phone. The woman started yammering on about "a silent auction." Kate being Kate, she turned around and said, "emphasis on silent!" and the woman piped down.

What do you speak out about, Bruce? Or do you just take it when you see people litter up your neighborhood, when you nearly hit a dog because somebody has let it trot, leashless, in front of your car, or when they ruin your ability to read the paper and enjoy your breakfast because they're shouting into their cell phone? Are you really that big of a pussy?

Now, not everybody has what it takes to take people on. Frankly, it's easier for me because I'm a girl -- because most guys and most girls aren't going to slug me for saying something to them about shouting into their cell, or whatever, and those who look like they might, or might be armed, I do my best to ignore. But, if you don't currently take people on yourself, maybe you should consider trying, just a little. We all benefit when people speak up. Bossy girls and bigmouths are the people who get stuff done in the world, huh?

Posted by aalkon at May 13, 2007 11:30 AM


Interesting comment. And this appeared about 10 minutes after I wrote my reply to Bruce on your previous blog entry.

And you're right. It is easier because you're a girl. A guy is more apt to slug me than you. But maybe I'll give it a try more often.

There's a man I know at the gym. I refer to him as "the most interesting man in the world." (I think I mentioned him before on this blog.) Why do I call him this? Because he talks so fucking loud all the time, I assume the entire gym must be interested in what he has to say. "Excuse me. Were you sick the day your parents taught 'indoor voices?'"

Seriously, you can always tell when he's in the locker room, because it absolutely echos with it. If there's anybody in the locker room who couldn't repeat what he says word for word, they must be so deaf that a Saturn V rocket booster in their backyard wouldn't wake them up from sleep.

Posted by: Patrick at May 13, 2007 1:58 AM

Thanks, Patrick. I saw your remark just after I responded to "Bruce." We must have been commenting at the same time.

I'm astonished by people who think nothing of loudly disturbing others with a recounting of their tedious lives and thoughts. (It's rare that anyone with anyone interesting to say is shouting it into their cell phone in public.) Furthermore, on the rare occasion that I fail to put my cellphone on vibrate and it rings in public, disturbing others, I'm just mortified. How come so few other people feel that way?

If you're getting a call while we're both in the grocery store, and your ring tone is "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp," must I really know that?

I suggest, as a good rule of thumb for living, the notion that you are sharing the planet, including the peace and quiet, with other people.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 13, 2007 2:08 AM


Thank you, many times over. Bruce is off the mark (I believe it was he who remarked on the original blog yesterday?): it's not about being confrontational and irritable towards the world, it's simply about recognizing that most people live in an oblivious state with disregard for their fellow humans.

It's possible to address the issues these people incur through their asinine behavior without giving yourself a heart attack or winding up in a gutter with a stab wound to the jugular. In fact, for many, addressing such egregious behavior will decrease the stress level simply because you've been able to release your thoughts instead of allowing them to fester.

A polite tone of voice and a few "pleases" and "thank yous" can do wonders when dealing with obnoxious people.

I find myself in similar situations. The rude cell phone shouter. The parents of the kids who seem to be using a restaurant as an Olympic track training room. The person who blasts through a quiet down town area going 40 MPH, nearly hits a pedestrian then swerves into a parking space. Sometimes people should speak up! Call rude assholes on their shit!

Don't stop Amy, keep blogging about such things. I've actually created a "driving manual." It's basic things that people must'a forgotten or never learned in the first place. If everyone followed the rules and drove correctly (don't cruise at 60 in the left lane! It's for passing people, get out of the way!!) there would be a lot less angry, raging drivers. (But of course, some people are just angry and raging and nothing will change that).

At the very least, just knowing someone else on this planet "gets it" helps!


Posted by: Gretchen at May 13, 2007 9:07 AM

...Woman's got more mandible than I got ulna. What's to fear from street punks?

Posted by: Crid at May 13, 2007 1:15 PM

Only the armed ones.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 13, 2007 1:18 PM

Why don't I shut the hell up?

Reminds me of one of my favorite pubs...

Posted by: eric at May 13, 2007 2:02 PM

That's funny!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 13, 2007 2:27 PM

It's like the Lake Woebegon of the Midlands.

Posted by: Crid at May 13, 2007 5:14 PM

I can't stand Garrison Keilor.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 13, 2007 6:23 PM

Actually, it's uniquely refreshing to find someone who does speak up, particularly a woman. I'm sure there are men who are just as bad, but lately, it seems I am finding an awful lot of women who will complain about how bad things are till their blue in the face, but won't life a goddamned finger to help themselves. And then they expect others to listen to them complain, over and over again?

I had one patient in my office who insisted that our chiropractor was harassing her. Calling her at home, inviting her over to his condominium (a clothing-optional resort where he and his girlfriend lived), even inviting her to come live with them when they had a falling out. She was even invited to lunch by his girlfriend, who assured her that our chiropractor can do what he wants; that she wouldn't care if the patient gave him a blowjob in the parking lot.

I gave her the phone number to Human Resources, told her whom to ask for. Her response? "Well, I don't like to get anyone in trouble..."

So, she's willing to take this lecherous perverts unwanted proposals?

"Well, I've never in my life had to stand up for myself."

You admit this to people????

She could have done any number of things...she could have told him to fuck off, she could have taken her business elsewhere or she could have called HR. Or she could have done all three.

Instead, she still wants to keep on returning to the clinic, put up with his boorish attempts at seduction, and whine to her massage therapist (me) about it.

One of my co-workers, also a massage therapist, was sent home from work last Friday. The reason? She asked for a certain day off, but our boss (the same lecherous chiropractor I mentioned above) got the dates mixed up and brought his girlfriend with him (also a massage therapist) to cover for her. So, Dawn got sent home so Dr. Pervert's girlfriend could work.

She came whining to me about it. "So, tell him that you shouldn't have to go home since he made the mistake, not you."

But she didn't dare. She just meekly resigned herself to having her hours cut. If she's so non-confrontational, she could have called H.R. and appealed to them, but she didn't want to make waves.

Well, boo-fucking-hoo! If you don't want to lift a finger to help yourself, don't come crying to others for sympathy.

I'm reading now this horrible, horrible book called "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." The author, Dr. Paul Gray, describes his "epiphany," the incident that made him realize that men and women think and deal differently (um, duh...). It seems his wife had run out of her much needed pain medication. Since her husband was at work, she asked his brother to pick it up, but he left and never returned.

When he finally came home after work, she broke down sobbing, explaining what had happened. He immediately became defensive. "Why didn't you call me?"

As she continued to complain, he finally started to leave saying that he didn't want to hear any more. But she begged him to stay, calling him a "fair-weather friend," that he only loves his wife when she's sweet and nice, but now when she's upset, he wants to walk away from her, at the time when she needs him most. So, he held her and she bawled in his arms, and apparently, this was a positive experience for them both.

How sweet.


I'd have a few questions for her. The first one is his. "Why DIDN'T she call him?" Seems like a reasonable thing to do, since her brother-in-law didn't return, he could have stopped at the drugstore on the way home and she could have had her medicine when he walked in the door.

Another question that kind of buzzes in my mind is, "If her medicine is so almighty important, why did she let it run out completely before she bothered to have it refilled?"

And my last question is, "Why do you engage in such poor planning, fail to even try to take contingency steps, like calling your husband, then expect others to comfort you in your largely self-inflicted misery?"

In his place, when he said that he didn't want to hear any more, I would have kept on walking. Still, we should be thankful to him for taking this idiot "femme fragile" out of the relationship market...if he didn't marry her, she might have snagged some other poor fool.

Posted by: Patrick at May 13, 2007 6:55 PM

Keep up the good work, Amy. And I'm so glad you didn't hit the dog. As I shared with you earlier today, I hit a dog once. It ran onto the 105 East, and I was driving at freeway speed, completely unable to stop. What a bad day that was! I had just finished that utterly sad opening chapter of The Lovely Bones, where the young girl is raped and stabbed to death... then got in my car and killed a dog 10 minutes later. I was miserable. I love dogs!

Posted by: Lena at May 13, 2007 7:04 PM

Way to crack down on the leashless walkers! I hate that, don't they care about their dogs at all? One of my neighbors used to walk one of her shitzus off leash and that thing was vicious. Good thing I am not easily frightened by balls of fluff.

People really suck at the whole speaking up for themselves thing. I've been working on it, just a few weeks ago I told the crazy guy on the el to quit randomly shouting and clapping. He then spent the rest of the train ride accusing me of being a racist and speculating about my parentage. But at least he wasn't shouting and clapping randomly, that is impossible to sleep through. Not surprisingly my fellow inhabitants of the amazingly packed train car remained relatively silent.

Posted by: Shinobi at May 14, 2007 6:55 AM

A lot of Americans just lack basic assertiveness. Which I think is just another bad outcome of all the feelings-based education that's been going on the last couple decades. We're all so crammed full of "tolerate others" and "avoid violence" that we're tolerant when we damn well ought not to be, like when some jerk is practicing his bird calls at 140 decibels in the back of a city bus (to cite a recent example from my own life).

I applaud the efforts of anyone who strives to improve assertiveness, and curtail boorishness, in American culture.

Posted by: Gary S. at May 14, 2007 7:03 AM

Still, we should be thankful to him for taking this idiot "femme fragile" out of the relationship market...if he didn't marry her, she might have snagged some other poor fool.

Yeah, but he probably wouldn't have gone on to write that stupid Mars/Venus book. I'm not sure that's a good trade.

Posted by: Gary S. at May 14, 2007 7:06 AM

I had backed off from public commenting after I admonished my child for tuneless whistling in a bookstore. At least I thought it was my child, but the culprit was a middleaged man, who apologized quickly and moved away. I felt terrible! Of course, my daughter then appeared from nowhere, still annoying as ever.

Posted by: KateCoe at May 14, 2007 8:48 AM

Annoying children become annoying adults. If only that guy's mother had been more like you. And FYI, people in the bookstore probably silently thanked you afterward.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 14, 2007 9:13 AM

Posted by: kishke at May 14, 2007 10:00 AM

I don't get in violent confrontations. If somebody lunged at me or punched me, I'd get away from them, not stay and fight. Furthermore, I wouldn't scream at a baby to "shut up" as it's ineffective. You can't expect to go around acting entirely without sense and then expect to get off scot-free. See above, that I don't approach just anyone. Sure, there are risks, but I try to be prudent.

The link you post under "the downside of speaking out" -- I would retitle to "the downside of speaking out imprudently."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 14, 2007 10:06 AM

I didn't mean to accuse you of such behavior, just to show that since the person you're taking on is an unknown quantity, you might easily be getting into something more than you bargained for. Often you can tell, but not always.

Posted by: kishke at May 14, 2007 10:22 AM

"A lot of Americans just lack basic assertiveness. Which I think is just another bad outcome of all the feelings-based education that's been going on the last couple decades."

My own version of assertiveness is simply doing my best to ensure that I'm understood. Reminding myself that I'm the only person responsible for ensuring I'm understood (i.e., that my point of view is "heard") helps to stave off feelings of outrage, victimization, entitlement -- all of which can transform each one of us into very undesireable company.

Posted by: Lena at May 14, 2007 10:59 AM

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