Amy Alkon’s Crusade Against Rudeness
Please let me be on time for the maniacal manners lady. I don’t want her to scold me. Please, pretty please, don’t let me be late.
You would be nervous too: Amy Alkon, the author of a syndicated advice column and two books on rudeness and manners, is also known as Emily Postal. The residents and shoppers of Abbot Kinney, the trendy Venice retail and restaurant strip, know her as the tall redhead who emerges in an evening dress and a big hat to police behavioral infractions big and small.
She is the one who shushes noisy cellphone talkers, started a shaming campaign against people who drive S.U.V.s, and posts photos on telephone poles of people who do things like litter. “One of my biggest accomplishments was becoming kind of a bitch,” Ms. Alkon told me on the phone. “I just hop on my broom.”
Ms. Alkon, 50, agreed to meet for coffee to discuss her book, which was published this month by St. Martin’s Griffin and follows a 2009 memoir called “I See Rude People.” Her latest tome tackles all the usual etiquette questions. Who pays on a date? The man, at least on the first few outings; a woman, she reasons, typically goes to considerable effort to get ready, while “a guy pretty much just has to run through the sprinklers and shake off.”
But “Good Manners for Nice People” is also a type of manifesto.
Having first-rate manners, Ms. Alkon contends, does not always involve going quietly. Her theory, which she backs up by citing studies and interviews with social scientists, involves theft — the notion that late-night noise, gas-guzzling S.U.V.s and showboating at parties is actually stealing. “Those people are robbing something from the rest of us, whether it’s sleep, clean air or attention,” Ms. Alkon said. “Would you let someone who steals money from you get away without making a peep?”
Ms. Alkon’s confrontational style has won her loyal readers. Her column, The Advice Goddess, appears every week in roughly 100 publications. And some of her neighbors are quite fond of her, in part because she is so vigilant about protecting their quality of life. “We need more people like Amy,” said Reta Moser, a Venice resident who publishes the Triangle Update, a local news site. “She’s kind of a neighborhood leader, and other people follow her example to say: ‘We’re going to speak up. We aren’t accepting these things.’ ”
But Ms. Alkon has also made a few enemies in sleepy, laid-back Venice.
“She is on the edge of completely insane,” said Joe O’Brien, a furniture designer who has had multiple run-ins with Ms. Alkon on Abbot Kinney, where he used to own a shop called Cabana Joe’s. He once left her a voice mail message warning that he planned to call the police; she printed the message in a column with the headline “Hello, Psycho!”
“She makes a living by disturbing people and then writing about their reaction,” he said. “It’s despicable and gross.”
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