RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Lots of dollars are flowing into cash registers on this last full day of the holiday shopping season. Commentator Lynne Truss is the author of "Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door." She says holiday shopping provides many opportunities for rudeness.
A friend of mine back in England works in a store called Poundland. As the name so cunningly suggests, everything sold in this store is priced at 1 pound. My friend, whose name is Ronnie, is quite resigned to working in Poundland, and I think he gets a lot of pleasure from doing his Christmas shopping every year without leaving his workplace. Many's the Christmas Eve that he's turned up at my house with an interesting item, such as a brightly colored garden ornament in the shape of a frog, and said, as he placed it down, `Merry Christmas, Lynne. You'll never guess how much I paid for that.'
I've been thinking a lot about Ronnie and Poundland over the past few weeks, because I've been talking about my book on rudeness and reminding people that rudeness, while one decries its increase, is nevertheless sometimes wonderfully cathartic as well as hilarious, as, for example, when a woman customer recently returned a faulty wristwatch to Poundland and demanded her money back.
`Do you remember how much you paid for it?' asked Ronnie carefully. `I think it was a pound,' said the woman. `And was there a five-year guarantee with it?' he said. `No, I don't think so,' she said. `Should there have been?' And he said, `No, of course there shouldn't have been. It cost a bloody pound!'
Just before I set off for the States, Ronnie opened the store one morning to find a man hammering on the door. `What time do you call this?' the man said. `I call it 8:33. You're supposed to be open at 8:30 sharp!' Ronnie shrugged. `Where are the bath cleaners?' the man demanded, without a please or thank you, an omission that did not pass unnoted. Ronnie pointed. `Over there, sir, in the corner.' The man returned and demanded to be shown the bath cleaners. Then at the cash register, he said, `You don't have much of a range.' This was too much. Ronnie looked at him, took a deep breath, and then said, `I think you're laboring under a misapprehension, sir.' The man looked suspicious. `What misapprehension?' the man asked. `That this is Harrods,' said Ronnie, `and that you're the bloody Duke of Westminster.'
What a perfect moment, worth getting the sack for, I should think, although as far as I know, Ronnie is still at Poundland, and that I'll be getting a set of light-up drink coasters for Christmas, price 1 pound, because I admired them in his house. Last year it was a box set of classical CDs that had somehow failed to make an impression on the commercial music charts, perhaps because it was the personal selection of Sven-Goren Eriksson, manager of the England soccer team.
Sometimes people come to the cash register with five items, incidentally, and try to offer 4 pounds. Ronnie doesn't have much time for them, either.
MONTAGNE: Commentator Lynne Truss' previous book is "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation."
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne, and happy holidays.
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