"Subtle Remonstrance"

In today's NYTimes, a guy named Henry Alford advocates "reverse etiquette." "I supply the apology that they should be giving me." He shares stories of how he apologizes to people who have wronged him in huge ways, like dropping his apple at the grocery store or not having change at the deli. These are really hart-warming stories of douchebaggery.

Tucker, help me out here.

"I've read suicide notes that were less passive-aggressive than this."

Thanks, Mr, Carlson.

Seriously, this guy can't possibly be advocating being a raging prick in the name of etiquette, can he? I like sarcasm as much as the next guy (and almost as much as my wife, who loves it). Smarm is fun. But I don't pretend to believe it's kind or polite. It's rude and hurtful, and if one can reserve it for blog posts that almost no one reads so that one can avoid using it in face-to-face human interaction, that's probably for the best.

Alford not only admits that this reverse apologizing is largely an attempt to "sublimate" his own "irritation," but then goes on to argue that this will teach these people empathy. Really? If I wrong someone and am unaware of it, and then they come at me with one of these backhanded supplied apologies, let me tell you, empathy will be the last thing on my mind. If someone scolded me, after I'd accidentally dropped their apple and then picked it up, by saying, “Sorry about that — I really didn’t mean for you to drop that," I would hope to be quick witted enough to say, "Oh, if my dropping your apple caused you to feel sorry for me, allow me to return it to the floor to ameliorate your pity." Then I would gently put it on the floor and say, "I'm okay now. You don't have to feel bad for me anymore." You think you got smarm, buddy? Bring it!

Mr. Alford has written the forthcoming "How to Live." Perhaps it's a book on manners, but I suspect the title needs a colon and some more information. Like: "How to Live: How picking really petty fights will only get you punched in the face, which is non-lethal."

Perhaps he is being sarcastic throughout, and I just missed the joke. It's all some very clever meta-satire of people who give really bad advice.

If that's the case, then Mr. Alford, I'm very sorry your column tricked me into thinking you're a jerk. I apologize.