What a Rupert Can Do for You

Well, stick your pinky in the air and get yourself an imaginary British friend. Preferably named Rupert.

“Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” is a comedy news show that reports the bizarre-but-true news tidbits of the week. I started listening to the podcast since moving to London, so the show’s occasionally-expressed anglophilia especially amuses me. A few months ago, there was an entire segment on all things British, from Marmite to what Prince Charles’s valets are supposed to do. (Answer: Iron his shoelaces.)

But this week‘s news is even better. Oprah has advice for how couples can salvage a failing marriage: Imagine your British friend, Rupert (yes he has a name), is staying over in the next room. Wouldn’t just thinking of such a proper British guest overhearing your conversation make you lower your voice and act more civil?

9. Invent an imaginary British houseguest. All of us have much more control over our behavior than we like to think. For instance, if you had a very proper, prestigious British guest at your home, sleeping in the bedroom adjacent to yours, you’d act differently during arguments. You’d behave more kindly and politely to your spouse when, say, he sold your mother’s hideous-but-beloved vase during a garage sale—if only because you didn’t want to feel deeply ashamed. So the next time you consider screaming, imagine poor Rupert lying in the guest room, overhearing your every word.

Say what, now? I haven’t met anyone named Rupert, but judging from the Ruperts above…. Yep, wouldn’t make a whit of difference. Unless it were the Queen herself, but I mean, the same would be true if Obama were in the guest room, or a professor, or heck even a recording device. So why British? Why Rupert? Oh, Oprah. Is this what you left TV for?

There’s one Oprah observation about the British I do concur with: they’re “good at waiting.” When I get off at Holborn station during rush hour, the passageway gets so congested that you have to shuffle toward the exit as though you were standing in a giant queue, four-people-across. It can take 5 minutes to go a distance of 50 feet. But no one ever pushes or shoves. No one hems or haws or flings elbows. You just shuffle along in surprising silence.

But in about a week’s time I’ll be heading back to New York City, where you gotta live with your elbows out. So to get ready, I think I may start practicing my elbow-in-the-ribs moves on these unsuspecting Ruperts!


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