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The first time that I ever heard about a book on assholes was more than 30 years ago. It happened at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco called Little Joe’s, where customers sat behind a long counter that faced an open kitchen. Most of us came to see the flamboyant chef, who sang, joked with customers and employees, and entertained us by igniting dramatic flames with olive oil as he cooked. Employees wore T-shirts that said “Rain or shine, there is always a line,” and waiting for a seat was good fun because of the constant banter and clowning around.

One day, I waited behind an especially rude customer who was sitting at the counter. He made crude comments, tried to grab the waitress, complained about how his veal parmigiana tasted, and insulted customers who told him to pipe down.

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