The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #9)

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #9)

by Alexander McCall Smith


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Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.

Under the endless skies of Botswana, there is always something Mma Ramotswe can do to help someone and here she finds herself assisting a woman looking for her family. The problem is the woman doesn't know her real name or whether any of her family members are still alive. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi is the recipient of a beautiful new bed that causes more than a few sleepless nights. And, at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has come under the influence of a doctor promising a miracle cure for his daughter's medical condition, which Mma Ramotswe finds hard to accept. Nonetheless, Precious Ramotswe handles these things in her usual compassionate and good-natured way, while always finding time for a cup of red bush tea.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307277466
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/10/2009
Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #9
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 108,227
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


Read an Excerpt

We Are All Care of One AnotherThe correct address of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s foremost solver of problems—in the sense that this was where she could be found between eight in the morning and five in the afternoon, except when she was not there—was The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, c/o Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Gaborone, Botswana. The “care of” was a matter of some disagreement between Mma Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi, her assistant and “right-hand lady,” as she put it. Mma Makutsi, with all the dignity of one who had received ninety-seven per cent in the final examinations of the Botswana Secretarial College, took the view that to say that the agency was care of Speedy Motors was to diminish its importance, even if it was true that the agency occupied a small office at the side of the garage. Those who really counted in this life, she maintained, were usually not care of anybody.“We are the ones they come looking for,” she argued, with perhaps less than perfect logic. “When people come to this place, Mma, they look for us, not for the garage. The garage customers all know where the garage is. So our name should be first in the address, not the other way round, Mma. If anything, Speedy Motors should be care of us.”She looked at Mma Ramotswe as she said this, and then quickly added: “That is not to say that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and his garage are not important, Mma. That is not to say such a thing. It is just a question of . . .”Mma Ramotswe waited for her assistant to complete the sentence, but nothing further came. That was the trouble with Mma Makutsi, she thought; she left things hanging in the air, often the most important things. What was it a question of? It must be a question of status, she decided; Mma Makutsi could be very prickly about that. There had been that business about her being described as “senior secretary” when she had only been in the job for a couple of months and when there was nobody junior to her in the firm; in fact, when there was nobody else at all in the firm. Then, once she had been promoted to assistant detective, it had not been long before she had asked when she could expect to be an “associate detective.” That promotion had come, as had her earlier advancement, at a time when Mma Ramotswe had been feeling guilty about something or other and had felt the need to smooth ruffled feathers. But now that she was an associate detective it was difficult to see what the next step could be. She had a suspicion that Mma Makutsi hankered after the title of “chief detective”—a suspicion which was founded on Mma Ramotswe’s having found in the waste-paper basket a crumpled piece of paper on which Mma Makutsi had been trying out new signatures. Not only were there several attempts at Mma Grace Radiphuti, Radiphuti being the surname of her fiancé, Phuti, but there was also a scrawled signature, Grace Makutsi, under which she had written Chief Detective.Mma Ramotswe had re-crumpled the paper and tossed it back into the basket. She felt bad about having read it in the first place; one should not look uninvited at the papers of another, even if they have been discarded. And it was entirely understandable, normal even, that an engaged woman should practise the signature she will use after her marriage. Indeed, Mma Ramotswe suspected that most women secretly experimented with a new signature shortly after meeting a man they looked upon with favour—even if that man had not expressed any interest in them. A handsome and eligible man might expect to have his name tried out in this way by many women who fancied themselves on his arm, and there was no harm in this, she thought, unless one believed that women should not prepare quite so willingly for their hearts to be broken. Women, thought Mma Ramotswe, are sometimes like plump chickens in the yard, while outside, circling the fence, were the hyenas, the men. It was not a happy way of envisaging the relation between the sexes, but time and time again she had seen this particular drama played out in exactly that way. And hyenas, one had to admit, were surely destined to break the hearts of chickens; they could do nothing else.Mma Ramotswe saw nothing undignified in being in the care of anybody. In fact, she thought it was rather reassuring to be in another’s care and, more than that, it was a very convenient way of describing how to find somebody, a way which we used in our everyday lives when talking about those we knew. There were people who were always to be found in the company of one particular friend, and to say, “Oh, you’ll always find him walking around with that other man, you know, the one who lives next to the store,” was surely the same as saying that one was care of the other. Yes, we were all care of one another in the final analysis, at least in Botswana, where people looked for and valued those invisible links that connected people, that made for belonging. We were all cousins, even if remote ones, of somebody; we were all friends of friends, joined together by bonds that you might never see, but that were there, sometimes every bit as strong as hoops of steel.But, Mma Ramotswe thought that morning as she drank her first cup of red bush tea during her walk about her garden, perhaps this did not apply to everybody; perhaps there were some who were lonely in the middle of all this profusion of friends and relatives, who had lost their people. And that very morning, she would be seeing a woman who had written to her with exactly that problem, a woman who wanted to trace her relatives. Tracing people was bread and butter to somebody in Mma Ramotswe’s profession; at least once a month someone would come into the office and ask her to find somebody—an errant husband, a lover, a child who had drifted away from the family and stopped writing home. Sometimes it was lawyers who contacted her and asked her to find those who stood to inherit cattle, or land, and did not know of the good fortune that awaited them. That was the sort of case that Mma Ramotswe most enjoyed, and when she succeeded in finding such people, as she usually did, she relished the moment when she disclosed to them what was in store. Earlier that week she had found a young man who did not know that his uncle in the north had died and left him three trucks and a taxi. She had forgiven him the speed with which his expression of sorrow at the news of the uncle’s demise was replaced by one of incredulity and then joy when he heard of the vehicles awaiting him under a shade-netting awning somewhere up in Maun. Young men were human, after all, and this young man, she learned, had been saving to build a small house for himself and his bride-to-be. He needed to save no more.“Three trucks, did you say, Mma? What make?”Mma Ramotswe had no idea. Trucks were Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s concern, not hers. She was not even sure she could identify the manufacturer of her tiny white van; there had been a name painted on the back at one stage, but over the years it had been obliterated by the wind and clouds of dust and the scratching of thorn bushes. Now there was nothing, just ridges in the metal where there had been letters. Not that it mattered, of course: the tiny white van was too old to remember its maker, too ancient to be taken back.Missing names, missing persons—how remarkable it was, she thought, that we managed to anchor ourselves at all in this world, and that we did so by giving ourselves names and linking those names with places and other people. But there were people, she imagined, whose names said nothing about them and who had only the haziest idea of who they were, people who might never even have known their parents. Mma Ramotswe could not remember her mother, who died when she was a baby, but at least she had known her father, the late Obed Ramotswe, whose memory seemed undimmed by the passage of the years. She thought of him every day, every day, and believed that in due course—but not too soon, she hoped—she would see him again in that place that was Botswana but not Botswana, that place of gentle rain and contented cattle. And perhaps on that day those people who had nobody here would find that there were indeed people for them. Perhaps.

Reading Group Guide

“Irresistible—there will indeed be miracles.”
The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's conversation about Alexander McCall Smith's The Miracle at Speedy Motors, the ninth installment in the acclaimed No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

1. After Mma Makutsi protests about the agency's address being “in care of” Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mma Ramotswe thinks about the meanings of the phrase. “Yes, we were all care of one another in the final analysis, at least in Botswana, where people looked for and valued those invisible links that connected people, that made for belonging” [p. 5]. Would you consider this idea central to the book? To which characters or events in the story does this phrase “in care of” seem most pertinent?

2. Mma Sebina comes to the agency in the hope that Mma Ramotswe will find her relatives: “Please find me a birthday, and find me some people” [p. 24]. So the novel begins like a Victorian orphan story—something like Jane Eyre—with a character seeking an identity. How else do the themes of family and identity arise in the novel?

3. Puso jumps out of the car when Mma Ramotswe mentions his Bushman background, of which he is ashamed [pp. 33–34]. She tells him, “You mustn't be cross with your mummy” [p. 35], and realizes she has called herself his mother for the first time. What progress does this family of two foster children and two nonbiological parents make throughout the course of the novel in strengthening their bonds of love and trust?

4. In Chapter Four, Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni discuss Mma Makutsi's impending marriage and the question of whether men should have to pay the bogadi for their wives [pp. 45-50]. What is unsettling for Mma Ramotswe about this conversation? What details help to create the quiet comedy of the situation?

5. In her visit to Mma Sebina's village, Mma Ramotswe tells the woman under the tree, “I am a lady first and then I am a detective. So I just do the things which we ladies know how to do—I talk to people and find out what has happened. Then I try to solve the problems in people's lives. That is all I do” [p. 71]. Is it true that Mma Ramotswe is “a lady first”? How relevant or necessary is the fact of her being a woman to her success in solving problems for people?

6. As in all of the books of this series, the land plays a silent but important role in the lives of the characters. Mma Ramotswe, watching rainclouds gather, thinks “we Batswana are . . . dry people, people who can live with dust and dryness but whose hearts dream of rain and water” [p. 76]. Why are conditions of the land and the weather so central for Mma Ramotswe? Is it ironic that the rainclouds, “stacked in towering layers; so sudden, so welcome” [p. 74], cause the disaster that befalls Mma Makutsi's new bed?

7. Mr. Polopetsi becomes a suspect in the case of the threatening letters. Does it seem that Mma Ramotswe has become less generous in her attitude toward him [pp. 89–90]? What character traits bring him under suspicion? When the writer of the threatening letters is revealed, Mma Ramotswe's assumption that the writer was a man [pp. 14–15] is proven wrong. Is it unusual that Mma Ramotswe was wrong in her thinking on this matter?

8. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni meets a doctor who promises him that Motholeli's paralysis can be reversed [p. 96]. What difficulties does this unexpected development cause for Mma Ramotswe? Why does she come up with the money, given her lack of faith in the treatment? How does she behave when Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and Motholeli return home [p. 211]? What is exceptional about her handling of the whole predicament?

9. Why is Mma Makutsi reluctant to tell her fiancé the truth about what happened to the new bed? What does it suggest about their relationship that she doesn't feel she can tell him? Why is his eventual response surprising to her [p. 187]?

10. In most detective fiction, readers seek the identity of the criminal or the resolution of a mystery. Who are the criminals, and where is the mystery, in The Miracle at Speedy Motors? In what ways does Mma Ramotswe differ from most fictional detectives? How do plot and pace differ, and what unique features distinguish The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series from conventional mystery novels?

11. Reflecting upon Motholeli and the suffering of Africa in general, Mma Ramotswe considers that “fundamental unfairness seemed to be a condition of human life. . . . What could one say to the poor, who had only one life, one brief spell of time, and were spending their short moment of life in hardship? And what could she say to Motholeli?” [pp. 145–46]. Does she have words of comfort for Motholeli?

12. What qualities make Precious Ramotswe such an unusual person? How would you describe the quality of her insight or wisdom? Do you find her inspirational, and if so why?

13. In the delicate matter of the health of Mma Ramotswe's van, Mma Potokwane is uncertain of how truthful she can be. Do you agree with her list of the matters that, even between close friends, cannot be criticized [p. 148]?

14. Why is Mma Makutsi shocked at the letter Mma Ramotswe dictates for Violet Sephotho [pp. 202–03]? What do you think of Mma Ramotswe's resolution that “we must answer her hatred with love” [p. 204]?

15. What is puzzling about Mr. Sekape and his attitude toward his newly discovered sister? Why is he so excited if, as he says, he dislikes women [p. 184]? Once it turns out they are unrelated, does it seem likely that Mma Sebina will succeed in marrying him [pp. 207–08]?

16. What miracles does Mma Ramotswe observe, in place of the large miracle her husband has hoped for? What is the significance of the title [p. 213]?

17. A typographic design, repeating the word Africa, follows the novel's final sentence. How does this affect your reading of the ending, and what emotions does it express?


“Irresistible—there will indeed be miracles.”
The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's conversation about Alexander McCall Smith's The Miracle at Speedy Motors, the ninth installment in the acclaimed No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

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Miracle at Speedy Motors (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #9) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 94 reviews.
Nellie-Grace More than 1 year ago
What do you do when you're feeling low? Read one of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books! Learn a little about Botswana. Enjoy the company of a woman of traditional build who treats others with respect and gentility. No foul language. No sex. No graphic description of gruesome crime scenes. Just pleasant reading that always helps me feel better about the world.
1DANA3 More than 1 year ago
I have become a huge fan of McCall Smith's work. This is an amusing, touching, and gentle look at ordinary people who search out a meaningful connection with others and a purpose to their existence. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are back, solving new problems for their clients, but the investigations don't go quite as well as planned. There are small glitches along the way that add philosophical light to what the right thing to do could possibly be. The simple and charming events that happen in this book make it a true pleasure to read. Smith's gentle, realistic mystery books are a relaxant to the busy, worrisome world we live in and are full of values that encourage "good" in people. This is one of the best "pick-me-up" books, or any of Smith's books, that you can read. GENTLE. HEARTFELT. HUMOROUS. COZY. WARM. A TREAT FOR THE HEART!
BGLK More than 1 year ago
This book was another of the series that I find to be relaxing and enjoyable. Great series to read when you are wanting to read just for the joy of reading. This book (The Miracle at Speedy Motors) is imaginative and full of humor. I am so glad the author continues to be able to find these quality stories to write about very simple people.
grandmapenny More than 1 year ago
This author does a wonderful job of pulling a multilayered plot and several characters together without giving in to a syrupy ending or making it all fairy tale. McCall Smith just has that wonderful touch to a story that nudges you gently along. He takes you in one direction and "poof", a surprise here, a wake-up call there. But nothing is overboard or in your face. He has a way of making me love Mma Ramotswe more and more and embrace her staff and family. I treasure every read and savour my time with them.
Joyous-Reader More than 1 year ago
I was so enthralled after reading the first three books in the series that I had to purchase all of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series. The series would make good discussion books for a book club.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
Reading book 9 of Alexander McCall Smith's Number one Ladies' Detective Agency is every bit as enjoyable as you'd expect after reading 1 to 8. I know I'm behind. I know real addicts are already on book 11, but I'm catching up. Botswana continues to enthrall the reader with its beauty, the gentle pace of its culture, the quiet way it reflects a different version of ourselves in might-have-beens. Precious Ramotswe continues to seek and learn, from quiet mountain-side splendor that calms, to flustered concerns of secrets only half-uncovered. Mma Makutsi continues to grow into her role, slowly learning that secrets are better when set free and shared. And the promised miracle that threads throughout the tale? Well, you'll have to read to find out, but the author assuredly doesn't cheat to pull it out of the bag. Even the obdurate apprentices are growing older in this series, where everything changes with time but stays just as sane, just as wise and real and interesting as it was in the beginning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book like the previous 8 books in this series places Mr. Smith's characters in situations in which miracles are the experiences in life that can often be taken for granted. These miracles are not preached to the reader but enjoyed with the main character as she copes, appreciates and values her life in an African village and country which are her roots. Whether enjoying the peacefulness of an early morning cup of tea, the bonding of a friendship, her love of family or confronting worrisome problems, mysterious cases to be solved, she shows an awareness of these quiet often unspoken miracles. She is a true heroine with a sensitivity to her world which reflects our world. There's much to relate to in these very charming books which above all are very very entertaining.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The ninth installment of the No. 1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency presents the reader with a number of new mysteries, not the least of which is that Mma Ramotswe is receiving threatening letters from an anonymous person. On the personal side, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni thinks he has found a doctor who will cure Motholeli¿s paralysis and Mma Makutsi doesn¿t known how to tell her fiancé that his new gift to her has been ruined. The characters are as entertaining as ever, and I felt there was a little more emphasis in this book on the mysteries themselves.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charming. Love it read by Lisette Lecate.
rightantler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great slice of Botswana life!
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enchanting, like all his books.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't have much to say about this. It's a perfectly serviceable addition to the Precious Ramotswe stories. However, they are starting to blur together for me in their sameness. I think any future volumes will have to wait for me to find them in a second hand store.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Smith McCall is back to form in this installment of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Very entertaining.
ChocolateMilkMaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A.M. Smith's whimsical looniness is evident here in his latest Precious Ramotswe installation. The mystery involves a misplaced name and family, miracle cures and an uncomfortable bed situation, but all ends quite nicely. If you love The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, try another of Smith's creations, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series.
julyso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy reading the next book in Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. The Miracle at Speedy Motors is another enjoyable story of Precious Ramotswe and her assistant, Grace Makutsi. At the agency, the ladies have a mysterious letter writer and a lady looking for relatives. At home, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni meets a doctor who claims he might be able to heal their adompted daughter and Mma Makutsi has a little incident with a new bed. This series is always charming, warm, and feels like an old friend.
colmena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great quick read. The portrayal of Botswana is magical.
lecia1167 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This series is one of my favorites. It never disappoints! The now-familiar characters in this edition all seem to grow even more and become more understanding of each other. There are things that will make you laugh out loud and others that will make you want to cry. But in the end, Botswana and its residents are truly colorful, funny and compassionate people who know how important it is to be kind to others and use good common sense.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The ninth book in the No. 1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency series. The characters are just as lovely as ever. Precious Ramotswe has reached an age where she is a person of great wisdom. She takes action only after careful reflection, and her actions are taken out of love for her people and her country. She is a person I am happy to know, even if it has to all take place within the pages of a book.
hannah.aviva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As usual, the latest installment in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is an easy and enjoyable read. A nice diversion from heavier books, my only complaint is that it was too short.I'm always impressed by the richness of the descriptions of life in Botswana. The beauty of the land shines off of the pages like a national geographic photograph.
Alirob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Up to his usual standard; a real feel-good read.
riverwillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read. Precious Ramotswe is an endearing character whose wise optimism is a philsophy more of us should follow. I know these books come in for heavy criticism from some, but they have a subtle depth which grows as we slowly get to know each character.
Liciasings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just ok. Pretty feel-good, but very redundant and slow and repetative. I'm not really sure why I keep reading these. I love the pictures and the feeling of being in Africa with these characters and their worldviews. That is nice... I always can trust these books to make me feel a certain way. It will be a long time before I pick one up again, but I know that when I do, it will be peaceful, happy world to escape to.
Neale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great book in the series. I saw AMS talk a few weeks ago and he mentioned the shopping trolley chase in this book.
AuthorMarion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series brings us back together with the unforgettable characters of Precious Ramotswe (owner of said detective agency), her capable assistant Mma Makutsi, her calm and understated husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and of course those irrepressible garage apprentices. Most everyone tends to think of a miracle as something grand and extraordinary. The people who work at or near Speedy Motors are surely due for something grand to happen in their lives and we are not disappointed. The first miracle we encounter is the start of the rainy season bringing with it a downpour of biblical proportions. Within a day the parched and thirsty countryside is turned from brown to a lush green and gives the promise that the crops will produce abundantly. Mma Makutsi and her fiance find a wonderful piece of furniture in their newly bought marriage bed which becomes destroyed when Mma Makutsi has the deliverymen leave it outside her home because it won't fit through her doors. Of course it was the life-giving rain that destroyed the beautiful red brocade heart-shaped headboard. How will she ever tell her fiance what she has done? Mma Ramotswe has undertaken to find the family of a woman who became orphaned while trying to ascertain the author or nasty letters that arrive at the agency. Could it be that Precious Ramotswe has somehow offended a former client and how can she make things right? This situation is resolved by Charlie the garage apprentice who spots the culprit and a chaplinesque chase through the grocery store ensues. Thanks to the rain, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has been summoned to help start the car of a doctor who believes that there is hope for the wheelchair-bound adopted daughter of the garage owner. Mr. Matekoni finds himself applying for a mortgage on the garage to take the child to Johannesburg and to a clinic there where it is hoped they can help her walk again. Indeed, I found myself hoping wholeheartedly that this would be the miracle promised by the title.Alas, Mr. Matekoni and his daughter return home with her still bound to her wheelchair. Mma Makutsi learns that her fiance is a forgiving man when she tells him of the destroyed bed. And Mma Ramotswe's client, who at first learns that she has a brother, is quite happy with the turn of events at learning that our intrepid lady detective was the recipient of incorrect information. It seems that along with everyone in Gaborone, and especially at Speedy Motors, we are reminded to look for the miracles in our everyday lives: seeing the sun upon awakening, hearing the call of a bird in the tree, having a roof over our heads and someone with which to share a cup of bush tea. I highly recommend all of the books in this series and look forward to the next one.
drsyko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another winner in the Ladies Detective series. Just as with most of these books, not that much really happens. It's more how things happen and to whom they happen that is important. Mms Ramotswe shows her considerable compassion to someone who is writing her insulting and threatening letters because she understands why the person is doing this. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is given hope that perhaps his daughter's illness can be healed, and even though Mms Ramotswe, and the reader, can see that it is much more likely that the doctor who is making him promises really only wants his money, she lets him try, and even comes up with the money herself. During this process of him pursuing the alleged cure, there is such tenderness and love that Mr. J.L.B. has for his daughter that it almost brought tears to my eyes. We see a side of him in this installment that we have not seen before. And of course there is Mma Makutsi and her normal neuroses to contend with in that quiet and gentle way that Smith has. This is another great story in a long series of lovely reads. If you have enjoyed the previous books, you'll enjoy this one as well. It has such a aura of tenderness and quiet understanding of human nature and its foibles that I felt inspired to try to be a nicer person to those who are not always nice to me. I'm not sure what higher recommendation I could give.