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Understanding the Crotchety Old Man
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“Get off my lawn!”
This self-effacing comment many say to describe themselves getting older and less tolerable sparks laughter but I’m starting to understand why older people get so crabby.
Sadly, I’m no longer in my youth but I’m also not old. At least what society deems as old. However, I think I’m slowly becoming the crotchety old man and just recently figured out why. Or at least, discovered a hypothesis.
In recent years my joy of wondering out for an evening has waned. So much that I’d rather just stay at home, watch TV and call it a night. Believe me, it’s frustrating. In fact, I get frustrated knowing how much I want to go out but then don’t want to. Make sense? Probably not.
My wife and I discussed this recently and we concluded we’re just sick of people and society. The other night, a kid on a skateboard crossed a street against the red right in front of my wife. She popped her high beams on him and he gave her the finger. Oh today’s youth, so well disciplined. Where did parenting go? Had she been much closer Mr. Skateboarder would be a hood ornament and my wife in jail. Because in the state of Oregon, drivers have lost all rights as we’re expected to stop a 3,500 pound machine traveling 30 mph on a dime for not only anyone not in a car but anyone not in a car who decides to step in front of oncoming traffic with little to no warning. If you cannot avoid the self-centered pedestrian who feels it’s their right to cross the street wherever and whenever, off to prison you go!
Sorry, I digress a bit.
Yesterday, a driver zoomed past, pulled in front of us only to suddenly slow down and make a quick right turn. Plenty of room behind us. The driver was one of those self-mutilating humans with the big fat rings in their earlobes. Yes, that’s how big the deformity was, I could see it 40 feet away as we passed.
Last night, a driver cut me off on the freeway leaving less than a foot between our cars. It’s been a long awhile since attending the movie theater but one of the last few times some unruly kids were throwing popcorn, mouthing off and kicking seats. Then they got pissed when escorted out.
Our neighbors let their dogs bark at all hours. I.e. 5:30 a.m., 6 a.m., etc. We brought it to their attention. Once. No apologies, just an excuse. Our relationship hasn’t been the same. Another neighbor started weed whacking in the backyard at 7 a.m. And, we’re not talking 20 something millennials raised without common courtesy. These folks should know better. Marijuana occasionally permeates our backyard now. Another neighbor recently complained on Facebook (of course) about the sexist Home Depot. Apparently, she inquired about toilet supplies and the employee asked “for cleaning?” Oh, the humanity. This chick is over 40! (see what I did there? Wink wink.)
So, we’ve thrown in the towel. We keep to ourselves, rarely go out and dream about life on a farm with animals. You probably say, “Really for all that you’re just staying home?”
Actually, we’re not alone. Our developing desire, we’ve slowly shared to others, about moving to the country away from neighbors and people in general is often met with “we’ve thought about it too” or “we won’t be far behind.” Or something similar.
So this is my hypothesis: We’re born with a set amount of resilience to what life throws at us. Negative encounters slowly erode our “health bar” as they call it in video gaming and eventually we’re left with little to none. Oh sure, things we encounter or pick up along the way briefly add some life to the bar but it’s quickly eaten away by small things – like a stranger I’ll never see again who cut me off on the freeway.
And it’s these mole hills that turn into mountains.
When you’re younger, tolerance is high and resilient. You arrogantly shake your head at the grumpy old man yelling kids to get off his lawn. I’ll never become like him, you swear. Oh yes you will. Little did you know, your tolerance level was strong and the guy who cut you off 20 minutes earlier has already faded into obscurity. Now you remember even the slightest slight. Oh don’t worry you won’t carry it with you for days, you’ll get over it, but it unknowingly sticks in your craw until the next time it happens (you know it will) and you say, “This is why I hate going out!”
You see, I have become the grumpy old man who told kids to get off my lawn. A few years ago after repeatedly watching the unruly neighborhood kids use my front yard as a playground with no interference by the parents I finally went out and politely asked them to stay off my lawn. Unlike the old man of my youth who just screamed at me and I feared my father finding out, I debated and debated how I would approach the kids for fear of their parents finding out. Not because I didn’t want them to get into trouble, because I didn’t want to get into trouble. If you haven’t noticed, parents don’t parent today. Their kids are Jesus.
Thankfully, it went off without a hitch and today they stay off my lawn.
But perhaps more promising, thereafter one of the boys always looked at me with a bit of fear in his eyes. Am I his neighbor-monster? I have no doubt he’ll have a story in 20 years of that grumpy old man who told him to get off his lawn.
That was me.
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