While having coffee with a friend he asked me, “Why are old people so grumpy?” Why’d he ask me, I’m not old and surely not grumpy, at least not from my perspective? If anything, I’m too cheerful most of the time and focused on drawing in every ounce of life I can hold, a canister of cheeriness. He must have encountered someone recently who appeared to be my age and assumed that I might have an opinion on the subject—lucky for him I did.
All of us have off days, but so what; that shouldn’t spontaneously label us as grumps. Be honest, you’ve had days that weren’t so upbeat and I’ll bet your friends didn’t assume that you’re an incurable grump. Even happy-faced teenagers have rotten days.
What I didn’t expect to hear from my friend was his continuation statement, “I know people who enjoy reading your columns and they express genuine concern that your age may be making you grumpy; what do you think?” I couldn’t say the first thing that came to mind, that would have zoomed off the grumpiness chart. Instead, I offered a response that pained me to the core: “Maybe I could redirect my focus by making a conscious habit of painting a happy face on a horse’s rear with every keystroke. I can be as accommodating as the next person; so for the next week I don’t care what I see or hear, when the ink hits the paper it’s gonna be with a twist of bliss. If you want me to be happy, then be careful what you wish for Buckaroo because you’ve got it for a trial run; just remember this was your idea.”
A test for my new smile-o-meter is getting out there with the free-roaming human herd in the real world where age diversity is commonplace, and a grocery store is an ideal vantage point for observing the best and worst of humanity. The guy in line ahead of me appears to be a candidate; surely he’ll do something stupid before completing his checkout transaction. How grumpy of me; I meant to say was how uplifting it’ll be observing the interpersonal skills demonstrated by the time-enhanced, sturdy gentleman patiently waiting for checkout. Whoa, what a language barrage, and because the clerk couldn’t accept his expired coupon. No doubt the youthful, happy voiced cashier was impressed with the guy’s mastery of our traditional language, use of explicit descriptions, congenial hand gestures and outgoing personality. My new attitude initiative may work out; I’m not stressed, my heart rate is level, that vein in my neck isn’t going to explode, and all because I didn’t say a word. Previously, I’d have viewed that massive moron as someone who shouldn’t be in public without adult supervision and may have mentioned it to him, but I’m adjusting and heading toward “serenity now.”
Another viewing area for emotional mutants is on the road. What a break, a perfect sight is just ahead in the left lane. She’s so talented. I wish I could multi-task; she’s talking on the phone and drying her nails by hanging both hands out the window while taking a sip of coffee and never running completely off the road or hammering another vehicle while swerving. I won’t judge, maybe she’s a professional stunt driver. Wow; I’m closer to a grumpiness cure than I imagined. I don’t care that she’s an inconsiderate little snot who’s driving a new, semi-truck sized SUV with a personalized license plate saying “YOUWANTIT.” I didn’t even hit the horn. I’m enjoying the new stress-free me. One final test; the gas station on my way home is a good place to complete my experiment.
Great, an intercom: “Hello, I need assistance with pump number six; it ate my credit card.” My card stuck in the slot on the pump; maybe someone dropped their gum, it accidentally bounced up from the ground and stuck in there. My fault; I should have shined a light into the slot before inserting my card. “Sure, I can wait.” Glancing inside I noticed that she was also talking on her cell phone while working behind the counter. “Excuse me, the intercom has static, can you repeat that? No, I’m sorry, I don’t know the toll free number of the bank that issued my credit card, it’s on the back my card that’s still held hostage by pump number six. Yes, I can operate a pair of pliers; I’ll be right in to get them.” Well, I got half of my card out before it snapped off, so my identity should be secure. “Thanks for the useful tool; I’ll be back for a fill up when my bank sends me another credit card. You have a great day too.”
It’s official, I’m cured. I’m now a bona fide, smiley-faced, mild mannered, boring as a bucket of dirt senior male for the next 7 days who views stress and stupidity as ailments affecting other people. I can hardly contain myself in anticipation of writing my next column. How’s this for a topic: “Bite Me: A guide for buying dentures.”