We’re not Grumpy Old Men

I don’t know about other mature gentlemen, but I stay up until the wee hours of the morning, like 2am or later. Staying up late naturally synchronizes my biorhythms, which is very important to my musical journey. When I’m programming, wrangling words, or playing guitar, I’m most productive and creative during the hours when werewolves, vampires, or small arms fire menace my neighborhood. Yes, the Portland suburbs are exciting, particularly further out at the edges of the county line, on the fringes of society. Weirdness happens in my neck of the woods, but I’m ready—even if North Korea decides to invade Oregon (a really dumb-ass thing to do), I’m prepared to defend my guitars, beer, Scotch, and domicile, in that order.

Out here on the fringes of society, I’m usually serenaded to blissful sleep by the sounds of small arms fire, the 3am train, the occasional explosion, and emergency vehicle sirens. If I don’t hear at least two of the aforementioned events by the time I decide to hit the rack, I worry, because that could mean something much sinister is looming in the nearby woods, such as the return of ancient alien astronauts or Jimmy Hoffa was unearthed in America. Friendly, jovial, or chipper are not words used to describe my wake-up attitude at 9:30am, especially if my sleep was impaired or otherwise interrupted by anomalous activity. That I find my morning dose of coffee a mental and physiological necessity, it should come as no surprise that I’m less than civil if I fail to receive my oral inoculation of the caffeinated brew.

Though my attitude is a bit prickly at times, it’s not cool to call me a grumpy old man. A few weeks ago, I was shopping at my local grocery market, minding my own business, singing a few bars from Take this Job and Shove It as I meandered up and down the aisles. I spotted the pancake mix I wanted on a bottom shelf, but my access was encumbered by a munchkin playing “how many pancake mix boxes can I tip over with my little snot-encrusted hands.”

I certainly didn’t want a box that was contaminated with munchkin snot, so I asked a store clerk if she’d retrieve a box from the stockroom. Offering her a concise description of the situation at the pancake shelf, she happily obliged. She returned with a loaded cart of pancake mix boxes, parked it next to the little villain, slipped on surgical gloves, and proceeded to toss the contaminated pancake mix boxes into a nearby empty cart, which unknowingly was left unattended by the little boy’s mother.

What subsequently ensued required the intervention of the assistant manager, who obviously wasn’t up to the task of defusing the situation, so being a formidable negotiator, I switched from spectator to participant, giving all to hear my account of what had transpired, that the prepubescent boy’s mother not only abandoned her shopping cart but allowed her munchkin to defile pancake mix boxes with snotty, gooey fingers. Approving nods from the spectator crowd reassured the store clerk and her assistant manager that the inattentive mother and her unruly offspring were the culprits. I shook the hands of the clerk (yes, she removed her gloves) and the young assistant manager, thanking them both for protecting the health and safety of shoppers from food products made unsafe by a wandering kid with snot running down over his mouth and chin.

As I rejoiced in the checkout line with other shoppers, the little boy’s mother snarled at me from behind meth-like teeth, calling me a grumpy old man on her way out of the market. How rude is that?