COLUMN: Confessions of a latter-day crank

Gordon Turner

Gordon Turner

I have to confess — I was not always this way. Somewhere as I aged I became a curmudgeon, cranky and often irate at all sorts of things — and people. When I was young, I was always buoyant and optimistic and willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Not now! In fact, all sorts of happenings get me down, and often I speak out of turn or say my piece. I have to believe it’s simply a feature of getting older. When I rationalized my behavior to a friend at a recent dinner, he looked me in the eye and said “You’re not approaching old age. You are old.”

So I guess that’s why I speak out angrily to people whose behavior is out of line — at least from my having-lived-many-decades point of view. I’m fairly cantankerous as I take people to task, but that doesn’t worry me because they’ve clearly shown a level of rudeness or lack of sensitivity it’s hard to ignore.

The first incident I’m about to describe I’ve already written about in a column about smart-phone etiquette. A young lady sat down on an exercise bicycle right beside me at the gym and began to talk quite loudly on her cell phone. I was enjoying my exercise ride, so I wasn’t impressed that the back-and-forth telephone discussion continued for quite a while. On top of that, I didn’t want to be listening in on a conversation about her love life.

Grumpily, I asked her to get off the cell-phone and put the phone away. She told me I was rude. I replied that the gym was a public area, and she should go out into the hall to have her private call. She called me rude again and moved off to another area of the gym.

So there you go! Ten years ago, I would have been annoyed, shrugged my shoulders, and found another exercise bike away from the bothersome cell-phone and its user. Now, though, I crankily lash out.

Recently, I was having my hair cut at my barber Glen’s shop on Columbia Avenue. Usually, a few customers are waiting their turns for haircuts, and they sit quietly, unobtrusively, perhaps reading a magazine. No one makes a lot of noise because I think we all enjoy talking with Glen when it’s our turn to be in the chair and getting our ears lowered.

However, on my most recent visit to Glen’s, I was the only customer and was enjoying a genial back-and-forth conversation with Glen. Then, a young man in his 30s entered, and he began to talk before he even closed the door. In a big voice, he talked about Glen’s pictures on the wall, he wanted to know about local politics, and he jabbered about every hockey game he ever watched on television. On and on and on, he blathered — and in a very loud voice.

So, at a pause in Glen’s cutting and as the newcomer was taking a deep breath before launching into more “noise,” I asked him to please be quiet. I told him he was disturbing my restful haircut and was interfering with my friendly chit-chat with my barber. He immediately stopped and later apologized.

Is it worth it to speak up when someone or something is annoying you? In the past, I wouldn’t have, but now that my aging bones are creaking, I seem to be willing to tell people that they’re not thinking of others. So far, I haven’t had any consequences. I get ugly looks from people, but in most cases if they think about it, they realize what they’ve done is not appropriate.