Becoming the Curmudgeon

I’ve always joked that I’m going to become that old guy. You know the one. Pants a little too high on the waist. Hair in wispy explosions behind the ears. Gravelly, phlegmy voice. Shouting at the neighborhood kids, warning them off his lawn.

I hate everything, so this is a natural outgrowth, but I fear it may be closer than I anticipated.

And ironically, what’s bringing it out of me the most is day care.

I know; there’s nothing more suburban and yuppie than kvetching about your kids’ day care. To be fair, though, it’s not the day care that I have a problem with; it’s the other parents.

Our “school” hosts about fifty kids. It’s not huge, by any stretch. So it’s a comfy little building with a tiny little parking lot; about twenty spots or so, with a “pickup lane” running the gap right in front of the door.

Now, look. I’m going to preface all this by owning and acknowledging how 1st world this particular issue is, but I think, like most things, this is a microcosm for bigger problems.

This parking lot, then, of twenty spaces or so, means that there really isn’t a bad spot in the lot. At worst, you have to walk maybe fifty feet to the front door; a not at all unreasonable distance to rid yourself of your kids in the wee hours of the morning. But there’s also that pickup lane.

Now, the pickup lane is there, presumably, for people to keep their cars idling while they hop in to pick up or drop off the kids. Well and good. But at our day care, people don’t just use the pickup lane. They park right in front of the goldfingered door. So I, and anybody else unlucky enough to arrive at the same time as these hapless, bumbling SOBs, have to detour around their cars, sucking up their exhaust, just to get into the building.

And this is bullsharknado. I pay the same weekly fee as these people. My son and daughter come home with the germs that these people’s kids bring to school. My wife and I (okay, mostly my wife) bring in extra donations when the pre-k teachers send home flyers begging for them. (Seriously, my wife sent in two full-sized pumpkins. WHO DOES THAT?!) But no, I have to detour around their oversized cars for the privilege of using the front door.

Never mind that there are perfectly good parking spaces — dozens of them! — not ten feet away. Never mind that in addition to disrupting the walking traffic, I’ve seen these knuckle sandwiches align themselves like poorly-placed Tetris blocks, stopping even the other jerk stores from passing through the pickup lane until they’ve done their business inside (and they’re never walking in a hurry, either, let me point out). No, these monsters have to park right in front of the doorright across the middle of the crosswalk, and to hell with anybody who’s inconvenienced.

I mean, we’re living in a society, aren’t we? Enough people live in these cramped cities of ours that, even if you hate people like I do, you surely understand that we’re better off if we occasionally look out for each others’ well being and convenience than if we only look out for our own.

These are the people who will drive past the backup at the on-ramp, then nose in at the last possible second. The ones who will angle their shopping cart to stop and obstruct the entire derping aisle at the grocery store while they compare nutrition labels on store-brand and name-brand Cheez-its. Speaking of the grocery store, these are the ones who will blithely pay for a hundred-dollar order with a jarful of change with five customers lined up behind them, or who will stalk you in the parking lot for your space that’s fifteen feet closer to the door than the space that’s wide open a bit further down. (Man, I have a lot of rage centered on the grocery store.)

Well, I’ve had it. I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m no longer content swallowing my displeasure in favor of good manners. I thought for a bit about making up a bunch of passive-aggressive notes to stick on their windshields, but there’s something cowardly in that, and I also think that if you’re being an arsehole, you need somebody to point it out to you to your face for it to really sink in.

So, when I see these people now, I’m calling them on it.

Politely. Self-deprecatingly. But directly. “Hey. I’m not trying to be rude, but this is a crosswalk you’ve parked on.”

I say it, and I can feel that siren’s song in my gut when I do it. Get off my lawn.

I’ve done it twice, now. As nicely as I can stand. And you know what I’ve seen in the faces of the two people I’ve tried out this societal intolerance on? Confusion. They were surprised that I was saying anything to them in the first place, but more than that, they legitimately had no idea they were doing anything anybody would find objectionable. Double-takes to their cars and the crosswalk. Uneasy shuffling. To say nothing of my blood pressure shooting through the roof — me, the ever-avoider of conflict, getting face-to-face to call somebody on their stupid.

But you know what else?

They aren’t parking in front of the door anymore. And that feels good. But I know I’m also paying a price for it. The price of being disliked and grumbled about after the fact. Then again, that may be a price I’m happy to pay.

Is this my first step towards becoming the King Jerk of my neighborhood?

 

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About Pavowski

I am a teacher, runner, father, and husband. I am an author-in-progress. I know just enough about a lot of things to get me into a lot of trouble. View all posts by Pavowski

5 responses to “Becoming the Curmudgeon

  • glenavailable

    It was the French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) who famously once observed, “Hell is other people.”

    It’s both refreshing and empowering to read the words of a writer/social commentator such as yourself who can so accurately express what a great many others are thinking.

    Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  • glenavailable

    You speak for us all.

    Some days, however, the maths just doesn’t add up. Mostly everyone would admit to wanting to be on the receiving end of common decency and yet there appear to be a certain proportion of the population unwilling to pay it forward.

    It’s like one of my pet superhates – tailgating on the roads. Motoring survey after survey lists roadusers # 1 irritation as being tailgated (being followed at an unreasonably close distance by the car behind) and yet soooooo many people appear to enjoy making an artform of this bullyboy behaviour .. and the police won’t enforce the law against it.

    As you say.. geh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pavowski

      I was listening to Sam Harris’s podcast recently (a real gem, if you’re the atheist sort), and he pointed out that it would be trivially easy for auto manufacturers to place inhibitors on vehicles which would simply not allow them to break posted speed limits. Such inhibitors would inevitably lower fatality and accident rates, but people would rebel against them. Why? Because we *want* the freedom to break the law, despite the fact that speeding is inextricably linked to higher fatality rates.

      Personally, I can’t wait for self-driving cars to become the norm, so that I never have to worry about driving again. But then I don’t drive a Mustang or Camaro, couldn’t care less about horsepower or image. I drive a Camry. And a minivan. Both of which have two car seats in the back. So I guess I’m not the one the car manufacturers are targeting.

      Liked by 1 person

  • glenavailable

    To borrow a literary metaphor, I’d say we’re definitely on the same page. I drive a Honda Jazz with one carseat in the back and my second vehicle is a 10 speed bicycle. Everyday I like to shamelessly show people I’ve made it.

    Like

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