Don't Get Me Started

I never planned to be a curmudgeon.

I never planned to be a curmudgeon. But now, less than a month away from my 53rd birthday, my penchant for grumpiness and downright anger gives me pause. Not that I have turned into a complete a-hole, mind you. I am still filled with hope for the/my Future, and a sense of wonder pervades a good part of every day I live (usually early in the morning and late at night). But here, particularly at this most festive time of the year, my patience grows seriously thin, particularly in traffic and in stores I frequent for reasons other than making capricious purchases of doo-dads and gee-gaws in the name of Christ. It is true, I pretty much hide in my house rather than participate in the fray, but in my self-imposed exile I spend the time watching every version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol I can get my hands on, surely the most beautiful and instructive lesson in the capacity of human forgiveness and redemption in secular literature.

Two students really got my goat today. One is a student of mine, and the other I do not know from Adam’s housecat. Forget the details; suffice it to say that rudeness and lack of respect were the order of the day. After 19 years of teaching, I simply am not accustomed to that sort of thing. I am not sure if this sudden burst of disrespect is the fallout of a new school or a harbinger of things to come. What I am most ashamed of is that it is late at night and I am still stewing over the day; I am willing to bet that I am the furthest thing from either of those students’ minds right now. The Smiths’ lyrics come to mind: “Why do I give valuable time /
To people who don't care if I live or die?”

Perhaps it is precisely because I am old; perhaps that fact will lead to more instances of student disrespect. The grump in me longs for the days when older people were tacitly respected. I followed this unspoken Life Rule. And, no, those people did not have to “earn” my respect, either. On what grounds did I, a junior high or high school student, have to ask an older authority figure to “win” my respect? They simply had it, whether I liked it or not. I may not have even liked these older personages, but I was polite enough to show a semblance of respect, particularly if said oldsters gave me no reason whatsoever to abandon that respect, however facile.

As Rosie O’Donnell used to quip back in her mullet-wearing stand-up days, “Don’t get me started!”


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