With the advent of the new year, I deem it essential to fulfill my resolution and share the wisdom of my years with the next generations. So here goes.
So many young people come to me desperate for advice: How do you get to be a cranky old man? What steps are required? Is there a training program and, if so, is it expensive?
First of all, to become truly cranky, it’s essential to learn from your earliest experiences and draw upon childhood role models.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a neighborhood full of cranky old men. Old man Avino had a permanent scowl on his face. He yelled rather than spoke. These key characteristics may have had something to do with persistent misbehavior by neighborhood hoodlums.
On each side of his front stoop sat a cement lion. Sometimes he painted their mouths red. Regularly, the local bad boys would sneak up to his house at night, lift those tremendously heavy lions off their platforms and place them on the sidewalk. The next morning, a seething Mr. Avino had to figure out how to return them to their proper places. He was mad — always.
A few doors down was a ghostly presence whom we never saw. That was because, as he announced to kids innocently playing in the street, “Go away! I work all night, and I sleep in the day.” Maybe we felt sorry for him. Maybe not.
Further down the block was the furious Aloysius Beakman. He had the sorriest row of diminutive hedges in front of his weed-filled patch of garden. One day, one of those hedges appeared to have been broken.
Mr. Beakman came out red-faced with anger and began screaming at the kids playing outside, announcing that if he caught the kid who broke his shrubbery, he’d make sure that criminal went to jail for 77 years! We were scared, and we wondered why he picked 77 years.
The crankiest of the cranky was Pop Scofield, who lurked at his window with his dog Rusty, just waiting for some kid to violate the space in front of his house. Once a kid got even slightly close, Pop Scofield would begin yelling, and his dog would begin barking. After tiring from his tirade, Pop Scofield would start hitting the dog with a newspaper while yelling, “Down, Rusty!” Invariably, the dog would bark even louder.
With models such as these, how could one help but be adept at crankiness upon reaching the appropriate age.
But what does it take to perfect one’s snarl, to induce the requisite fury that allows one to be irritable enough to let loose with full-blown crankiness at a moment’s notice?
Concentrating on all the things that inspire irritation are guaranteed to help maintain the ill temper and ready glare so essential to expressing crankiness with optimal speed.
That list of irritants could include: a table of people at a restaurant all of whom are staring at their cell phones, deer eating the azaleas, people coughing without covering their mouths and people who clean up after their dogs and leave the full plastic bag on the sidewalk. Also, anti-vaxxers, Republicans and, of course, he-who-must-not-be-named.
But how, you may ask, do you perfect the trademark cranky-old-man scowl?
Anyone can suck on a lemon, but serious aspirants to crankihood will charge ahead and order a pineapple, anchovy and liver pizza, or even think about ordering a pineapple, anchovy and liver pizza. Or you could try getting stuck behind a garbage truck that you can’t pass.
The truly intrepid will go to such extremes as getting too close to a construction site port-o-potty or watching Fox News for 30 seconds (the same thing).
When is the best time to unleash your crankiness? While standing in line at the express lane of the supermarket behind someone with way more than 12 items. When drivers speed up while you are waiting at a crosswalk with a small child. When, once again, you don’t receive any mail except junk mail. And, of course, when encountering other cranky old men.
In conclusion, be comforted that there is no magic involved in achieving perfect crankiness. It’s actually a natural part of the aging process. Just follow the darkest recesses of your heart.
All of the above, begs the question: Is crankiness gender specific? Is there such a thing as cranky old women? Or can there only be crabby old women?
These are the questions to ponder in the Happy New Year.