Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 20, 2009


Nobody likes to listen to a grumpy old man whine


          Grumpy old men is not just the theme of two good movies, it is a reality of life. I can speak with authority on this subject; I am one. And I think I know why old men get grumpy.

As you get older things get on your nerves more quickly than when you were young. Everything we try to do is slower than it used to be. And some things we once did easily, we can no longer do. And that is frustrating. Even so, we old men should resist grumpiness as long as we can. We owe that much to the people who have to put up with us until our final trip to the cemetery. 

          “Inner” stances are more important than circumstances and we can choose our inner stances. Our attitudes and convictions determine our actions and reactions. We can set high standards for our personal behavior. These convictions become our inward, moral goals for daily living. Without them we tend to overreact to every jerk we encounter. And there are jerks everywhere.

          One of my strong convictions is that I should resist whining when things do not go my way. I try to remember that nobody, not one living soul, wants to listen to me whine about anything.

          Whiners and complainers lose, no matter what the game. However, all of us admire people who react calmly to the crazy little things that happen to everybody along life’s journey.

          Here is one example. My wife gives me a kiss as I leave home. She is cheerful. That makes me feel good, real good because she has not kissed me like that in a long time. I am driving to work with a smile on my face. I am not in a hurry. I have peace in my heart. It feels so good to be alive and married to that sweet woman.

          Suddenly some jerk cuts in front of me, narrowly missing the front of my car. Words I did not learn in Sunday school are on my lips. My peaceful countenance is history. My first thought is to ram the guy. I have this sudden, tremendous desire to get even.

          Then reason takes over. I drive a Hyundai Sonata. It would not be a good idea to tangle with the jerk’s big yellow Cadillac. Ramming the jerk is not an option.

          My next thought is less wicked. I will do to him what he has done to me. Is that not the Golden Rule? Then I remember that when I try to gun my Hyundai it will not jump like my Crown Vic once did. So I give up on trying to cut him off and try relaxing.  

          Now I am calmer. My peace is gone, but my anger is fading. My inner resolve not to whine takes over. Then I begin praying for the jerk, something like this, “Lord, please let a state trooper catch him soon.” That works for me, when I remember that nobody likes to hear a grumpy old man whine.

          Another thing that triggers my grumpiness is to step up to a counter in a business just as the sales clerk answers his phone. The clerk ignores me; the caller is more important. I waited in line ten minutes. I have places to go. I want to make a purchase and be on my way.

          Instead I must stand there waiting for the clerk to assist a caller. “Yes,” the clerk says politely, “We have that in stock.” Then, “Hold on, let me look the price up in the catalog.”

          My blood pressure is rising. I feel demeaned, insulted and angry. Finally, the clerk puts the phone down and says, “Can I help you?” I want to say, “Yeah, first you can apologize for ignoring me while you talk to someone else on the phone.”  

          I resist saying it and regain my composure. But I am still upset. I want to say to the clerk with a scowl on my face, “I have my cell phone with me. If you will tell me your number, I will call you on my cell phone so I can get waited on.”

          Before I can say that, the phone rings again. He says, “Excuse me,” and answers the phone. I am so frustrated I want to scream. I look around for someone who will sympathize with me. Nobody has noticed me. My plight is my own.

          Outside the store I am so grumpy I want to stop traffic and tell somebody how I feel.  I want to rally the public to insist that businesses stop this practice of answering the phone while customers are standing in line.

          Driving away I remember my resolve not to whine when things do not go my way. What a struggle it is not to give in to grumpiness! But in my sober moments I tell myself again: you do not want to be remembered as a grumpy old man who whined all the time.

          That is when it helps to pray. And to pray prayers the Lord likes to hear. Like this one:  “Lord, help this old man to remember that the perks of heaven will make up for the annoyance caused down here by the jerks and the clerks.” + + +