I may be grumpy, but I’m rightBy ELIZABETH QUINN,
It’s possible that I’m turning into a grumpy old man.
I cannot stand it when someone pulls out of the left lane and into the right lane at a stop light just so they can be first when it turns green. We can go right on red; it’s an actual law. When your need to be first off the light imposes on my need to turn right on red because I’m already late - we have a problem. I was so excited when the city repainted the lanes at the intersection of Meadowbrook and Ridgewood to support my cause. They made the right lane a turn-right only lane and I actually screamed ‘Hallelujah!’ out loud in my car. The problem is—people haven’t quite caught on yet. Change is hard, so I’m trying to be patient. But I am so close to putting a sign in the ground at the intersection of Northside and Ridgewood that says, ‘Do you need to turn right? No? I bet some of the people stuck behind you do.’
Shaming people into better behavior with signs is not new to me. Last spring a bridge was closed in my neighborhood prompting a detour and an influx of cars racing down my street to make up for the 75 seconds this detour had added to their day. After watching the kids on our street dive for cover into the bushes and ride their bikes into yards to cheat death, I bought several yard sale type signs and wrote snarky reminders to slow down.
It’s a Detour, not a NASCAR Qualifying Race.
Slow Down: Old Dogs and Incorrigible Children Ahead.
We Gave the Kids Rocks and Radar Guns.
You’re Not on Meadowbrook Anymore Toto, SLOW DOWN.
My neighbors let me put them in their yards too, but I’m still that mom in her driveway yelling at cars that go flying by, wishing I owned a paint gun.
I experience an unhealthy level of anger when people don’t merge with the flow of traffic due to an upcoming lane closure because they don’t think the rules apply to them. Lane closures on the interstate will have signs for miles telling you that one lane is closing soon and you should merge, but some drivers seem to think those signs are just suggestions. They just cruise on by all of us who are creeping forward in the other lane as if they don’t have a clue why we’re all going so slow. They finally stop at the last possible place to merge and turn on their blinker as if to say, ‘Oh, I need to get over now - whose gonna be a doll and let me in?’ It’s them. They’re the reason we are all going so slow in the lane that isn’t closing - because instead of merging with the rest of us miles back, they decide to speed past all the reasonable people and slow us all down by making someone stop to let them in. It’s a toss-up over who I’m angrier with: the person who doesn’t think the rules apply to them or the person who stops to let them in. I have been known to drive in the middle of two lanes to block the ‘I don’t have to merge yet’ folks from continuing on their entitled way. If everybody merged while we were still clocking 60 mph, then we wouldn’t grind to a halt at the closed lane; and if nobody let those fools in, then maybe they would learn their lesson and stop it. My heart rate is going up just thinking about it.
Not all of my grumpy old man tendencies are quite so rage-filled. Many are the most banal first-world problems, also known as ‘minor inconveniences.’ For instance, I find myself noting all the things that used to work better like saltine cracker sleeves that used to open on the seam but now tear sideways and crooked, crushing my crackers in the process. Or how Saran wrap used to stick to itself and accomplish its job but now it just lays there limply, looking pathetic and making me feel bad for buying plastic that doesn’t even work. I have the most ridiculous mental list of all the products I’ve used and had discontinued. I won’t bore you with that lengthy list, but I’m still not over losing my coffee creamer to the Amazon/Whole Foods merger and I’ll never understand how Clinique could decide that a blush called Nude Nude wasn’t worth keeping around. As I said, minor inconveniences that just make me grumble to myself as the crushed crackers spill on the counter.
Age would be an easy scapegoat for my newly-noted curmudgeon status, but the thing is - I’m pretty sure it’s not a new development. In my 20s, when my friends’ favorite shampoo was discontinued, they would just buy another kind, but I couldn’t move on so quickly. Instead, I learned how to use eBay so I could buy the last case of Thermasilk Volumizing shampoo in the purple bottle from a questionable distributor because I was stuck in the denial level of the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief.
I’m pretty sure it’s a control thing. For all my Enneagram friends out there, I’m an eight. (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, get thee to Lemuria and purchase “The Road Back to You” posthaste.) I like control, but I have no interest in controlling you. I just want to make sure you aren’t controlling me. People who threaten my children’s lives by speeding down my street, companies that make decisions that force me to choose new cosmetics or life-giving coffee creamers, and selfish drivers that block my way and slow me down are controlling me and I don’t handle that well. While I can at least recognize this about myself, I’m at a loss as to how to address it. I’m sure my husband would love for me to figure that out. I’ve been asking him to quit driving in the right-hand lane on Old Canton Road for 23 years - all the manhole covers and potholes make it so much worse than the left lane; I’m right about this and if you haven’t noticed it, you will now. It hasn’t done me any good though; he chooses to bounce around in the right lane in spite of my requests - or maybe because of them...
Having children was quite the lesson in the futility of trying to maintain control. You can’t make a baby sleep on command or a kid prefer kale to candy, no matter how many books the experts write to the contrary. Sure - there are lots of things you can do to encourage the behavior and choices you want to see from your children; but as the saying goes, ‘You can lead a toddler to the potty, but you can’t make them poop.’
In spite of my children’s best efforts, I haven’t given up all hope of maintaining some control but I have gotten a little better. I wrote only two emails to Whole Foods about my beloved coffee creamer before I started trying new brands and I haven’t bought a paintball gun for the speeders on my street - yet. But if grouching about late-merging, entitled drivers in the newspaper makes me a grumpy old man - then call me Walter Matthau because somebody has to tell those morons to cut it out. Maybe next year I’ll try giving up being grumpy about what I can’t control for Lent. This year, I’m just proud that I can drive up to Maywood Mart and not park slanted across the new straight lines in silent protest of the worst parking lot redesign that has ever existed. Baby steps.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.