Cranking up the Crankiness

There’s a few of us curmudgeons who are flexing our hyper-critical, crotchety cantankerous tendencies these days. The need to spout off opinions at the drop of a dime, a pence, a peso, a frank, a centime or nowadays the universal euro, has definitely escalated. I mean citizens of Autumnal years have always had the proverbial right to complain about this and that. It’s rather a well-earned spot in society, gained only through accumulated years of experience, toil and adventure. But, we have every right to be so! I mean, just think about the state of affairs in the last two years! It has kind of been quite similar to a speeding solo railway car, unhitched, gaining momentum down the hill of disaster…

You see, we bearing wisened wrinkles in place of youthful smooth complexion, have witnessed a plethora of changes. They began a decade or or two, ago. Subtle tweaking of givens, norms and reliable conditions began ruffling a few of our feathers. And with each passing year, the number of alterations, substitutions and God-forbid– omissions, increased. The list first comprised little things. Nothing really earth-shattering, but definitely noticeable. Eventually, the changes somehow became more significant. They no longer ruffled, they confounded!

I first noted one day, that the long-standing use of milk cartons in school cafeterias was suddenly replaced with the provision of plastic bags resembling breast implants. Now think about it, maybe it’s logical to have milk served to childen in wiggily plastic bags which makes stabbing them open with a straw a potentially humorous, wet and sticky situation! And my, they are! Oh, how I miss the waxed cardboard milk cartons and all the school art projects that can be created using them.

Another change was the sudden loss of gas station attendants. It seems one day we had them, the next day they were gone! Now, when in heels and stockings, manicured nails, all powdered and perfumed for work, an event, church or a date, women have to now pump their own gas. Our hands wreak of gasoline and our clothing gets an extra wrinkle or two in the process. How I long for the camaraderie between energetic, conversational gas station guys, often adorable to behold as they windexed my windshield. Alas.

Not too long ago, a not so subtle change came about in the market. We started noticing the boxes of cereal, crackers, cookies, rice, pasta, etc., were suddenly less ounces and clearly smaller in size. We thought, oh they are saving on cardboard, but I think it was more than that. One day I noticed my toilet paper roll was smaller in width. More room to slide around on that toilet paper holder. They saved on paper by cutting the squares at shorter dimensions. Bizarre. In addition, the same thing applied to tape and candy bars. One would think there was a robbing of the masses sort of conspiracy going on! Yet, these “adjustments” were quite subtle.

I wonder who decided these things? What more could change? Will fabric become rougher? Books less wordy? Soap bars smaller? Only eight songs on an album vs. the standard ten? Less stationary in the box one buys? Less juice? Smaller raisins? Blander soups? Watered-down soft drinks? Anything could be diminished.

If I didn’t know better, there seems to be a vast trickery taking place. I realize portion size is a factor in losing weight for people. But, do I need “Mother Manufacturing” to decide for me how much I can have? For years our food has been “messed with”: oil and water in bread, fruit picked unripe and stored too far in advance, dented cans stocked on shelves, savory salt restricted from saltines, or replaced with chili powder instead. I’m sorry, I don’t want chili spice in my gravy. Are these decisions supposed to be an improvement? Who says so?

Up until about ten years ago, I used to feel I was an independent American, able to commandeer most aspects of my life. Then things just started morphing all around.

Is there at least one clerk available to man one of the six cash registers on this department store floor? It’s always a woman or man hunt!

Courtesy wrap means you are given a bag and tissue or a fold it yourself flimsy box, with a skimpy ribbon for a bow–a do it yourself deal. A “curt”easy alright! I long for the skilled, nimble handiwork of the backroom gift-wrapping artist, disguised as clerk. So….economically, on what exactly is the business saving? Oh, right, employees. Jobs. Opportunities. Plus, the stripping down of our zeal, the zeal we enjoyed when we saw a present we just bought wrapped with finesse beyond common ability. Oh well…they seem to think we will keep our patronage going. Will we?

Each purchase is preferred paid via plastic, and then you get a “gift” back of the receipt in your email. Instead of remarking about the moon last night or the latest designer line heeding plus sizes, we are forced to speak only of how we want to pay and in what form we would like our receipt. Do we even want a receipt? Is that a trick question? But I want to know if someone else saw the ring around the moon that I saw…

I suppose we ought to be glad actual brick and mortar buildings still house shops and restaurants. The powers that be, seem to relish the idea of everything being purchased online and sent via courier. No more supporting Ma and Pa establishments, unfortunately, unless they are part of a chain of businesses. This is a sad thing to my generation. We understand what it takes to start those small shops from scratch and maintain them in the midst of Mega-Store monopoly.

No, I’m afraid there are just too many things to get up my gander over. As long as no gag order has been ordained by the governor, I’ll just list several random modifications, deletions, and switcheroos.:

Polite persons holding doors open are now passee, Heavens, they might insult the person going through the door!

The use of gender titles are beyond being frowned upon; they are no longer being used in formal communication! We address everyone by their name only, and can only assume what “Leslie”, “Adrian”, “Frances”, “Casey”, “Madison”and “Taylor” look like when calling or writing to them.

Change in coins and cash from the register is dumped into one’s palm, the till door is slammed shut, and a call out of “Next”, is pretty much the norm these days. Abrupt and devoid of civil connection.

Too many corporate persons unable to answer questions that veer from memorized expected inquiries. Happenstance conversation is equally difficult to navigate – a single adverb or adjective seemingly enough to send comprehension into a nosedive…

Sturdy brown paper grocery bags have been taken over by plastic bags that are flimsy and hurt marine life. Actually, Trader Joe’s not only sends you home carrying your goods packed in thick brown sacks, but they also are double-bagged with sturdy handles! However, the majority of grocery stores hide their own brown bags. Why???

Batteries are not energized “forever” like they used to be.

Lightbulbs flicker-out way too soon than expected. Who knew “Energy Saver’ meant less use?

Need to call a company? Better have an arsenal comprised of cell phone, doodling pad, pencil, paper, calculator, munchies, beverage, pillow to scream into or punch, whatever quells your temper and either a cup of coffee or a good stiff drink. You’ll be pressing this number and that, and wait “on hold” throughout the entire length of all the “Bee Gees” career– heard in fine listening music. And a real option to choose “O” for operator rarely exists anymore…much like the gas station guys and store clerks. Is this modus operandi?

Parking spaces in parking lots are far narrower than ever before. As the SUVs started kicking out the compacts, ironically, the spaces seem to have shrunk!

Books often have incomplete edging, so now and then, you come across two pages still fused at the corner…very annoying.

Because water is a commodity, storefront sidewalks are no longer hosed down. Definitely not swept, either. Where did the kid with the long apron disappear to?

Where’s the cobblers? I used to love watching my worn-out shoes revived back to polished splendor by these industrious, elfin-like craftsmen!

Gone are the soothing plots of green in the planter beds of concrete medians dividing boulevards. The emerald green was hopeful, happy and eased our worries just a tad. Instead these eyesores are painted cement, “carpeted” in bark, or filled in with whitewashed stones. Come on…we want to see trees, shrubbery, or flowers planted in those medians! This is Southern California for goodness sakes. We are supposed to shine color like a rainbow!

You have to beg for dinner rolls at restaurants, now. Same thing with water.

The gentile art of making proper introductions is definitely lost.

Our towns are all cities and they are polluted with sirens, police helicopter night beams, and ensnaring traffic jams.

All fireworks shows are forbidden. Our patriotic tradition fizzled out like a sparkler that was a dud. Why? Oh that’s right…not enough brainiacs around to ensure water and fire safety is in place. Oh brother!

Outdoor concerts on the green, no longer part of our scene. And why? Oh that’s right, not enough decency in people to have consideration and respect for others. No “Sunday Afternoons” like in Seurat’s famous painting.

There’s a multitude of complaints to record. But, as I have typed my list of grievances, I actually can’t type anything super serious. I know they exist. I’m not an ostrich. I know healthcare, economy, environment and social welfare are all teeming with tribulation. But, it’s the little things that worry me most. How can that be? Am I Winnie of very little Brain? No. Well, maybe I am. That is, I am Winnie of very big Heart. I want to have those little things stay, in my heart.

I love my pot of honey, must it drip dry?

I cherish my friends. I want us to sit and bounce and play with balloons.

I want to see, smell and hear the blustery days.

I want to take care of Piglet and have Christopher Robin at my side.

I never want to get lost in the 100 Acre Wood.

I believe we crabby codgers have become choleric over a slow spanse of time. We have come to realize our fondness for the simple good in life is the treasure of all treasures. We want to get back to being Pooh Bear. We adore our once untainted innocence. We know what a prize it is! We want to skip along hum-humming our songs, and catch hold of our bumbershoots in the windy rain. We would like to taste sweetness in the company of our dearest ally. All these things are achieved in the “Kingdom of Nicety.” We remember when a customer was a customer, not simply a walking wallet. We know very, very long before our time, when met with a new acquaintance, it was customary to claim, “At your service”, followed by a reverent bow. This translated to: “I realize our paths have crossed, and your need to travel must be just as important as mine, thus how can I help you, just as much as perhaps one day, you might help me?” Hence, the consideration of other human beings.

Pooh Bear pinned Eeyore’s lost tail onto his backside. He hugged, and loved and fixed. He went out of his way to try. He gave his best effort because he focused on the importance of the gestures he made. These are the things we spot missing from society’s landscape. We notice the paintbrush is a bit dry. The richness of color gone. The blustery blue has turned gray. Worst of it, we know why. Common decency is missing. Something so simple as thinking of others besides yourself.

The next time you hear an irascible grouch grumble, consider perhaps why. It could be crickety old bones is to blame. It might be there are some things gravely wrong. But when deciphered deeply, that old coot may be channeling his desire to be a happy go-lucky Winnie the Pooh. Living a life of simple kindness and serendipity.