Sunday, January 16, 2011

Becoming Andy Rooney

I’m becoming Andy Rooney. Rooney, of CBS’ “60 Minutes” program is TV’s best known and surliest curmudgeon. He’s 92 years old and just about everything annoys him or ticks him off. He opines on everything from human behaviors to food, pets, teens, politics, money, movies, TV, music and- - -sex. And none of it pleases him. If you don’t know Andy Rooney you surely know someone like him. But just in case you don’t, let me, The Sage, be your Andy Rooney for the next few minutes as I try to emulate him in telling you about three things that really, really, REALLY tick me off. All three involve human behavior especially the behavior of Gen-Xers.

I’m nowhere near Andy Rooney’s age but like him I have a full head of completely gray hair. Some say it makes me look distinguished and rugged. But to Gen-Xers, obviously, it makes me look stupid, helpless, and technologically challenged. Nowhere is that more evident than when I go into a big box technology store such as Best Buy or Comp USA and start looking at computers and peripherals. Within 15 seconds a “twenty-something” nerd reeking of acne medication and having all the sartorial style of a none-too-effective panhandler approaches me and says something in the nature of, “You do know that’s a COMPUTER, right?” Then adds, “Are you really looking for a COMPUUUUUTER (drawing it out for emphasis) today, sir, really?” I would tell him that I was working with COMPUUUUUTERS long before his father knew that “hard disk” wasn’t a term to be giggled over in the boys bathroom in the sixth grade, but it wouldn’t do any good. I know he’d just look at me and say, “Huh, what? Whadya mean?” Then I’d just say something ruder still, he’d be even more clueless and I’d walk out in a huff. That’s why I now order ALL technology online from one of their competitors. Online stores never see my hair and don’t care how old I am. All they care about is how much I spend, the shipping option I choose and that my credit card is valid.

Andy Rooney also complains a lot about doctors. Most seniors do because the things that afflict seniors don’t afflict young doctors so their familiarity with those afflictions is vicarious at best. But my gripe with doctors is different than Andy’s. Every time my primary care physician refers me to a specialist the following scenario takes place: Doctor enters exam room 40 minutes late and says, “ Hi Hal, I’m DOCTOR Smith." That rude greeting is followed by me wasting the next ten minutes furthering his education by explaining: “Look pal, I don’t know what they taught you at home or in med school but I am either Hal and you are Bob or you are DOCTOR Smith and I am MISTER Andrews. . .I don’t give a fig which of those two you choose but if you insist on calling me Hal and referring to yourself as DOCTOR Smith you will find yourself having that stethoscope you’re wearing around your neck plugged into something other than your ears!” Most of them have studied enough anatomy to get my point and we move on, politely, from there.

There is however one situation I never hear Andy Rooney gripe about- - -the parking lots at suburban strip centers- - -the kind with a major grocery store along with a pizza parlor, nail studio, sandwich shop, liquor store, Chinese take-out, dry cleaner and tanning salon. There are two of those within 2 miles of my house each patronized by Gen-Xers driving BMWs, Mercedes, Volvos and yes, Hummers too. All of them educated, well-off, young, good looking, fit and able people who for some strange reason believe that because they live in the Tampa zip code with the highest per household income and the highest level of education. . .the rules do not apply to them. And so instead of parking in one of the thousand or so parking spaces the rest of us use they park in the highly visible yellow delineated “Fire Lane” in front of the video store, liquor store or take-out place initiating their “flashers” as a signal that YOU, you unprivileged dope in a Toyota, should just go on around them and their $80,000 import. And I used to do that honking my horn and flipping “half a peace sign” at them on my way. But it just wasn’t very satisfying because it didn’t get their attention. So now, I park my car and walk up to their vehicle and motion for them to lower their window while I pretend to be dialing my cell phone. When the driver puts the window down I put my index finger up and say, Hang on a sec, I’m calling a tow truck.” The driver always asks why and I say, I saw you parked in a “No Parking” zone with your emergency flashers on and knew you must be having car trouble so, I decided to be a good Samaritan and call a tow truck for you. . .should be here momentarily.” If the driver looks particularly oafish I ask, “Will the literacy lessons take long?” He or she usually replies, “Listen wise guy I can read” and I ask if that “includes the big yellow letters over which you are parked- - -you know the ones that say ‘No Parking Fire Lane’?” These two methods seem particularly effective and so far only one guy has gotten out of the car and threatened me with bodily harm.

OK, so I may not be in Andy Rooney’s league yet when it comes to being a curmudgeon but I’m working on it and by the time I’m 92 I hope to have it down pat.

© The Sage of Tampa 2011

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