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  • August 6, 2019



    As I get old, I have discovered two things.

    One, things that used to drive me crazy, no longer do. You know, live and let live. You don’t have to agree with me. Why would I care if you do or you don’t?

    And two, some things that used to be just annoying, now tend to drive me nuts. I don’t pretend it makes any sense. In fact it doesn’t make any sense. It just is what it is.

    For instance:

    ONE: People I Don’t Know Calling Me by My First Name

    I go to the bank, or I go to a hotel, or I go to anywhere else where I have to show an ID, and whomever I am dealing thinks that if they call me by my first name I’ll feel like they are my friends. This is particularly galling when my wanna-be new friend is about 20 years old.

    You’re probably thinking how petty of me, and you’re probably right. But I grew up in the South, where you addressed everybody older than you as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Even if you were 40 and they were 60, you still showed them the respect that comes with age.

    This also bugs me with cops who pull me over on the freeway. Here’s some kid that just got out of high school five years ago, saying, “Well, George, do you know how fast you were driving?” I know exactly how fast I was going, but I play it dumb. “No officer, I’m afraid I don’t,” I say.

    I am not about to squeal on myself.

    Now I don’t fault the officer for stopping me for speeding, that’s the job. But unless he wants me to call him Bobby or Randy or Susie, he really needs to address me as Mr. Cunningham. So I usually come off as an old guy with a bad attitude. That’s OK. I can live with that.

    TWO: People Who Drive Slow in the Car Pool Lane

    Let’s get one thing straight right off. There is the law as it is written down in the vehicle code and the real-world law that regular people follow. One of those real world laws is that nobody drives at the speed limit in the car pool lane, unless traffic is really jammed up.

    But every once in a while, you get stuck behind some jerk whose driving at 55 or 60 in the car pool lane, with a wide-open lane in front of him and all the drivers to the right zooming by at 75 and 80 mph. I mean this is California, man. Everybody speeds and we all drive too close together. That’s the only way the freeways work.

    Once some timid jerk starts hitting the brakes, the whole system breaks down into a stop-and-go nightmare.

    THREE: Overly Friendly Cashiers or Customers Who Hold Up the Line

    I may be a grumpy old man, but there’s a time and a place for everything. I hate waiting in line at the supermarket with my ice cream getting softer by the minute while some person – I don’t want to be sexist, but it’s usually a woman – takes her own sweet time to check out.

    And it’s not just her. Sometimes the cashier is just as bad.

    “That will be $96.43,” the cashier will say and the customer will start digging in her purse to pay the bill. I don’t want to insensitive, but she had to know that there would come this moment when money would have to change hands. So she reaches down in slow motion, opens up her purse, takes out her checkbook and starts writing a check.

    I mean for Heaven’s sake, who the hell buys things with checks anymore?

    Then the cashier will see that the customer has a picture in her wallet of her grandchild or her dog or a day at the beach, and the clerk feels the need to comment on it. So while my ice cream is slipping from solid to liquid, the two of them get into a conversation.

    “Isn’t that adorable,” the cashier might say, and the customer will stop writing her check to tell her how her child or her dog is a smart as a whip.

    Finally, I very politely say, “Isn’t that nice, but could you please just pay your bill, take your groceries and go home, so I can get home and put my ice cream in the freezer?”

    And all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy. Go figure.

    FOUR: Phone Mail and Being Put On Hold

    I am old enough to remember when you called some company and a person answered the phone. It was a custom that worked pretty well.

    Now a robot answers the phone and gives you a list of options. What language do you want to use, Press One for English, Two for Spanish, Three for Khmer, Four for Chinese, etc., etc., etc.

    Then the phone mail hell tries to figure out what you want to talk about. Another list of options, which most often does not include anything that I want. So I pick the one that seems the closest, and I wait, listening to horrible on-hold music as the minutes go by and death gets closer with each tick of the clock.

    And the real message is this: Your time is not valuable to us. We don’t really give a darn what your problem is. And maybe if we draw this out long enough you will give up and just go away. And sometimes I do … forever.

    FIVE: Surveys and Polls

    Another bunch of people who think my time is not valuable are pollsters and survey-takers. The first want to ask me a series of questions about who I’m going to vote for and the second are customer service folks who want to know how happy or unhappy I was with something they had sold me.

    The first group is dismissed out of hand. It’s none of their business for whom I plan to vote, or what I may think about the state of the world. They’re getting paid to ask me the questions, but they don’t plan to pay me to answer them. So I suspect I end up in the undecided category or maybe they pretend they couldn’t get ahold of me, so my opinion isn’t counted.

    The second group is presumably asking questions so they can improve their service by finding out what their company is doing right and what it is doing wrong.  But here’s the problem. I don’t mind answering two or three or even four questions about my experience with their company, but that’s never enough.

    These surveys are drawn up by a committee somewhere and everybody on that committee has a slightly different idea of what questions to ask and how to ask them. So you end up with 20 minutes of questions many of which are redundant and lots of which don’t apply.

    I mean, I don’t want to be an old grump or anything. But, clearly I am.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.