My friend Sara says that time has mellowed her husband because now he just says "No," where he once said, "Hell, no!"
While I've always thought it possible that age might indeed mellow folks, I've never believed it could do the opposite. Show me a crabby old person, and I'll show you someone who was crabby as a child (e.g., Lucy Van Pelt in the Peanuts comic strip). If Lucy were ever allowed to grow up, I'm sure she'd be a crabby adult. Schultz, himself, once wrote that if you scratched below Lucy's crabby surface, you might find a heart of gold. On the other hand, he confided, you might discover she was even worse than you thought she was.
It seems like I'm encountering more than my share of crabby people lately. When I recently asked a toll booth collector for directions and showed her a crude map that I knew was incorrectly drawn because it instructed me to make a right turn when - if I had done that - I would have been in a cemetery, she said curtly, "Just follow the map; it tells you what to do."
"Sure it does," I said, "but it's wrong."
"Well," she said, "if you can't read a map, I can't help you."
I retained enough politeness to refrain from telling her that I'd heard toll booth collectors are people who failed the personality test to become airport security guards. (Note: If you are a toll booth collector or an airport security guard, know this: I'm not talking about YOU. I'm talking about the OTHER guy or gal like the one I encountered who was clearly personality-challenged and shouldn't have held a job where she had to deal with people.)
I gave her a cold stare. "I CAN read!" I exclaimed.
And there you go. The bad thing about crabby people is that they bring out the crab in me. However, I maintain that crabbiness doesn't count if it's the result of provocation, while for truly crabby people - like that toll booth collector - crabbiness is an innate state of mind. They don't need a reason.
Or sometimes they have a reason ... it's just not good enough. I once patiently waited through a green light for the woman ahead of me to realize green means go. She finally made it through the light and so did I, but the long line of drivers behind us did not. She stopped a block later at a red light, and I had the bad luck to still be behind her when the light turned green. She not only sat there, she had the audacity to wave the pedestrians on the curb to cross the street against a red light. The pedestrians prudently stayed put and, out of patience, I gave a light tap on my horn ... at which point the woman saluted me with her middle digit. OK, so maybe I should have refrained from honking my horn, but I maintain that her salute was a worse offense and certainly wasn't a smart thing to do when she was driving a marked city car.
We all know crabby people who are determined to take offense at the most innocent act. Just being in their presence keeps us constantly on our tippy-toes trying not to irritate them. Alas! It can't be done; they're only happy when everyone around them is miserable.
But the crabby people who really drive me nuts are those who are part-time crabby. I never know which personality they're going to display, and encountering them puts me on edge ... and sometimes drives me over. You know the kind. You meet them in the grocery store one week, and they are effusively happy to see you. The next week, they are cold as ice and sometimes downright rude. I used to wonder what I'd done to make them mad, and then I realized I didn't do ANYTHING to make them mad. Furthermore, I discovered that I didn't give a flip WHY they were mad. Part-time crabby people have caused me to adopt one of Ray's favorite statements as my own: They can get glad the same way they got mad.
Thankfully, crabby people are actually only a tiny percentage of the population. The problem is, however, that they have an impact that belies their small numbers. I was recently in a physician's office where his staff obviously was trying to nip in the bud the problem of crabby patients as evidenced by this sign on his wall: We charge grouchy and irritable patients an additional $10 for putting up with you.
A surcharge on crabbiness. What a great idea!