COME BACK ANDY ROONEY
You realize about the time you spend more time saving your body than you used to spend at work that a big city and its cottage countries can never be heaven.
But I refuse to stop fighting the little bursts of hell that can ruin a nice time.
So I can be cantankerous and the family get madder at me than at what upset me.
You realize that after the food finally arrives at the restaurant that you probably won't be able to hear your friends because of the music and the yowelling kids at the next table but you learn to put up with it for about five minutes.
You realize no computer works all the time and the TV which has more electronic firepower inside than used to be on a battleship will hiccup and Rogers will say they can come at 7 a.m. next week but you put up with it, sort of.
Though you may something to the person handling the complaint which is being monitored for quality assurance. I suspect it is a computer monitoring a semi-computerized technician and nothing ever happens if they just hang up on you.
And so we all confront life, hoping to keep the hassles to a minimum, hoping that the slow driver won't always be in the passing lane on the trip to the cottage and when you get there the only neighbours not cutting their lawn won't have gone to town leaving their dogs to bark and bark and bark.
I was enjoying life at the Ex when a cute tot admired the flowers around the fountain south of the Bandshell at the E. I admired him. It was warm and peaceful, a scene right out of Norman Rockwell.
Then the tot plowed through the middle of the garden trampling lovely blossoms because he wanted to wade in the water. I waited for the parents to admonish him. They didn't. He kept trampling.They said not a word. So I did. Many! Loudly! Profanely!
Back when people knew who Rockwell was, and the Saturday Evening Post for which he did such great nostalgic covers was a huge hit, kids didn't crush gardens when the parents were around, and strangers didn't need to lecture the kid AND mom and dad.
Ironically, it was a famous rose garden. The roses seem fewer but enough have survived the budget cuts that I hoped the kid would get scratched. The garden has also survived the plot to put the turbine there, you know the money-losing windmill that rumour says no longer produces any power at all. I proudly was the only one to vote against its construction. I lost but I did get it moved.
I was there resting from the air show which now has a strangled home along the waterfront because the city has let the breakwater deteriorate to such an extent that it isn't safe for large numbers at the water's edge.
That was the scene of my first encounter of the day, this time with a youth who said he was an air cadet, but from the amount of beer consumed by him and two buddies, they were older than cadets and already insolent.
The air show began with two anthems and the vice-regal salute since David Onley opened the program as our lieutenant governor who will be retiring honourably in just two weeks
The supposed cadets slouched into the anthems at the next table and then the runt, busy chewing his cud of gum, hiked his pants ostentatiously so he could shove his hands deeper into the pockets.
I don't believe I cursed but several hundred people, including Onley and Art Eggleton, the former mayor and defense minister, heard me bellow " take your hands out of your pockets."
They were so shocked at being called out, they didn't bluster a defense. I was prepared to toss them into the lake if they had, since I was reinforced by Mark, my son who has the build and temper of a tank.
Onley and Eggs agreed later that when we were youths, whether or not we had been in the army or cadets or as I had been in the RCAF Reserve, the idea of standing at attention during O Canada was something you knew by Grade One. If I had pulled such a sad sack stunt at the Avenue Rd. RCAF base, I would still be marching around the drill square.As for chewing gum, that was banned from all schools and most offices.
I was strolling a broad sidewalk when a trio of women wearing the armour of first motherhood came marching toward me each pushing a stroller which had the look and bulk of an armoured personnel carrier. The first glared at me when I didn't step off the sidewalk, since there was plenty of room to pass single file.
You know kid moms. We have to manouver around them in small restaurants and on the TTC. Why we even have the variation who wander slowly and obliviously across the intersection after the light has changed pushing the baby and pulling the dog while talking on the cell phone while traffic snarls.
Regular readers will recognize an old theme here, that it is not that we get crankier when we get older, we just won't put up with the crap anymore and speak out. No wonder Andy Rooney was such a popular part of 60 Minutes, the best TV show of its kind, and rants from acidic wits like Lewis Black are sought by smart producers.
I used to have this disagreement when I tried to hire older reporters. I was told they were worn out. No, I would say, they just won't put up with the BS and stupidity of young editors.
And so it is these days with life in general, especially in the big city that has too often outgrown its civility. There has been a decline in public politeness just as there has with routine service, whether you're trying to get an answer out of a bureauracy or negotiate your way through these automated telephone gauntlets where you remember fondly the good old days when actual people answered and actually looked after you.
Exasperations abound in this selfish careless city. Texting during meals. Sloppy scofflawism like cycling through crowded sidewalks and speeding through stop signs. Cellphoning through movies.
I couldn't use my TD discount brokerage account for two days and when I finally got a human to deal with it, she said that I talked too much as I explained my complaint. But, I said, it is TD who goofed. Why do you act as if I'm guilty?
The other day I had a credit card question for Costco. I am a big fan of that company and told people later it was dealt with efficiently. Then I realized it had taken me 30 minutes and that I had talked to three people at Costco and two at American Express. But then with some companies today I would still be on hold. So I was pleased it had only taken five calls and two long waits.
My family grumble when I explode. Have more patience, they say. Why be so confrontational! Except, I say, the decline will accelerate if we don't push back and speak out.
We have to tell the idiots to stop their kids from running wild, especially in gardens,
We have to insist openly that it's a fundamental to good manners and citizenship to honour O Canada.
We have to complain every time a company like Rogers has people dealing with complaints who act like they really don't give a damn and they hope that if they make it difficult enough, you will just go away.
If we don't grumble and honk and yell, the slide away from civility will continue and it will need more and more cranky old farts like me to howl at the moon about the good old days when service was more than just talking to a computer.