My Turn: Call me a COG, but . . .

For the Monitor
Published: 12/1/2019 6:30:15 PM

Jim Baer’s bittersweet observations on old age in the Nov. 17 Sunday Monitor Forum were ripe with wisdom and nostalgia.

However, having entered my 73rd year a few weeks ago, I’ve become more convinced than ever that a sense of humor and a healthy dose of self parody are the only ways to manage this new stage of life. That said, I present you with the musings of a COG.

My friend Mick coined the acronym COG (Cranky Old Guy) when each of us, now in our 70s, realized we were beginning to sound like our grandparents and parents in their “golden years.”

They persistently complained about the state of society and crabbed about everything from Elvis Presley (“that spawn of Satan”) to the Rolling Stones (responsible for the decline of Western civilization) to Mickey Mantle (why doesn’t he steal more bases?!) to the mayor of Oswego, N.Y. (clearly a nincompoop).

In fact, I truly believe that my former Oswego neighborhood created, quite literally, the archetype of the guy who yells at kids to get off his lawn. If you strolled along the sidewalk in my neighborhood and happened to stray on to one of the immaculate lawns of a COG, he would leap from his porch chair (where COGs spent inordinate amount of time obviously watching for miscreant children) and yell out a steady stream of blood-curdling oaths or, worse, sic a crazed mongrel dog on you.

I now see myself transitioning into the COG phase of my life, since I seem to be developing a litany of complaints about, well, everything. For example:

■I don’t get rap music. The stream of words that tumble from a rapper’s mouth completely baffle me. And every “song” sounds exactly the same, except perhaps for a variation on the degree of anger and disgust (perhaps they’re COGs in the making?). I just don’t get what all the fuss is about and realize I now sound like my parents – great fans of Lawrence Welk – who just didn’t get Buddy Holly, let alone the Beatles.

■I hate modern packaging, especially those industrial-strength blister packs for everything from batteries to pills to ballpoint pens. Whatever happened to the notion of easy-open packages? I know – that guy ruined it for everyone about 30 years ago when he injected poison into easy-open Tylenol bottles. I now wonder how many emergency room visits are occasioned by COGs with arthritic hands attempting to open these blister packs with razor sharp utility knives that accidentally slice open a wrist vein or amputate the end of a finger.

■A related example: Child-proof containers drive me nuts. If pills aren’t in blister packs, they’re in bottles with directions to “Push down and twist,” a maneuver that usually requires me to assume a variety of yoga positions to muster up the necessary leverage.

■And what’s going on with those wax bags inside cereal boxes that require the skills of a ninja warrior to open? There was a time when I could just pull the two sides apart with little effort. Now I have to resort to scissors or (uh-oh) a utility knife. And what’s the deal with those same cereal cardboard boxes that have the thickness of those cardboard sheets inside new shirts. Whenever I pick up one of these boxes it immediately collapses in my hand like a soggy newspaper.

■Speaking of newspapers, have you noticed how thin the consistency of newspapers has become? Try as I might to keep a page open, it flops about, folds over, goes inside out. It’s as if it’s been printed on bathroom tissue. (No jokes here, please.)

■I’m also annoyed by drivers who no longer use their turn signals. My theory is that they’re talking on cell phones with one hand and driving with the other and can’t get at the directional. And then there are the people texting while driving who have no hands on the wheel and meander aimlessly in and out of their lane as if they’re trying to dodge bullets from someone shooting at them. Am I the only person left in Concord who can still reach his directional signal?

■And what’s the deal with dogs? Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, but they seem to be showing up everywhere recently where they were never seen before: hardware stores, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, big-box stores, beaches, airplanes, buses. This would seem to have the potential for unintended consequences. I was in a hardware store recently when a German shepherd relieved himself on a stack of boxes containing cordless drills. My wife was in a grocery store not long ago when a dog defecated in the check-out lane and the owner simply walked out. Is it only a matter of time before we’ll see dogs in church waiting in line to receive communion?

■And, finally, I wouldn’t be a COG if I didn’t complain about politics, and what a wonderful target we have in our own zany state Legislature. I’d swear I’m sometimes watching an episode of Monty Python, so silly and outrageous is the legislation and behavior over there. Guns on college campuses! Guns in the Verizon Center! Guns in the legislative halls! Militias to protect us from Canada! Education no longer compulsory! Can a Ministry of Silly Walks be far behind? Somehow Republicans in the House have been “outfringed” by the former fringe members who are now seen as moderate centrists, while the former moderate centrists are now wandering in some political wasteland wondering where their identity went. Democrats, now in control, seem to wonder how they got here and spend a lot of time fighting with a Republican governor who seems to take great pleasure in telling them just how many bills he’s vetoed.

As you can see there’s lots of material if you’re a COG. I haven’t yet taken to sitting on my front porch and yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but as I move into this new and sometimes perplexing phase of life I am reminded what Shakespeare said: “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” So, in that spirit, I offer you the droll musings of a COG.

(Chuck Annal lives in Concord.)

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