Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Grumpy Old Men

I had an email based interview today. My interviewer and I wrote back and forth to each other, her asking, me answering.

Technology -- gotta love it. I asked her if she'd like to IM the interview but she told me that she had to set up an IM account for "business only" use, she didn't want to use her personal one, but she told me it was an excellent suggestion.

Excellent. Brown nosing a potential supervisor.

After I took Geoff to school today I went to the grocery store. I came home first and surfed for some good recipes as I am totally sick to death of the stuff I know how to cook by rote. I decided I wanted to make Chicken Divan. My friend Donna's mom always made us Chicken Divan, and I have such great memories of going to her house, eating this awesome dish over nice white rice, and I just thought it would be a nice change of pace. I found a good recipe that made sense. I wrote the ingredients down.

I needed Gruyere cheese.

No one at our local market knew what Gruyere cheese was. I tried to explain it to the dairy department manager.

I told him "We've purchased it here before in order to make French Onion Soup. I know you guys carry it."

He kept telling me I was thinking of Gouda.

You can use Gouda, yes you can, in the making of French Onion Soup, but... this particular recipe which I have in my hand calls specifically for Gruyere, and I am not sure it's the same thing. But I'm virtually sure.

I'm not a cheese expert.

I'm standing there going through the cheese bin, the Stilton, the Wensleydale, the Chevre, the Edam, the Havarti (plain, dill, garlic), the Gloucester, the Double Gloucester, the Double Gloucester with basil, the Cheddars (many types), the Roquefort, the Bleu, the Danish Bleu, the Romano, Provolone, Mozzarella, Ricotta, the Camembert, the Gouda, the mini-Gouda, the smoked Gouda, the smoked Gouda with embedded sardine things, the Brie that wants me to take it home, wrap it in filo dough, bake it and serve it with garlic toast and tomato basil bruschetta.

They had every possible cheese on earth in the cheese bin. But no Gruyere. Wha fuh? And don't argue with me that it doesn't exist. It does exist. Here's an online definition of Gruyere:

Gruyere: Famous for its use in Swiss Fondue, Gruyere is a hard cheese that is similar to Emmental but with smaller hole formation. Its texture is chewy and it develops small cracks as it ages. In addition to its role as a Fondue cheese, Gruyere is also an excellent sandwich cheese that melts evenly.

Please go back in the storage area and look. Please. Jebus.

Finally he goes in back and voila... Gruyere. He didn't apologize for arguing with me. And he didn't put any more out in the display with the Feta, the half skim Neufchatel. I felt like I was the shopper in the Monty Python Cheese Shop skit. (by the way, God bless the internet. Where else but in cyberspace can I link you directly to the word for word text of one of my favorite skits??? Not only that, but I could have linked you to many many samples of this skit. Wow.)

At the end, if I'd had a gun, I'da shot the shop owner Wensleydale just like Mr. Mousebender. What a senseless waste of human life.

At the market, they were playing all sorts of great dance down the aisle songs.

But Jessica wasn't there with me, so I tearfully kept from busting a move to "Have you ever been mellow" by Olivia Newton John, "Get back Honky Cat" by Sir Elton, and "Ain't no woman like the one I got"

I did sing though. And I was one of just a handful of people in the market today under fifty, scratch that, under seventy, aside from the employees, some of whom were either high school students who have work release, or they are drop outs, because they were young'uns.

There was a fair number of very grumpy older men today for some reason. Perhaps it was field trip day at the home.

These were big grumpy bears who grimaced as I sauntered down the aisle singing along with Shania (even though I don't like her, you can't escape her, so you may as well sing along. Like the Borg, you will be assimilated).

They sullenly pushed carts as their emphysema-ridden brides strolled along behind with walkers equipped with oxygen tanks. They griped openly about prices. Some of them were there without their old ladies. I can only imagine where those women are. The source of their rage is unknown to me. Perhaps it may be that they are still alive, or that they have to go out to do the shopping because the old lady, the very old lady, the not there shopping with him old lady, is in a nursing home or dead.

These men scowled at babies. At babies for the love of God!

One old man pushed my cart out of the way as I stood next to it trying to decide what bread to pick. It wasn't like there was no room to get around me or my cart. There was a mile worth of space to the left side of the aisle. He didn't even do it nicely and gently. He PUSHED that mother out of his way... it wasn't like we took up the whole aisle and I was some sort of fucking Iraqi terrorist preventing him from getting his reduced fat store brand Cheese Nips. I was stopped on his side of the aisle, and he was going to let me know it.

This man, and those of his ilk, were men actively matching the definition of curmudgeon... no double definitions of the word to be found or used here (see Raye's entry for Ian's vocabulary list today to catch the reference). These were curmudgeonly old bastards on a mission to get my cart out of their way so they could rush home to their couches to watch Hardball with Chris Loudmouth and pray for a happy death.

Don't get me wrong. I love old people. I will someday BE an old people. I like the idea of growing up and old and being old. I miss Doug's pappy a lot. I never really thought of him as old, until he actually died and I realized how old he was. I wish I'd played Boggle with him more often, but he always cheated. I love my gammy. I'm bummed out that she's in a world of pain with her broken arm right now. And it must be so frustrating to her to have this in her life as sewing was her one way of making any money. And she can't do it.

I have been working with a very old couple, both are in their 80s, to get a nice historical society website up and running. I'm doing this for free. I help them with their computer. And I adore them.

The husband is very old, very slow, wears two hearing aides that squeal when he's sitting there listening to me, I can only imagine what I sound like. He is stooped over and walks with two canes, and he's the driver out of the pair... she can't see well enough to drive. And to tell the truth, I have no idea how HE can see well enough to drive. His eyes are always rheumy, tear filled, and he has the ever-present Kleenex in hand to wipe the dripping.

The wife is addled and slow in gait, sharp as a tack mentally, and full of stories about what this town was like when they moved here in the 40s. She'll call me on the phone just to chat. I called during the cold snap to make sure they were warm enough. The last time I was there they were running the woodstove and I was concerned about them and heat. But they were running the woodstove because it's fun and smells good.

They are liberal democrats.

They vote green when that's an option.

They oppose any action in Iraq that isn't well thought out or run for the wrong reasons.

They've lived through massive world war and global conflict. They are both worried that young men and women will have to give their bodies for naught. They are idealists even in their old age. They don't match my world vision or view, but they are very cool and funny and I so enjoy them.

The husband was entertained by my tellings of Aaron building (actually, digging) an outhouse at the cabin up in Maine, so he made it a point to type out for me a poem that he knew called "Farewell to the Backhouse" after he recited it for me. He and his wife giggled about it. She is amazed that after so many years he still knows this poem word for word. I laughed too as the smile came over his face and he giggled. It was like we were a bunch of third graders and someone said "fart."

Yesterday at Geoff's school a team of handymen were putting brand new blinds up on the high windows of the foyer of the church.

They smelled new and plasticy, like a blow-up pool from Toys-R-Us and they made me think of summer. I stood there smiling and breathing as I waited for the kindergarten and special needs bus to come, so I could escort the children off the bus and to their afternoon locations.

A very old man who told me his name was Russ came up from downstairs where he'd just gone to visit the kindergarteners. His eyes were full of tears.

He told me he calls them his grand children, and they call him grandpa Russ. I was a little wary of him at first as I'd never seen him before and Geoff has never mentioned this grandpa Russ, so I let him talk. I had nothing better to do, plus, I was a captive audience... waiting for the bus and the children.

We talked about how much snow there was out there. He told me that when they first moved up to Massachusetts there was snow like this all the time but in past years he didn't recall there being nearly as much.

Then he began to unload, telling how the blizzard of '78 almost prevented his wife from seeing her father in his last days. Everyone was forbidden to travel for a few days, and her father was dying in his nursing home. When the travel ban was lifted they rushed to the nursing home to be by his side.

She fed him his last meal, and he died six hours later in his sleep. His wife got to see her dad one last time. He considered that a gift from God.

He took a framed picture out of his barn-coat pocket. It was a picture of himself, smiling beside an old lady. "This is my wife. She passed at the end of November. I come here and help out because it makes me feel good to see the little happy faces and see their projects and read to them."

His voice got real shaky, I held his hand. The bus came and I told him I had to go get the kids off the bus and that I'd catch him later. I told him I thought it was great that he came there to help out, read to the kids, hang blinds. I'm sure people think he's a pain in the ass. He strikes me as the kind of old dude that just tells way to many stories and who is just in the way most of the time.

But he's not in the grocery store trying to run me over. So more power to him!

Michael over at Chaos Factor recently lost his grandfather. Not to an illness or an accident. To a suicide. Perhaps my assessment of grumpy old men isn't far from the truth. They are bitter. Angry. There is something wrong. They just cannot talk about it with anyone. There's a lot of old guy anger out there. And I'm being too mean here for the sake of hopefully being found funny. Sometimes there's something missing in life. And it depends on you how you act out or internalize how you feel. Suicide is no fun to deal with in the first place, but having your grampa do it, and not knowing why, is bumming him out. And it makes me sad for him. I've been thinking a lot about him and that situation lately.

Jebus, I'm bumming myself out. Gah. In closing -- go find a grumpy old man, wouldya? Find out how he's doing. Say hi. Chat with him about the Blizzard of 78. Give some of your time. It could make a big difference

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