What is it about people that the older some of us get, the less tolerance and regard we seem to have for the boundless energy and manic happiness of youth and childhood?
I'm not talking about those times when you're worn out, you just want to drop somewhere to take a nap, but your kids want to play Twister on the hardwood floor or have you drive them to the store to rent a movie. Or even those times when a group of obnoxious kids (any age) are screaming, kicking, crying, vandalizing, or otherwise mean-spiritidly rough housing in a way that would make any normal person question the apparent lack of adult supervision or the need to call 911.
I'm talking about those times when the good-natured antics of teenagers, tweens, toddlers and infants have no relevance to your life other than they are happening in close proximity to you.
A baby crying for a few minutes, for instance, does not annoy me. I also am not annoyed by teenagers grouped together in a public place making infantile jokes and laughing loudly, or children over-throwing a ball in a game of catch and having it bounce into my "zone," or kids peeking back over the pew in church to make faces at me. It's just kids being kids, right? We all went through those stages of development and now it's their turn.
I have to wonder, then, what happened to the little old ladies who frequent the pool at which we swim each summer.
To start with, and this has absolutely nothing to do with children, they seem to firmly believe the pool was built just for them. The rest of us are no better than the flies and mosquitoes that zip in and out of their ears, nose and eyes as they recline on the sweat-inducing plastic straps of the pool furniture. These ladies wedge themselves into the same exact spot in the shade of a roof overhang, regardless of who is already positioned there. They have no problem inching right up behind you, or shoving in front of you and blocking your path to the water and your view of your children as they play.
Even if they get their beloved area without constrictions, once perched you will hear them talking loudly about how terribly close they are to the bathroom doors. They don't seem to object to the actual bathrooms, in fact I think they like being close to the convenience of the bathrooms. No, they seem to object to the fact of other people using what they clearly like to think of as their personal toilets. You'll hear them muttering amongst themselves as people come and go, especially if any of those people are children, which brings us back to the topic at hand.
The other day, while lounging in the hundred-degree shade of the overhang, the first of the blue hairs arrived and crammed up so close behind us it dredged up memories of my last prostate exam. She was alone, so the mumbly grumbling was kept at bay for a little while. When the second blue hair showed up, the game was on.
"I don't know why they have to put all these tables under here," Blue Hair #1 said, motioning toward two tables piled high with pool toys, drinks, snacks and coolers.
"It leaves us no room," said Blue Hair #2, shooting sparks as she scraped a metal lounge chair along the concrete to position herself so close to my lovely wife that she could easily have assisted with her next pap smear. She looked into the pool where fewer than ten children were quietly playing. "There goes the pool today."
When the pool house gate opened a young family entered. Young mom, young dad, and two very young and well-behaved children filed in in a neat and orderly fashion.
"Hmph," grunted Blue Hair #2. "Here come even more of them."
I would hate to be the grandchild of any of these women. I can only imagine their homes are like candy-covered fairytale cottages stocked with fattening cages and ovens perfectly sized for the next visit from Hansel or Gretel.
I'm not sure exactly what these two old battle-axes thought they were buying into when they first moved to the area but apparently someone told them the neighborhood was a child-free compound, blessedly removed from the wanton frivolity of youthfulness. I suppose some people just want to grow old, shrivel up, and die surrounded by others like them, all hurrying on their way to the cemetery in their matching electric golf carts.
As I have grown older I have, from time to time, caught myself behaving in a curmudgeonly way. It is at these time that I reflect on the Blue Hairs at the pool and work hard to atone for my own poor behavior.
I was once one of three boys who would wrestle in the living room every night after dinner. I was once a teenager hanging out in the mall and laughing loudly with my friends. I was once a drunken college student stumbling my way through a residential neighborhood back to my apartment from the downtown bars. None of it was mean-spirited, and none of it was (intentionally) destructive.
I hope I can keep the curmudgeon away as I grow older. I'd hate it if, thirty years from now, someone is blogging about my lack of tolerance.
ⓒ 2010 Mark Feggeler