Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition of 1988, gives the following definition for the word: cur-mudg-eon (pronounced ker muj en); “A surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered person; a cantankerous fellow.” While I’ve never thought of myself in just quite such a light, I’m beginning to wonder if the “mean old geezer” myth doesn’t have some basis in fact.
The other day I sat on the front porch for a couple of hours during the early evening. It was a hot Saturday night and traffic on the state route in front of my house was whizzing by in both directions. As I watched, one or two geezerly thoughts occurred to me.
The first that struck me was: “Where are all these people going?” When any one of us is driving down the road in a vehicle, we’re absolutely convinced that whatever mission we’re on at the time is of the utmost importance and that our speedy arrival at our destination is imperative. I’ve often watched a bunch of ants scurrying back and forth. Each individual ant is intent upon his own task, and presumably gets his job done, but the overall exercise looks to be completely aimless and futile. That’s kind of what the ants, er – I mean cars, reminded me of.
Which brings up another thought: All the cars look alike, just like the ants. Sure, there are different colors, but the general shape of today’s cars, with only a few exceptions, is identical. During the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, automobile manufacturers took pride in the fact that their car was distinctly different in appearance from the model built down the street. Even General Motors, whose different car brands had a decided family resemblance, made sure that a casual observer could tell at a glance whether he was looking at a Chevy, a Pontiac or a Buick. Ford and Chrysler did the same. Today, one not only can’t tell one marque from the next, but you can’t even tell if the machine was built by Ford, or Honda or GM. The only late-model car that I could immediately identify was a bright red Volkswagen Beetle.
When I was a kid, we often hopped in the car on a hot summer evening after the chores and supper were done and went for a ride. The main reason for these rides was to cool off. All the side windows were rolled down and the vent windows were turned to blow the maximum amount of air on the sweaty passengers inside the car (except for my mom, who abhorred the idea of the air blowing directly on her and kept the right front window firmly closed). We returned from these rides, which sometimes included a stop for an ice cream cone, much refreshed. That has changed as well. I suppose folks still may go for a ride in the car to cool off, but now the windows are all rolled up and the air conditioner is on high.
Which brings up another beef. Probably two-thirds of the cars and pickup trucks that went by had closed windows, with the passengers riding in air-conditioned comfort. The other one-third was split more or less evenly into two groups. One group was made up of older vehicles that either had no air conditioning, or else it was broken. Then there were the spotlessly clean, late model sport coupes and SUVs, as well as a few family sedans borrowed from Dad for the evening. The windows of this group were all wide open (and probably the air conditioner was set on MAX), while the stereo radio was tuned to a hard rock station and the volume turned up to LOUD. My front porch is about 250 feet from the highway, and the bass tones from these cars still virtually rattled the windows.
In spite of my carping, I do enjoy sitting and watching the world go by. As I observe the parade of automobiles, trucks, RVs, and motorcycles, my mind has a chance to wander, and think up goofy things to write about.