Hey curmudgeon, if the necklace fits, wear it

Recently one of my co-workers called me a curmudgeon. I was stunned.

I decided to show this fellow the error of his ways and promptly consulted two dictionaries. One defined a curmudgeon as “a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains,” while the second defined the term as “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man.”

Me? A curmudgeon? Why if I hadn’t been so angry and annoyed and my arthritis hadn’t been acting up, I would have punched him right then and there.

For one thing, I’m nowhere near old enough to be a curmudgeon. A curmudgeon is someone who looks like Mr. Magoo (don’t say it), shuffling along his driveway in his slippers, hollering “get off my lawn!” at robins and dandelions.

That is definitely not me. Dandelions don’t bother me one bit.

In fact it actually takes quite a lot to annoy or anger me. I’m pretty much just a laid-back guy prone to whistling “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for hours on end. What an annoying song.

And I never complain about anything. That’s right, anything. No matter the situation, I just say “no problem, things could be worse,” and go back to my whistling.

Neither am I ill-tempered. If someone cuts me off on the road I might let him know of his mistake, and I might have to do so quite loudly, what with all the traffic noise and all. But ill-tempered? Pshaw.

And I’m certainly not crusty, thanks to my daily moisturizing regimen.

If you’re buying any of this, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. I’ll give you a great price, too.

The truth is I really am a curmudgeon. The definitions in the dictionary could easily have my photo beside them.

And my co-worker is not the first person to call me a curmudgeon. That was the obstetrician who didn’t take kindly to me yelling “cut it out you jerk” when he smacked me on the butt.

I’ve been called a curmudgeon by two wives, and it’s unlikely they’re both wrong. My daughters have called me a curmudgeon, and my own parents even bought me the book, “The Portable Curmudgeon.”

About 20 years ago my co-worker and “friend” Brian Blair made it official by presenting me with a gold beaded necklace with a gold crown hanging from it. As he placed it around my neck, he proclaimed me “King of the Curmudgeons.”

The necklace has been on my desk ever since, and I cherish it. But plastic, Brian? You couldn’t have gotten real gold? Not that I’m complaining.

So I guess I have to plead guilty to the crime of curmudgeonliness in the first degree. But it’s not my fault, your honor.

I can’t help it if the world is full of truly annoying people and situations. What am I supposed to do, ignore them? If I have an ingrown toenail that’s causing me pain, should I not share my misery with my friends and family? I know they wouldn’t want me to keep secrets.

And if some less than capable driver cuts me off in traffic, I’m not doing him any favors if I simply ignore it. How is the poor idiot going to learn from his stupid mistake unless I bring it to his attention?

I’m just trying to help my fellow man, no matter how annoying he is.

So I am a curmudgeon. I used to try to deny it, but the evidence is stacked against me big time. Now I embrace my curmudgeonliness, though I do fight to stay more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde.

But I think the dictionary definitions are overly harsh and give the term an unwarranted negative connotation. After all, we curmudgeons are not bad people; we’re just grouchy and grumpy. And we’re sometimes crusty, but like a toasted marshmallow: a little tough on the outside but gooey on the inside.

To me, a more accurate definition of a curmudgeon is “a man (of any age, often with a high IQ) who sees things the way they truly are and faithfully fulfills his cosmic duty to share his wisdom with others, loudly if need be, for their own good, whether they like it or not.”

It’s a thankless job, folks, but somebody’s got to do it. Now get off my lawn.