Sometimes it's the little things that drive you to distraction. When these irritations reach critical mass they may force a person to blow off steam lest they pop a gasket.  As author Hunter Thompson once said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” When you turn into a pro complainer, you have attained the lofty status of a curmudgeon.  


A curmudgeon is defined as a crusty, ill-tempered, difficult and cantankerous person. Although usually associated with being an old man, in reality curmudgeonhood is an equal opportunity employer. says: “Curmudgeon is a uni-sex term. There is no female version. It is an all-encompassing word for a person who finds no joy in life.” As Linus in the Peanuts comic once said: “I love mankind… it's people I can't stand!”


Now, being a curmudgeon can be liberating. I am of the age where a long list of irritations have been accumulating in my noggin for several decades. Getting some of these offloaded means there will be more space in my brain for new irritations. It's important to stay up to date when you're a geezer (like me). 


For example, it irritates me when a business tells me they want to treat me like family. I'm already in a family. I don't want to be in another family. Why? Because in every family there are assigned roles. How do I know that when a business inducts me into their family I won't be assigned a role like blowhard uncle, black sheep, or moocher cousin? It's too much of a gamble for me.


So how do I want businesses to treat me? I want to be a customer. Why? Because “the customer is always right.” I want to be always right (even when I am not). 


I watch a lot of baseball on television and a couple of things are beginning to irritate me. First of all, it drives me bonkers when baseball players wear gold neck chains during games. Every time they make a move the chain pops out and they have to tuck it back in. Is this a sporting event or a fashion show? 


Another thing is the pace of play. Do you want the games to take less time? Then ban batting gloves. Every batter takes two minutes to bat and an hour to adjust the Velcro on his gloves. Message to players: “Babe Ruth didn't need batting gloves and neither do you.”  


And while we're at it, baseball announcers who say “have went” (or “has went”) irritate me. “Hey Zeke, I have went to that ballpark.” No, Zeke, You have gone to that ballpark.  Grammarly explains: “If you aren’t sure whether to use gone or went, remember that gone always needs an auxiliary verb before it (has, have, had, is, am, are, was, were, be), but went doesn’t.”


Another irritant is the use of “aten,” as in “I have aten a hot dog.” There is no such word as aten. It's eaten. I have eaten a hot dog. 


Holy smokes, these announcers are  being paid to be public speakers. Is it too much to ask that they use correct grammar? At least, could someone in the control booth give them a clue? 


Speaking of watching television, have you noticed what's on TV in waiting rooms, common areas and exercise places? Some have on things like soap operas or home improvement shows. This irritates me because if you're in a waiting room for only a few minutes all you get to see is a snippet, not the entire show.  


I think televisions in all common areas should be tuned to the Weather Channel. Why? Everyone is interested in the weather. You can watch for two minutes or two hours. The weather is a great conversation topic regardless of who is sitting next to you. “How about this weather?” 


When I am at home, I always check the Weather Channel before going out on my daily walk. This is important because it calms me down after another irritation. What is wrong with the people who package breakfast cereals? Have you tried opening those plastic envelopes that contain the cereal inside the boxes. Why is it necessary to require a chain saw, blow torch, and a team of Clydesdales to get at my Wheaties? Why doesn't my Grape Nuts box have a little metal spout (like they had back in the day)? Ever hear of resealable plastic bags? Geez, there are bank vaults easier to crack open than my box of Kix. 


Checking off items like these is good curmudgeonly therapy and thus I am able to add new items to the other end of the list. One happened this week dealing with airplane travel. (Note: If you ever run out of irritations airlines are a bottomless pit of new material.) 


It seems that some airlines are doing away with reclining seats. Fine and dandy, but why can't they just tell the public that the seats will no longer recline. Instead they've come up with the term “pre-reclined.” This means no recline. Doesn't that make things clearer? Grrrrr!


So, there you have it. An exercise in curmudgeonliness. You now have knowledge of a strategy to take the stress out of your own life. In the meantime, stay off of my lawn!


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and