Caution: I’m training to become a curmudgeon

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Andy Rooney’s death leaves a significant void in the world of curmudgeons. I want to fill that void.

Rooney was the epitome of curmudgeonry. I consider myself a curmudgeon in training. The way I see it, one cannot become a curmudgeon until one attains the age of 65. I’ve got nine years to go, but during those nine years I intend to train exhaustively to become a curmudgeon extraordinaire.

Some folks define a curmudgeon as a crusty, ill-tempered person, usually an old man. Well, by the time I reach 65, I imagine I will be somewhat crusty and ill-tempered. After living 65 years, one has earned the right to be crusty and ill-tempered.

I read somewhere that curmudgeons don’t hate mankind, just mankind’s absurdities. Believe me, there are plenty of absurdities in the world. The older one gets, the more absurdities one encounters. That’s why curmudgeons become more curmudgeonly the older they get.

Curmudgeons are cynics. A career in journalism exposes one to plenty of cynicism. At times, I can be cynical. Curmudgeons embrace sarcasm. I like sarcasm, giving it and receiving it. Sarcasm has a way of opening one’s mind a bit more.

I love this saying: “Sarcasm is the sour cream of wit.” I wish I knew its author, but as far as I can tell, the author is unknown.

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” comic strip, displayed a bit of curmudgeonry when he wrote “I love mankind — it’s people I can’t stand” in his book “Go Fly a Kite, Charlie Brown.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good laugh. I try to see the good in each person. I am enthralled with life.

Curmudgeons have little patience with folks who are more pestering in nature than pleasing in nature. As Fred Allen, who must have been somewhat of a curmudgeon, once said, “I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me.”

People tend to remember curmudgeons and how they get their points across to others. That’s what I loved about Andy Rooney. In that sometimes-whiney way of his, old Andy made his point. He also made people think.

I want to make people think – not that I’m a crusty, ill-tempered old man, but that my views on the world may have some merit because I’ve lived long enough to see the good, the bad and everything between the good and the bad that this world has to offer.

I like to compare a curmudgeon to a pie. Under that crusty part of the pie is the filling that makes it worth cutting into the pie.

One of my favorite kinds of pie is a lemon pie. There’s some sweetness there, but there’s more than a little sourness, too.

I’m in life’s graduate school and on my way to a Ph.D. in curmudgeonry. I want to graduate summa cum laude.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He likes this saying from an anonymous source: “Ignorance is curable; idiocy is chronic.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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