THE BLOG
08/01/2013 06:51 am ET | Updated Oct 01, 2013

On The Fly: Curmudgeon Days

I have curmudgeon days now. Nothing hurts, nothing worries me; I'm just cranky, set off by the petty annoyances of life. Before you go there, this isn't a product of old age. Old age is at least 25 years away from where I sit. I am not in the proverbial fist-waving "get off my lawn" state of elderliness.

No, in my case, this is just the life-balance dance and lately my toes have been getting stepped on.

My daughter's early summer surgery, the inability to take a vacation because of it, changes at work, a rash of robo-calls interrupting dinner and Anthony Weiner's name reappearing wherever I look have combined and left me one big grump lately.

Everything, it seems, just got harder. Even the traffic relief Angelenos have come to expect and know as "summertime light" isn't in evidence this year. Did we all stay in town and skip vacations because of my daughter's surgery, I wonder?

It's the petty everyday annoyances that are making me a curmudgeon. Everything just seems to have gotten less efficient, more of a hassle -- day in and day out. Even things designed to make my life easier wind up making it more complicated. All those little "this will just take five minute" bites out of my time have added up to a critical mass. Here are some of the things that have made me grumpy:

1) Getting into my car.
It used to be you got into your car, started it up and were on your way. Now, it's a multiple-step process to even get out of the driveway. I have to connect my phone to the charger, make sure the Bluetooth is working so that I don't need my hands to answer the phone (technically speaking, you still need your hands to answer the phone, but less so.) And then of course I have to fasten my seatbelt and look both ways. I have to catch a certain green light on my way home from work or be stuck at the intersection while the world's longest red light steals 10 minutes of my life from me. Every day.

2) Worry free refills.
Ordering my prescriptions has also gotten harder because I signed up for something euphemistically called "worry free refills." This means the pharmacy automatically sends me a new shipment of my medications without being asked. The upside is that the pharmacy automatically sends me a new shipment of medications; the downside is they don't ask first whether I'm still taking that particular drug. Prescriptions change, doctors change, conditions improve and worsen. I am looking at a small mountain of pills that I paid for, cannot exchange or return, and don't take anymore -- all in the name of worry-free convenience. Once you sign up for the service, the onus is on you to cancel it. When the curmudgeon is in full possession of my body, it occurs to me that the house wins every hand with this system.

Why don't I just cancel the "worry free refill?" That, of course, is way more complicated than signing up for it was. To start, it requires that I remember a password. (Yeah, how often does that happen anymore?) I attempted to call the mail order pharmacy but humans apparently no longer work there. I gave up after 20 minutes of waiting to talk to a machine. The good news is that in just one more automatic refill, the prescription will expire. Lesson learned.

3) Passwords rule my life.
I would be willing to commit to memory a nonsensical series of numbers and symbols if it meant I didn't have to change it at regular intervals. I get that online identity theft is a big problem. But I have about three dozen passwords and I can't remember them all. I just can't. And when I try to sign on to an account I haven't used in a few weeks, I blow the three chances of guessing my password correctly and have to follow a multi-step process of recreating a new one. I'm sick of it. Give me one universal password and call it a day. I spend an hour a week playing password roulette -- and still my credit card was stolen a few months ago.

4) Stolen credit cards.
Curiously, I learned, having your credit card stolen isn't that big a deal in terms of having to pay for things you didn't actually buy -- like the $95 charged to my card in a Florida Wal-Mart. The credit card companies are very cooperative about not expecting you to pay for things you didn't charge; in fact, in our case, the credit card company was the one that first flagged the fact our card had been stolen with this out of state purchase.

The hassle comes when they issue you a new card number and you are expected to remember all the automatic monthly charges that were going to the old one. Nobody has that kind of memory power, trust me. As a result -- and since nobody bothers with snail mail any more until your overdue bills wind up in the hands of collection agencies -- we didn't know that we had missed a few payments. So now we face late fees and fines and dings to our credit scores. I would have preferred spending $95 in a Florida Wal-Mart.

5) Inefficient doctors' offices.
I'm old enough to remember when doctors not only made house calls, but their wives worked the front desk and made sure things ran smoothly. Now we have a bunch of disinterested workers, some of whom lack the language skills to communicate effectively but have mastered one critical sentence: "Hold please." They also don't seem to care much about your health or well-being -- at least not as much as they do about what kind of insurance you carry and what co-pay you owe and better be prepared to deliver on the spot. Most serious of all though, they are prone to making mistakes. This week, after three weeks of daily calls, I was finally mailed a prescription. But it came in an envelope, stuck to another patient's prescription. To spare the stranger what I'm certain would be three weeks of daily calls trying to straighten it out, I just mailed her her prescription myself with the suggestion that we both change doctors. For the price of a stamp, I suspect I earned this woman's undying gratitude.

6) Deals that aren't.
I've never had the discipline to be a coupon clipper, but my supermarket made it easy for me to get "discounts" by totaling up what I spent there each month and sending me back a loyal shoppers' "refund" check. Now they've switched it to a gas reward program that, in order to collect a dime off a gallon of gas as a grocery spending reward, I must buy my gas at the overpriced station. It also added a bunch of steps you have to do at the pump of punching in numbers and scanning cards that are always buried deep in my purse. The result? I just don't do it. There is only one explanation for why a supermarket chain will replace a perfectly nice reward program with something more cumbersome: They hope I won't use it, of course.

7) People who assume I'm cranky because of my age.
Not only are they wrong, wrong, wrong, there is very little science to support that as people age they become more intolerant. Certainly, when you are in chronic pain or worried -- or spent a lifetime letting a job define who you are and now no longer work -- your ability to suffer fools quietly may diminish. But in terms of actual physiological reasons, well, advancing age and curmudgeonness aren't necessarily joined at the replaced hip.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

8 Guidelines For Stress-Free Aging