03/11/2013 11:07 am ET Updated May 11, 2013

I Am NOT a Useless Waste!

Has it happened? Have I become a crotchety old lady? Do I abhor certain kinds of music because I'm too old to get it? Do my eyebrows fly up at some of the things I see on TV? Am I shocked at some of the things that "young people" wear these days?

Possibly so. But I'm dead certain of one thing -- people are much more rude than they were when I was a young whippersnapper.

Because we have a website (and especially because we have a YouTube Channel), I am painfully aware that there are those that don't treat others with civility. I've quit reading the online comments on news stories -- it's horrific.

The name-calling and accusations and disrespect can quickly cause me to lose faith in humanity, to believe that everyone is inclined to be thoughtless toward one another. After reading comment after despicable comment in BOLDFACE print, it's sometimes difficult to remember that the great majority of people that David and I have met in this great big world are good.

Fortunately -- though I do miss reading respectful debates -- I can avoid that hooey online. And if anyone DARES to be nasty on my website, where I have delete button privileges, it'll be gone faster than a jackrabbit with the squirts. Don't be skulking into my kitchen or on to my Facebook page talking that trash -- you were raised better than that.

Like a lot of people, for better or worse, I'm becoming become numb to it all. After all,when it comes to visualizing who is behind the keyboard, I can easily conjure up a bored, unsupervised 15-year-old making the modern day equivalent of a prank phone call. Or some homemade-brown-liquor drinkin'-Unabomber-type hell-bent on causing trouble. Or a compulsive liar with sixty pet squirrels and a grotesque obsession with Vlad the Impaler issuing proclamations from a digital mountaintop. Heh. I lean toward the grandiose when I'm visualizing.

Then, out of nowhere, cyberspace-type incivility came crashing into Real Life in a manner that I couldn't ignore or justify. Last weekend, David and I were visiting The Boy at his Generic Midwestern Directional University (GMDU) town and took in a ball game. It was a beautiful spring day. We stretched our legs in the warm sun and yelled "GO GMDU Wampus Cats!" We basked in each other's company.

Halfway through the game I developed a jelly bean jones that wouldn't let go. I could blame it on menopause, but the truth is that jelly beans are freakin' delicious and I adore them. To relive my hankerin', I trekked the half-mile up the road toward a convenience store.

I was surprised that there was not a sidewalk, as the GMDU area is generally very pedestrian friendly. I had to walk along the curb in the gutter as I did as a kid -- except I wasn't dragging my trusty stick behind me. I wasn't in any danger, the lanes were wide, there was little weekend-in-a-college-town traffic and it was broad daylight. A nice pleasant walk on a nice pleasant day with delicious jellybeans at the end of it.

I must have jumped straight up when I heard -- at full-husky-masculine voice -- from twenty feet behind me,


I flinched as the bicycling douchebag (I realize that calling the gentleman a douche bag runs contrary to what I've said above, but the sorry fact remains -- he's a douche bag) sped past me. I did what I always do when I'm in a weird situation. I froze. Damn.

As I made my way back to the stadium I was able to think of a million retorts -- all of them clever and effective -- but at the time, I just stood there like a, ahem, useless waste.

GMDU is in a sweet little college town with a high tax base and wonderful services for the handicapped (two more reasons for my sidewalk-less surprise). What if I wasn't just a jelly bean seeking middle-aged woman, but a handicapped person -- like my niece? Or a college girl with low self-esteem? Or a newly-widowed lady lost in grief? Douche bag calling me "useless waste" took on an ugly reality.

The more I walked, the more I seethed.

How could I just stand there? Why didn't I come up with a snappy comeback that would have made Douche Bag think twice about his actions? Why couldn't I run like the Bionic Woman, catch up to DB and give him what-for? And most importantly, why wasn't I dragging that stick? I could have shoved it into Douche Bag's spokes.

Where was my delete button when I need it most?

I was nearly in tears, my go-to coping mechanism when I feel helpless. I had to force myself to let it go, no use ruining my visit with The Boy because a thoughtless person was rude. Buck up Veronica -- get back to your family and slap a smile on your face.

Back at the bleachers the guys asked why I was jelly beanless, so I recounted my tale. When I got to the useless waste part, The Boy laughed. My neck snapped as my head turned to face him.

"Well, Mom, you've got to admit, that's pretty funny."

Before you judge, I'm going to come to his rescue, Recovering Helicopter Mommy-style.

The Boy is not a heartless bastard. He was granted a high school scholarship for having the most community service hours in his graduating class. He has a big heart -- he really does. He is the first to point out something he perceives as unjust. He's been known to rescue animals.

But, he does have a wicked sense of humor, something he comes by honestly, inherited from his parents. And he's grown up in a crudity-anesthetized world.

Does this get him off the hook? Not by a long shot.

I burst into tears -- I truly did -- I wasn't just messing with The Boy's head. That got his attention. He doesn't like to see his mother cry. But it wasn't until I asked him to think how his handicapped cousin would react to being called useless waste that he fully grasped the situation.

I'm not so naïve to think that my son is perfect and I am aware that I view him through Mommy-colored glasses. But, still, I find it difficult to understand how he could have been so callous. He was raised better than that.

Have we begun to conduct ourselves so poorly as a society that this current generation can't feel the weight of words? Are they unable to think past their immediate desires to take another's feelings into account before shouting/typing/hurling hurtful words?

Or have I become a crotchety old lady?


YOUR TURN: Are people more rude these days or am I truly a crotchy old lady?