Devil's Head Diary

On Becoming A Crotchety Old Biddy


Although I do not possess the courage to make formal New Year’s resolutions, I am on the annual lookout for character flaws in myself (and others) and have already identified several. Basically, my goal is to live a snit-free life, cut out the whining, and suck it up if things aren’t done my way.

I really don’t want to be an idle, critical, bored, bullying old lady who believes the universe should do her bidding.

Recently I spent some time with a professional Crotchety Old Biddy with years of practice in controlling conversations, critiquing social interactions, directing activities and ruling like the dowager queen in the realm of manners, taste and protocol. This experience renewed my awareness of my own tendencies.

Lord, save me from the snide putdown. Help me realize that other opinions need not be discounted, no matter how inane, infantile and absurd. Fortunately, I have almost mastered the skill of thinking in cartoon balloons. It gives me a chance to read what is about to come out of my mouth and edit any knee-jerk comments before blurting them out. Talking over someone else is not a conversation, it’s instruction and that is no longer my role. What I have to say and what I have to share is probably not the most important idea ever to come down the pike, nor even the most interesting one.

Nevertheless, at times I find myself afflicted with a generosity of spirit that leads me to share ad nauseam.

In a recent meeting, I realized that I was standing at the very threshold of “Crotchety Old Biddyhood.” I knew this phase of life was approaching. I’ve been around the block, multiple times, and have worked diligently to ensure that I have made all possible mistakes inherent in nonprofit event planning. So, I am always ready to bequeath my hardearned wisdom to anyone who shows the slightest interest.

Burdened with the onerous weight of Institutional Memory, my ire was ignited by the flaming criticisms tossed about by a cadre of newcomers seeking to improve efficiency and economy and bypass some tedious protocols.

Need I explain that health and liquor permits are the lifeblood of nonprofit fundraising?

It is pretty simple. Basically, it’s OK to cut corners and poison one’s own members, but government food monitors frown on poisoning the paying public. My experience dealt with an inherited situation and created a rigid follower of those pesky health and liquor regs. Memories of the time, effort, energy and expense to jump through the hoops and restore permit privileges were fraught with fret and worry.

Fortunately, this time, my smart-aleck response was captured in a cartoon balloon, and I sucked it up before anybody read either my thoughts or the expression on my face. I recovered enough to couch my comments in less crotchety-old-biddy terms. The day was saved and courtesy reigned.

Unfortunately, that small victory was shortlived. Crotchety Old Biddy took over.

Our landline had been out for several days. When I finally sat down to report it to the behemoth that holds the lines of communication, there was no local phone number to be found. So, I resorted to online messaging. I had trouble finding the “report outage” button, but after a cup and a half of coffee, I succeeded.

Hooray, I thought. I was actually in communication with the entity that facilitates verbal communication. Multiple exchanges took place, contact information from me was entered and re-entered, and the outage was reported. I am a penny-pincher and had questions regarding the lack of service credit on our next bill. We were just entering the final phase, successful scheduling of restoration services when my screen froze, and the internet connection died.

After a few minutes of watching the spinning icon, I was back online too late to continue my chat. I was debating the futility of a restart when an email notice containing a report of The Chat arrived. The last entry was,

“You have not responded in 2 minutes...”

Moments later I received a request to fill out a level-of-satisfaction survey.

Crotchety Old Biddy took over. Time was devoted to completing the survey. Sadly, a cartoon balloon was not available, the internet connection held, and SEND was ever so convenient.

In retrospect, the only thing that really rots my socks is that the unknown, impersonal person who tried to help me may suffer blowback from my stinging evaluation. However, I lack the charitable resolve to avail myself of the opportunity to return to the chat room or to request another survey opportunity.

I once aspired to become a “Cute Little Old Lady” in my dotage. Not very likely, because I was (at that time) too tall and too bawdy, and now I am far too opinionated. Not sure when it happened, but I must admit that I have actually become that iconic “Crotchety Old Biddy.”

So when you see me coming, be on the lookout for a cartoon bubble.

“Stand back — I am always primed for critique.”

Carolyn Wiley lives quietly, for the most part, in Longbranch.