Embracing My Inner Curmudgeon (and Some Well-Deserved Applause)


(I apologize that I could not find the proper attribution for this great drawing, but am amazed at the striking resemblance to this writer.  Uncanny, really.)

One of the things that I looked forward to most about getting old was that it would at last be acceptable to give my inner curmudgeon free reign. Yep, I thought maybe I could give real credence to the stereotype of the grumpy old lady.

Well, the truth is, while I might have an inner curmudgeon, I’m actually pretty even-tempered, so I’m not yet shaking my bony fist at cocky young whippersnappers on a regular basis. But I will say that the past few weeks have sorely tested the limits of my patience and brought out my inner grouch.

First of all, our television went out, and it took the built-in VCR with it. Sure, it was 12 years old and maybe 12 years is all you can expect for electronic lifetimes these days, but it really hurt to lose our VCR, too. Then, the next day, the blade flew off our riding mower and took two fan belts with it. We have a big, big yard, so we really need that riding mower.

But it wasn’t just that. It was the little things, too, one darn thing after another—from problems with an item we just paid good money for to groceries scanning higher than the listed price to newly purchased carrots being slimy. I hate it when my carrots are slimy.

No need to rehash all our troubles, but allow me to indulge my inner curmudgeon long enough to say this:  The Eyeglasses industry, on the whole, is an out and out rip-off. A greed fest. A shameless screw-job. I have no idea what the mark-up by optical companies is on eyeglasses, but I know it is huge beyond all justification. And I’d like to say to the optometrist that I recently had the displeasure of seeing: You should be ashamed—charging those exorbitant prices, knowing full well that many of the people that come to you (including me) can ill afford to buy even the cheapest frames you provide. And, boyhowdy, that sure is one slick operation you’ve got there—the way you funneled me right out from my exam into your eyeglasses “showroom.” And what a friendly salesman you have in there! Or at least he was until I expressed my utter incredulity at the prices and I was ushered out quicker than you can say “flimflam man.” Of course, what I really wanted to do was to tell him just exactly where he could shove all those hip, trendy pieces of plastic “designer” junk.

Oh. Sorry. I lost it for a minute there. I told you I had an inner curmudgeon.

Anyway. What I really wanted to do here is to recognize my one interaction with a commercial interest in the past few weeks that was positive beyond all expectation. Where I was treated with respect and consideration. Where the response to my concern was cheerful and prompt. Who was this rarity, this paragon, this fine model of good customer service? Why, I’m glad you asked.

It was Oxford American, my favorite magazine ever. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but if you’d like to read the finest in writing from the South (not to mention their annual music issue that includes a really swell CD), you should definitely check them out. In fact, one of my dreams as an aspiring writer is to be published someday in Oxford American.

I recently decided to treat myself to a subscription and was mighty excited about the thought of finding it in my mailbox again, but experienced some difficulty in receiving a particular issue. It was their Southern Literature Issue with lots of writing about writing, so I wanted it real bad. But when I filled out their Customer Service form, I’ll have to admit that I expected just the typical form email back. You know, the generic, non-personal kind that leave you feeling angrier than ever?

So imagine my surprise when I was personally emailed back within an hour by Tammy Gillis, their office manager, who told me she was immediately forwarding my email to Matt Baker, Associate Publisher. Within a very short time, I received a very nice email from Matt Baker expressing his sincerest apologies and indicating that he had personally mailed me out a copy that very day!

Okay, here’s where I’ll confess that, at the time, I thought, “Right. Sure you did. I’ll believe that when I see it.” Sorry to say, but some of my recent misadventures in customer service have made me just a mite cynical.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found Issue #66, the Southern Literature issue of the Oxford American in my mailbox within a week, mailed personally by their Associate Publisher. I was thrilled.

So, thanks, Oxford American and Tammy Gillis and Matt Baker. I know you’ll probably never read this, but I wanted to say it anyway. I wanted to sing the praises of a company that is motivated by something besides greed, not to mention the fact that they put out a very fine product that even folks like me can afford. You’ve made me a happy woman and a slightly less cynical one.

It sure is nice to have something good to read. Maybe it will help to take my mind off the smirk on smug Mr. Eyewear Consultant’s face when he told me, “You really should try something stylish and fashionable for a change—it would make you look so much…younger.”

Why, it’s enough to make me shake my bony fist just thinking about it. *Shakes bony fist and mutters*   That impudent young upstart. Cheeky, brazen whippersnapper.

20 Responses to “Embracing My Inner Curmudgeon (and Some Well-Deserved Applause)”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Hey Beth, I share your pain in the eyeglass direction…I tried buying them online this time and not only spent way less, found the whole experience a lot better than those “showrooms.” Here’s a link to a blog about buying glasses online- http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/

    I’m all about savin’ me some money!

  2. CountryDew Says:

    Oh dear. I spend a small fortune on my specs and know that if I would only lose the Titanium Frames and the featherlite lenses I would spend much less, but I would also have more headaches than I already do so I feel caught in an endless circle of needing to see and do it without scrunching my eyes with pain. I agree they are outrageously priced, though.

    I am checking out the links to Oxford American; thanks!

  3. Betsy from Tennessee Says:

    Beth—You are just hilarious!!!!! I laughed and laughed —especially the last couple of sentences. You expressed what MOST of us feel constantly –when we KNOW that someone has taken advantage of us (or tried to)….

    You really do need to write –and get published. I say this every time I read something of yours. You have a true gift, my friend.

    In 2004, I TOO was taken advantage of in an eye-glasses place like you talk about… Cute little girls sending me from room to room, seeing the eye doctor for about 5 minutes tops, and then sending me into their fancy studio to order some expensive glasses. I got rooked!!!! BUT–that was the last time. We now go to another place where they even told me that all I need are reading glasses and I can buy them at Walgreen’s… I sat and talked to the doctor for a good 15 or more minutes –and it was wonderful. Why aren’t there more places like this??????

    I also ALMOST got rooked at the dentist office a few years ago–but caught their game after that first visit. I switched dentists right then and haven’t had anymore trouble. All I can say is BEWARE… Those types –who just want your money—are all over the place!!!!!

    Glad you had a good experience with your subscription. There are good places like that—but we all have to look for them.

    Loads of HUGS,

  4. Judy Says:

    Hi Beth, I know exactly what you are talking about when you go to the eye doctor. I, also, feel that way about dentists around here. They bring out the curmudgeon in me every time I visit one. The dentists here live better than most doctors and when I was working you could not even find one that would accept the state medicaid card for children. My clients could not get dental care because the dentists did not feel the state paid them enough to accept the card. I better get off my soap box right now before I write a book! Anyway, a couple weeks ago we had a full moon and everything around here broke for some reason. Lawnmowers, soap dispensers, trash cans, cars. I don’t know what was happening except that I always know when it is a full moon without even looking. I think some unknown force visits me personally and makes me crazy and I break or destroy everything around me.
    It is very refreshing to read about your experience with this magazine and to know there are still people and agencies out there that care.
    I will check out the magazine and I hope you have a good week.

  5. Sharon Says:

    You know I’m right there with you re the home disasters. Let’s hope the stars are now on a different path. I’ve heard similar stories from a number of people, including one friend whose kitchen ceiling fell in! Fortunately, she’s renting. Another had such appliance horror stories that she accused us of rubbing off our own disasters on her. Please don’t apologize for being a curmudgeon, which you aren’t, anyway. My goal for years was to be a curmudgeon when I “got older,” which I now have, and I’m happy to say that I’ve achieved my goal. On my curmudgeonly days, I’m secretly enjoying myself. You’re so right about both the ripoffs and the occasional person who actually does his or her job and is kind to boot. Re the Oxford American, I have not read it regularly but will pick it up again. Tara just sent us a subscription to the Missouri Review and I’m looking forward to that. Be well, dear Beth.

  6. eemilla Says:

    Good for you for spreading the word about good customer service. I’ll have to check them out. I hate hearing about busted appliances that haven’t even seen fifteen years; I was appalled when our just turned ten washing machine started making nasty noises (happy to report that was two years ago). You should write a nasty gram to the eye glass place, especially if you quoted the salesman verbatim.

  7. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    I am so glad you wrote this Beth because I need to go to the eye doctor (the Wal-Mart glasses aren’t working anymore) and I’ve never been to one before and this is just what I’m afraid of–getting ripped off! I am going to e-mail you about this. Like your commenter, someone else told me about an online place where you can get glasses for $14.99. And they are trendy so you will look young again! lol

    I never heard of that magazine but I’m going to check them out. In fact, I am going to tell them what you said about them.


  8. Martha Says:

    Oh Beth, I laughed and laughed and nodded my head throughout this post! It was so funny, and yet so true. And familiar! My pet peeve as I’m getting older is customer service. I’m getting more and more cynical and less and less patient with rude service and pushy salespeople.

    And I’m in total agreement with the eyeglasses! Every time I need to replace my frames (or even my lenses), I cringe, knowing that the price tag will be astronomical. I often delay getting my eyes checked so I don’t need to deal with this. It seems ridiculous that people can’t afford something that will help them see! WHAT THE ^&#$*#$*&# IS THAT ALL ABOUT? Ooop…sorry, I went off the deep end there for a minute…

    I also feel this way about dentists and orthodontists, especially orthodontists. Talk about a rip off! Every time the dentist pushes the issue of my daughter needing braces and that he can recommend someone, I want to ask him how much commission he’s going to make from every referral he makes to his buddy, the orthodontist. Or how much he’ll be contributing towards her braces.

    You’re not alone, and it certainly has nothing to do with age as much as it has to do with your tolerance meter filled to the max. At some point you can’t help but yell out “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS CRAP!”

    Anyway, I’m glad you had a good experience with the magazine. Moments like that help to restore faith.

  9. Jayne Says:

    OH, you make me laugh my friend! I am so right there with you! So glad you had a really GOOD experience to make up for all the craziness. :c)

  10. june Says:

    It’s really a shame that practices like Oxford American stand out…that they are an exception rather than the norm. It’s so tiring to always have to do “battle” with businesses…either through run-arounds, rudeness, and/ or rip-offs.

  11. colleen Says:

    This gives me hope that some things fall in place so well. My category archives on the blog disappeared, so did my blog listing on Technorati. I spent an hour trying to log on and couldn’t. I wear the cheap off the rack reading glasses but even they have gone up. And the fall foliage here has bee so disappointing this year.

    But the sun is out and it’s warmer today!

  12. Benjamin Says:

    Haha! 😀 You are my hero. You write really funny stuff. I liked the turn of fate with the kind, personable Oxford American response. Praises be!

    You just made me a more cheerful man. Today *was* really nice, Colleen–I actually was able to do some birdwatching today–they’re singing over the warmth, too.

    P.S. Mommy — You really don’t look like that. 🙂 You actually have retained your youthful look as well or better than many I’ve seen! It must be your good humored outlook…

  13. Warwick Sabin Says:

    We are very glad that you had such a good experience with The Oxford American! We try to provide the same level of excellent personal customer service for all of our readers.

    Thanks for all of your kind words, and for sharing your compliments in a public forum.

    Best wishes, and please let us know if we can ever be helpful again. Thanks for supporting The Oxford American!

    Warwick Sabin
    The Oxford American

  14. Deb Says:

    Hi- I just found your blog via Jayne of Journey Through Grace, and I wanted to let you know I like what I see so far (I’ve just had time to browse the top page.) It’s so nice to hear about good customer service for a change!

  15. Jeff Says:

    Ya know …. I was gonna tell you that you might be surprised when Oxford American sent you an e-mail! But they beat me to it. Lots of companies have computer programs running that scan the Internet for mention of their name and when a “hit” occurs, they investigate and take action, either positive or negative, depending on what needs to be done. You can’t hide any longer!

    Glasses: yep, they surely are expensive. But I’ve had mine for about 5 years now – paid $400 for them. They are the kind that you can bend into a pretzel without breaking. I bought these after sitting on one too many pairs of glasses. Sigh …. they were expensive, but I’ll still have them 5 years from now, too. So they really aren’t *that* expensive.

    Yes, it sure is a disruption when major items break. But look at it this way: you don’t need the mower for some months, so that gives you breathing room and you don’t have to replace the TV. Think of how much money you can save by not having a cable subscription -unless you get over-the-air digital TV. Books are so much better friends, which you already know!

    And why aren’t you growing your own carrots???

  16. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Beth–I always love your posts, even though I haven’t been commenting much lately. I feel guilty for whining to you about my miserable Monday with your string of annoyances.

    I love how you always turn the negative into positives–or at least something funny. It’s one of the qualities I most enjoy about you.

    I also love reading your comments, especially those you get from your kids. Those two are so sweet and clearly adoring of you. How nice of Benjamin to say you have aged “better or at least as well as most.” 🙂

    Plus hey look how cool that the publisher of Oxford American commented on your blog. I mean, you’ve got some clout lady!

    Curmudgeon? I don’t think so!

  17. Ariel Says:

    This is a hilarious post, and a hilarious illustration. And I’m glad you haven’t let your curmudgeonly ways make you look like her, haha. I assure you and your readers that you are quite beautiful. But if you keep shaking your fist and cane at people like that, you might start looking like her!

    I have a friend who gets his prescription glasses off of a website for something ridiculous like $10 a pair. He trades them out every other day to match his outfit and mood. It probably wouldn’t be a great option for you because of your astigmatism, but it’s worth looking into. I’m sure they could do better than the aforementioned place!

    I miss you and already can’t wait to be back home.

  18. bookbabie Says:

    Try Costco for glasses, we can get 2-3 pairs for what we paid for one pair at the other joints we used to go to!

  19. diane Says:

    I found you on Betsy’s blog and I’ve enjoyed reading yours very much. Nothing like a good laugh. I was amazed that your previous post had a similar title to one of mine last month when I saw crocodiles in the north of Australia. Great writing.
    My croc post is here:

  20. Going Crunchy Says:

    Beth – what a great story! And I do like how you gave credit where it was due when somebody treats you nice.

    Just for that I’m going to doublecheck and see if my Library carries this subscription. We’re starting a writing club here so that sounds like a good resource. Ba, ha, ha….it is good to be one that orders at a Library.

    Right now many publishers are taking a beating and a half – and focusing on good service and a friendly attitude is a priority. Glad to see they have it going on! Shan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: