Today is Friday, the day I talk about “The Issues”. Today I want to talk about today’s youth. Part of living a long and productive life is getting old and cranky. I’ve done a stellar job in the cranky department because I’m more mature than my peers. Other people are taking their time getting old and cranky. Heck, I have a few grandparents-in-law that still haven’t gotten cranky. While they are out being pillars of society, chatting with friends, being social, and having a good time, I’ve done my duty and have gotten cranky to make up for their delightfulness. I’ve got a glower down that can instill the fear of mortality into an unsuspecting person. I have to channel some real crankiness to achieve that one. Think of me as the old man from the movie “Up”, except there is no redeeming 1st 10 minutes of my movie to totally justify why I’m such a terrible person. I just am, because that’s what this country needs!
I can tell that I’m an old man because of the war I’m waging against the children in my apartment complex. They are loud. They are awful. They are dumb. I tell this to people often, when they ask about what is on my mind. The people that have had kids (I’ll call them “Breeders”) always feel the need to justify this. “Oh, they do that because they are kids. You’ll understand one day,” the breeders say with a knowing smile and a wink, as if my wife and I have never heard about this great thing called ‘sex’ and how it leads to a tiny, loud, awful, dumb person invading my family, taking my food and foiling my attempts to sleep, but once we figure out that sex exists we’ll have a romp that’ll last until at least 6 more people are in my family. Yes, breeders of the world, I understand that kids are in fact children. That doesn’t stop them from being loud, awful, and dumb. Your excuse of “they are young” doesn’t change any of what I have previously stated. The people without kids (I’ll call them Normal) always agree with me on this: the situation I have is awful.
The kids at my apartment complex are especially bad. There is an arsenal of plastic weapons that are constantly left just outside the door, as if the Battle of New York came to a bloody climax just outside the door of Fort My Apartment. Sure, the bodies are gone, faded away just like real bodies do in video games where people die by the hundreds, but the remnants of the weapons tell the awful truth. Not only that, but every day from noon to 4 pm, I can hear the screams of that battle as it gets reenacted every day. Every day. Those bloody kids go running around every day, screaming and yelling.
It’s not normal screaming and yelling. They do this terrifying high pitched siren call with their voice that sends a deeply coded and ancient message down to the core of my DNA that members of my caveman tribe are being murdered by Saber-Tooth tigers. They’ve tapped into the power of evolution, calling upon the heritage we share as social creatures. It’s a scream that cannot be ignored, and they usually let that banshee wail loose whenever something really scary happens like a ball went out of bounds, their friend is being a jerk, or a cloud cast a shadow on them. I’ve tried to condition myself to ignore it, but the howling menace outside my window gets inside of my nerves and fires electricity through my brain, telling me that a Tyrannosaurus Rex got past Og, Bog, and their dog and is now eating all of the young people and I need to get my club and act immediately.
The scream has been noticed by others. I work from home, and I do a lot of communication from my computer. I’ve got a nice microphone, the kind you can sing into and record music, and it picks up sounds the way a microphone is supposed to. Every so often while I’m talking to a client, a scream of “a stranger captured me and is murdering me in his basement” gets recorded and sent over to the people I’m trying to talk to. There is this delay in the conversation as shock registers into their system. The shriek has gone into their DNA, and they have heard the message loud and clear: The employee you are talking to has stolen me, a child, and is torturing me to death, and you need to do something about it! At this point in the conversation I can tell if the client I’m talking to is a Breeder or a Normal based on their response. A Breeder will laugh and say [paraphrased] “Oh, yeah! Kids are supposed to be loud and awful.” If a Normal is on the other end, I hear a muffled “click” as they turn on a tape recorder so they have evidence to hand over to the police.
When the kids aren’t screaming murder, they are being awful in other ways. They’ve taken up a game called “Foul!” It looks a lot like kickball in form and function, but whenever anything happens the kids all yell “FOUL!” and then argue with each other for the next two minutes. Every single play. There are also heated arguments over the stupidest of things: you’re playing with the 1 ball in 20 that we leave out here perpetually which I wanted to play with, stop pretend shooting me with your pretend gun because we are on the same side (apparently you’ve been betrayed, kid who is pretend dead), stop being mean to me when I’ve been a rat bastard to you for the past hour, and my favorite, which is “go play somewhere else!”
The war I have with the kids has come to a head. Our apartment building has two doors that lead to the outside, and both lock once the door is shut. The kids are too stupid to keep a key with them, so they just leave the backdoor open. I can tell whenever they do this, because there is screaming outside my window and the temperature of my apartment has risen by 10 degrees. Summertime in New York is a hot time, and New York was built back when air conditioning wasn’t a thing. My air conditioning unit keeps the house and a nice and cool 80 degrees (about the best it can handle) and runs so loud that the TV cannot be heard over it in the next room over. Not to mention, the recent infestation of chipmunks and bugs can be attributed to the kids for when they forget to shut the door and leave it open all night.
So I go downstairs and shut the door. I shut it if they are not there, and I shut it if they are there.
You might think this is a jerk move (if you’re a Breeder), but the door has a sign clearly posted on it saying “This is a Security Door, and should remain shut”. I’m not sure if a security door is a proper noun or not, but that’s how the sign chose to be capitalized. I didn’t even post that sign (although I have lowered it so that it is eye level with any child that might be using the door). Anyway, the sign says the door should be shut, I want the door shut, so I shut it. If I wanted an apartment with a permanent 3 foot by eight foot hole in the wall, I would have gotten one.
The kids think this is terrible. Whenever I go anywhere, I shut the door. When I leave, I shut the door. When I come back, I shut the door. I’ll kick whatever plastic sword they have out of the way and shut the door. I’m not going to swelter in my own home because these idiots can’t carry a key with them outside.
The kids know who I am. Once a kids stood up to me and said (in a slightly entitled voice) “would you PLEASE leave the door open?”
I repressed my smile of pure condescending glee and instead glowered at the kid with such crankiness that he took a step back. “No.” And I kicked out the plastic sword and shut the door behind me.
The kids have gotten smarter. When they see my car pull up, they sprint into the apartment building, waiting for me to pass so they can wedge the door open as soon as my shadow has past. It’s a smart move. However, there is a smarter move. The door on the other side of the building as 2 doors. One to let the mailman in, and another that locks. If they left that inside door open, everyone would be happy.
The parents haven’t said anything to me. If I was a parent, I think it’d be great if someone locked my kid outside so that I could have some peace and quiet. Besides, if something terrible DID happen, the Old Grumpy Man upstairs would be the first to know, since he is forced to pay attention to what my kid is up to, and he’s probably not evil enough to let the kids get kidnapped/murdered/eaten by dinosaurs.
The door wars are going in my favor, and the reputation it’s won for me is well appreciated. One day the kids were kicking a ball against the wall of my apartment, and bouncing it off the ceiling. I’m the top apartment, and this was getting old fast. I took a page out of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and channeled my inner Boo Radley. I went out onto my balcony for about 10 seconds, and glowered. Only one kid saw me. I could tell because he did a startled double take so exaggerated I thought my glare had shocked him with 100 volts (a power I’ve been working on). As soon as he turned to get his friends’ attention to alert them, I quickly jumped back into the apartment and out of sight. For the next ten minutes I heard the kids argue with such terror in their voice. They do this thing where they try to whisper like a Shakespearian actor would. They scream their whispers, but add a lot more airy flourish to whatever it is they are saying.
“I saw him! He was out on the balcony”
“I didn’t see him!”
“He’s going to tell on us!”
“Don’t be silly! He’s not there.”
“But what if he was?”
“I saw him!”
“No you didn’t!”
“Can we just go?”
The incessant beat of the balls against my walls stopped during this conversation, and the haunting thought that I might be listening (I wasn’t trying to, but they are shouting outside my window so I hear it) drove them to play in a different yard. The mystery of the Grumpy Old Man works wonders in the way that glowering never could.