Thomm Quackenbush, author

Bitter Old People

Grumpy, smelly, slow, can't drive, depressing, confused, scary, angry, yelling at young people, diseased and they want you to know it, and in a perpetually bad mood, looking innocent, making it hard not to h8 you…Sometimes you can tell the grumpy ones from the cool old people, even before they say anything.

Gail walks into my showroom in February. Help her on a recliner, but she mostly needs someone to talk to. Why do all old people feel that they need to give detailed accounts of all their diseases and health problems to any young person they come across? It makes me uncomfortable but I listen. I relate a similar story about one of my friend's mothers. She needs to think about the recliner. I write down the specs and price and she leaves. Finally.

A couple I have dealt with before is waiting for me to finish with her. The wife is so nice. Mickey-she's an artist too. We discuss Gail and decide that we will both say a prayer for her. Mickey definitely has a don't be h8n philosophy too.

Gail calls the next day and I review everything with her. Again. Since she supposedly has 3 hours of physical therapy everyday, mixed in with other medical appointments, it is difficult for her to come in. She knows I am on commission but I tell her that if she can't make it in when I'm here, that I will of course understand, given the circumstances. You're shocked that the greedy Jew said this, aren't you? Well, it was only a $400 sale.

She comes in and buys from Michele. Michele writes the perfect order. Perfect orders are rare-you usually forget to write the date, or what type of order it is, or some little thing. But it is clear that a recliner is definitely on order. Gail wants it, but needs to check that medical schedule, so she will call back to set a specific date.

She calls me a few days later. She wants to set up delivery. I have Wednesday, one week and one day away. Reasonable. Not to her though, she goes off on me saying that Michele promised her immediate delivery. She states that she tried to explain her special circumstances to me but I kept cutting her off. This is infuriating to hear, since I was subjected to her medical sob story and had to politely listen. I eventually hang up on her.

She comes in the next day. Both Michele and I are working. She's no longer the little sick old lady. She's the devil. She calls us deaf dumbasses among other things. She storms out, yelling profanities. She needlessly goes right to the town court and files a small claim. We told her we would look into getting her all of her money back but that it wasn't up to us.

The higher ups decide to refund her in full but it was too late-she already had the suit going. She wants $10.00 too for filing the court fees. Since she doesn't have a checking account, Michele volunteers to purchase a money order and get reimbursed through the company. She agrees with the condition that she sign a document stating she would drop the lawsuit in exchange for the refund plus $10.00, all as a money order.

She gets the letter, a few days later and calls me complaining there is no money order. I explain she needs to sign the letter before she gets her money. She says she will take us to court and hangs up on me.

Our storeowner says that we will go to court and show what she signed, indicating a 30% cancellation fee. I am excited that we get to stick it to her. I volunteer to go. Michele comes with me. Our offer off the table, I am ready to take some money from the bitch.

We go to court. We sit through a few cases: Plaintiff gets to present, then defendant, then they get to ask each other questions. Our turn. I'm psyched.

We have with us the following: a copy of her receipt indicating that she did in fact place an order; the back of the contract stating that all cancellations, including deposits and orders, are subject to a 30% cancellation fee (which we never really use, only for grumpy old miserable assholes); pictures of a huge sign in the store indicating our cancellation policy as well as refunding policy; and a typed out list of dates and events. We have this thing won.

Gail starts reading from a few pages of purple stationary and neat cursive. The lies are too much to go into. A few highlights are that I told her that we deliver everyday, either Michele or I called her a "dumbass," and that Michele is some kind of sales shark that forced her into ordering a chair under the pretense of holding a sale price (who puts down $263 to hold a sale price?).

Most of what is coming out of her mouth is absurd and irrelevant to the case at hand. I'm sure it was merely to besmirch us as much as possible, and for as long as the court would allow her.

The judge eventually stops her. He asks her why she didn't just sign the letter and get her money back. She had no good reason for that, so he told her to just sign the damn letter and insinuated that this whole thing was a waste of time.

Now as intimidating as this judge is, and as angry as he is that he had to endure Gail's drama, I have to say something. I stuttered that our letter offer was off the table after all the trouble we've had to go through. At this point the judge was already so mad that he wouldn't let us present our defense, and kicked both parties out of the courtroom. Gail threw in a few "I'm so disabled" pleas before he made it clear that if we didn't leave that second and return back on June 14th with this resolved, we would be in quite a bit of trouble. As a judge, why should he after all hear both sides, or listen to me that our offer of a refund had expired…ah, I love the legal system, but that is yet another don't be h8n.

So although Gail won her money, which we were trying to refund to her anyway, it was worth it to see the judge completely lose patience with her. So worth it. Hopefully the majority of the courtroom didn't believe that I would call an old, sick person "dumbass." If I were going to call her a name, I would have chosen "nasty bitch with nothing better to do than to fuck with young, healthy people for some kind of sick revenge."

So where does this leave yours truly? Disappointed that my "My Cousin Vinny-esque" courtroom scene didn't happen. With a cute pantsuit that I can never fathom wearing again. With an angry letter to the judge that I am scared to send. With a couple of funny photos of me in front of a sign that says "All cancellations are subject to a 30% forfeit of price." With an anger and frustration that night so intense that I hit the high note in "Seasons of Love" and was on key for both "Last Year's Rent" and "One Song Glory." I can't sing well but I know when I'm off key (most of the time) but apparently intense anger is my muse.

And wondering the question of the day…what are we going to be like when we're old? Do I have to right to hate this horrible woman? I respect lying in a court of law, don't get me wrong. But the bitterness, the need to fuck with people for no apparent reason, the nastiness, and the need to take everyone else down with you…am I going to be like that?

When we all get old, will Melissa still not care when an item rings up for $8 more than it was marked? Will we still leave generous tips at Denny's? Will Mario still have the laid-back air of someone who is perpetually stoned (not that he is)? Although I cannot fathom it now, will he drive under the speed limit, with his blinker on all the way from Fishkill to Atlantic City?

Will Josh still be chasing random girls in bars…usually to no avail…and not get discouraged?

Will bitterness find a way into Thomm's writing? Will he start complaining on his webpage about "young folks these days?"

Will Stevehen start insisting that we actually all put in money for the beer?!

Will "Mike night" turn into $1.99 breakfast specials at Perkins at 7am?

I have decided that I can and will hate bitter old people and I promise never to turn into one. Not the conclusion you usually get from me. But all these years of not h8n, I'm getting sick of it. Besides, this reinforces my theory of hate being fear's relative, perhaps a weird uncle that no one talks about. Am I afraid of turning into Gail? Was she ever a nice, normal person? I am mad that I even have to think about this.

I hate bitter old people.

Angela is an artist in the truest sense of the word, though particularly artful when it comes to telling you how lame you are for writing hate mail.

Don't Be H8n!
Don't Be H8n!

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush


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