One of the Ancient Roman superstitions concerned getting up on the wrong side of the bed. The left side was inauspicious and the right side was auspicious. If an ancient Roman citizen climbed out of his bed on the left, instead of the right, he would be setting himself up for an unhappy day.
This anti-left side belief filtered through the entire Roman Empire and became entrenched in western culture. The left-side meme devolved into several other superstitious prejudices about the left side. It became popular to think that an angel sits on the right shoulder and a devil sits on the left shoulder. Meanwhile, the left side versus the right side of the bed superstition became diluted into the idiom we use to describe someone going through the day with a grouchy attitude.
I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, because I felt cranky and impatient until I remembered the etymology of the often used idiomatic phrase. Because of the configuration of my bedroom, I always get up on the right side of the bed, so according to the old Roman standard, I never get up on the wrong side of the bed.
Much of today’s crankiness was the result of the combination of residual sleepiness and parts of my daily routine not conforming to my expectations. There was the issue about coffee–the supply was low, so I had to prepare a weak brew. Then there was a problem with the last banana in the fruit bowl. It had turned brown and mushy. Although don’t like mushy bananas, I ate it anyway. To make matters even less convenient, the old laptop took its sweet time booting up. There is a lot of bloatware on the thing.
There’s a prejudice about cranky people in society. This is revealed in a lot of the feel-good advice we spread around in daily life and on the Web. The thing is, life is not all sunshine and butterflies. Life sometimes becomes quite inconvenient and frustrating. It’s unhealthy to repress our frustration and it’s also unhealthy to over-express our anger, so we compromise then settle for crankiness.
There have been cranky celebrities who I’ve enjoyed in part because their public personas were spiked with grumpiness. There was Andy Rooney, whose attitude was his trademark. Dear Abby and Ann Landers had their own varieties of crankiness. I loved Frank Zappa for his intellectual grouchiness. In some ways, Zappa was on the same page as Groucho Marx. Meanwhile, I never did care much for Don Rickles–he just seemed mean-spirited.
“People get cranky when you burst their bubble. Over time, advances in astronomy have relentlessly reinforced the utter insignificance of Earth on a celestial scale. Fortunately, political and religious leaders stopped barbecuing astronomers for saying so, turning their spits with human-rights activists instead.”–co-founder of “Intellectual Ventures” and former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold
I get a bit cranky when I ponder the state of human rights and the efforts to roll them back these days. I’ve long held high expectations that humankind would progress much further along the compassionate path than we have. Some politicians and religious leaders now promote
the idea of curtailing the civil rights laws already on the books. This causes a lot of grief.
There are places like Uganda and Russia where killing gay people seems to be the national past-time. Thankfully, there are a few oases of progress and acceptance at strategic places around the world. Yet, the trend away from national compassion in some quarters is quite upsetting.
I don’t think I have a cranky personality. At least I hope not. I see my own crankiness as a temporary condition, just like a rainy day. Once I work the grumpiness out of my system, the rest of the day turns out fine. Crankiness is just one part of my emotional repertoire.