Being a grumpy old engineer is an art form. Folks tend to think that we’re grumpy because age has caught up to us. I’m going to spill a trade secret. Age has nothing at all to do with it. Sure, my knees and back hurt a little more than they used to, but other than that, packing on a few years has way more pluses than minuses attached to it. Being a curmudgeon is really just a smoke screen that age and mother nature has given us as a tool to keep all those troublesome idiots we’ve had to deal with all our lives as far away as possible.
The art form part of it comes into play when we construct a persona to repel idiots without repelling the folks we like having around. It’s harder than you think. It’d be great if we could come up with some sort of secret handshake to let the chosen few know that they should basically ignore anything we say or do unless they are the only other person in the room. But secret handshakes don’t work; they’re too obvious. Human nature dictates that within a few days everyone would know about the secret.
The alternative is to tread the fine line between being grumpish and being amiable while perfecting the ability to jump between the two in a heartbeat. The curmudgeon handbook outlines all of the tried and true methods for achieving this state of perfection and we each pick the way that works best for us. Personally I lean towards option seven which involves consistently presenting an annoying person with an icy scowl of disdain, no matter why they have darkened your door. If they knock on your door to tell you that a project deadline has been changed, narrow your eyes, wrinkle your forehead and frown. It they knock on your door to tell you that someone brought in doughnuts, narrow your eyes, wrinkle your forehead and frown. Eventually they’ll stop knocking on your door. Consistency is the key.
So, if you know someone who smiles when you walk in but frowns for no apparent reason when the guy in the next cubicle knocks, it’s not senility beginning to rear its ugly head. It’s just a new grumpy old engineer joining the ranks of the chosen few and practicing his skills.