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The Complete Curmudgeon
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Have you had days when gadgets drive you nuts, when all of our technological progress seems worthless? Read this satire about taking crankiness to a new level.
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THE COMPLETE CURMUDGEON

by Anthony Maulucci

I used to be a curmudgeon but I changed into a neo-luddite. You might say I’ve gone from bad to worse, or from generalist to specialist. Instead of inveighing against modern life in general, or the corruption of Western civilization, I’ve narrowed my focus to modern technology.

Given the juggernaut movement of “progress,” it seems absurd to cry out against it, but I can’t help myself. Unlike the devotees who throw themselves willingly in front of the Krishna cart, I’m the crazy fool who thinks he can stop it. More’s the pity.

 

So, I offer the reader a brief history of my metamorphosis from Simple Curmudgeon to Absurdist Neo-luddite, although I suppose I’ve always been a luddite in embryonic form.

Even as a child I hated the telephone. It robbed me of my mother’s attention. As a teenager, the olive green wall phone in my parents’ kitchen was my nemesis. It was impossible to take a girl out on a date without first running the gauntlet of the dragon with the coiled tail. In my adult life the telephone has taken on an even more diabolical role as Interrupter Extraordinaire. And today, the Mad Engineers Who Are Destroying the World (or MEWADW) have bred an evil twin of unmatched demonism -- the cell phone, which can suspend, at any time and in any location, the most intimate human acts.

Now that I am a reformed curmudgeon, a simple neo-luddite, I can rail against the automobile rather than transportation en masse. My troubles with the automobile began

the moment I purchased my first Volkswagen, a sporty Karmann Ghia, drove blithely to New York City, and promptly had it stolen from Lexington Avenue near 78th Street. Perhaps this nasty incident colored my feelings somewhat. Granted the car can be a capsule of solitude, but it is more often a torture chamber on wheels when one is stuck

in traffic or has foolishly embarked on a long trip with whining children, chattering relatives, or garrulous ninnies. As for adolescence, well, who has been restrained enough not to take a risk in the semi-privacy of a parked car only to end up having to deal with embarrassment or a painfully complicated outcome? Strip the automobile of its mythic overtones and what have you got? Nothing more than a mechanical conveyance that renders walking obsolete, pollutes the air we breathe, costs outrageously too much, and transforms otherwise well-adjusted individuals into homicidal maniacs.

Ever since high school straight into my early career as a professional journalist the typewriter and I got along wonderfully well. A love affair that began as a 5th grade infatuation blossomed in high school and deepened every time I sat down to write, year after year. The creative well may have been intermittently dry but my Smith-Corona’s rugged durability never failed me. When one of these machines wore out, I retired it to a closet. They were the trusty squires of my literary quest.

 

The typewriter seemed a high enough pinnacle for a writing contraption to achieve, but the juggernaut rolled on, and in its wake came the dawn of the computer age.

 

Although I’d managed to avoid first word processors and then computers for nearly a decade, the day inevitably came when, as a full-time faculty member at a Connecticut college, I was strongly urged to “utilize more classroom technology” by the academic dean who would decide whether to recommend me for tenure. It was clear enough that the Gateway in my office was meant to be more than a techno-totem. Armageddon had arrived. Would I regress to all-purpose curmudgeon or remain a loyal Absurdist Neo-luddite? I agonized for half a semester. Then I hit on a compromise by encouraging students to e-mail me their drafts of essays, making certain the dean knew about it. Workshops were then held on technology in the classroom and my approach wore thin very quickly. However, I continued to go my own way, seeing myself as an independent thinker, a staunch defender of humanism and academic freedom, but viewed as subversively retrograde by key faculty and the administration.

 

My campaign was doomed. I was ultimately denied tenure and have since moved on to another college where my neo-luddite tendencies are overlooked, or indulged, or forgiven, depending on who you talk to. I have subsequently enlarged my world-view and re-invented myself. I am no longer a mere absurdist neo-luddite. I have turned into a Higher Order Luddite -- I am now the Complete Curmudgeon.

 

Copyright Anthony S. Maulucci

Anthony Maulucci has taught English at the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, Mitchell College and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. His most recent novel is DEAR DANTE, available from local independent bookstores and Amazon.com.