I have early-onset GOML Syndrome. So yes, life really IS "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
"Not exactly your finest hour, was it sir?"
I am no stranger to GOML Syndrome. The condition has afflicted more than a few of my friends over the years. And many famous people have had it: Winston Churchill, Thomas Hobbes (quoted in this article's title), Andy Rooney and, most recently, Tom Brokaw. I even mentioned GOML Syndrome in my last book.
But I never dreamed that I'd personally suffer from this devastating condition. My symptoms started some time ago, but I always dismissed them as the after-effect of a bad burrito, or a poor night's sleep, or maybe irregularity. I'm much too young, I'd assure myself, popping another Metamucil. I was in denial. But last week on Halloween, after I'd whipped myself into an agitated froth over all the older kids out trick-or-treating (without first shaving their five-o'clock shadows), I was finally forced to admit to myself that I have it -- I have GOML Syndrome.
It's probably too late for me. But I felt that I should at least try to educate others who might still be helped. Why? I don't know. It's not like they deserve it, those grasping, foolish ... pardon me; it's the GOML Syndrome.
What is GOML? In the unenlightened old days, society labeled GOML sufferers as "cranks" or "grouches" or "crotchety" or -- most hurtful of all -- "curmudgeons." But we now understand that these tortured souls suffer from a bona fide ailment -- yes, GOML Syndrome. You see, GOML is medical shorthand for "Get Off My Lawn!" Perhaps you remember when you were young, and the neighborhood children frolicking in your front yard elicited a chuckle or perhaps a bemused "Aren't they cute?" And after a while, when their trespassing was no longer so charming, you kept quiet because you'd gotten used to it. But then, following years of such incursions, you experienced an AA-like Moment of Clarity and came to see them for what they truly are: destructive packs of jackanapes stomping your verdant estate into Gobi hardscrabble. And finally came that day when the phrase -- that sneering, hateful phrase -- seared your lips: "Get off my ...," well, you know the rest.
"Why don't you go to the riffraff you love so much?"
GOML is characterized by seething indignation over other people's irritating actions -- possibly innocent or even well-intentioned (but nonetheless irritating) actions. These dark thoughts progress to bellicose and often unreasoned rants about the sorry state of humankind. You start sounding like Old Man Potter in It's a Wonderful Life. Phrases like "Going to hell in a hand-basket" and "Up by the bootstraps" pepper your conversations. Soon you're launching verbal drone attacks at the TV, weeknights at 5:30, when it's just you against NBC Nightly News With Bryan Williams -- and everything that NBC Nightly News With Bryan Williams represents.
Finally, you find yourself wandering the well-stocked aisles of Home Depot for entire afternoons muttering under your breath, "Someone owes me an apology."
That's GOML Syndrome. And you don't even need a lawn to get it. Anything can set off an episode: stupid drivers, idiotic legislators, pushy news anchors -- and, yes, those vile neighborhood miscreants defiling your tenderly-nurtured turf like so many Mongolian horsemen sweeping the steppe for pillage and plunder. And woe be the yappy local newscaster in your thrashed yard broadcasting about the drunken Congressman whose BMW just jumped the curb ... again.
"Globally position THIS, &^*%$# @>=@er."
GOML doesn't usually afflict younger people (Punkers don't count). Consider Tom Brokaw, one of America's most respected news anchors for 30 years. I can think of few contemporary commentators as even-tempered as Brokaw in his broadcasting prime on NBC -- certainly not that whelp Bryan Williams. (Which reminds me: the GOML community salutes FOX Network's successful recruiting efforts.) But this morning I heard Tom Brokaw on the radio railing about people using GPS instead of maps. Seriously, with all the bad news in our world today, GPS navigation trips Tom's trigger? GOML. You are one pathetic puppy, Brokaw. (Self-superiority is a common GOML symptom.)
"NORML Syndrome ... wait, what?"
There is no cure for GOML, although watching the CHP ticket a speeding jerk or seeing one of those reckless skate-boarders fall on his caboose can bring a temporary smirk to my lips, a flush to my cheeks. I'm told that some GOML sufferers get medical marijuana prescriptions for their condition, but I suspect it just puts them to sleep, leaving them even more foul-humored the next morning.
Fortunately, a GOML diagnosis is not a death sentence. My research informs me that there are many successful, fully-functioning sufferers walking among us -- maybe even you. I suppose one just learns to live with it and, in late-stage GOML, even embrace it. I'm not there yet. My Halloween episode was triggered by a group of noisy but decently-mannered teens walking near -- not even on -- my flowerbed. But don't worry, I didn't actually say "Get Off My Lawn" ... well, at least not audibly.
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