It started with a police dispatcher who hung up on me.

I was making a routine round of calls on the police shift and before I could get out the standard, “anything going on tonight? Any accidents, fires, arrests to report?” he said, “nothing happening” Click.

I immediately called back and explained that this is part of my job and I don’t enjoy calling him anymore than he wants to take my call. I chaulked it up to him being in a bad mood.

In the weeks following, I began to notice more and more people who seem to be in a bad mood. There’s the waitress that makes you feel as if you’re bothering her by placing an order. The store clerk that is determined to finish her extended conversation with a co-worker about the boss before tending to your needs. The parking attendant who won’t even lift his eyes out of his newspaper while taking your money.

Then of course, there are the people who are in a foul mood while behind the wheel. Everybody is angry, it seems. Something is bothering us, but I can’t put my finger on it. I’m a normally happy guy. I leave the house in the morning with a spring in my step and a song on my lips. I get in my car and by the time I reach the end of my driveway, I’m met by the angry masses who will not let me out onto Lakeview Avenue. With a death-grip on their steering wheels, they peer at me out of the corner of their eyes.

“Go ahead, try it,” they seem to say. “Try to pull out in front of me. I dare you. You won’t make it.”

Hey, I’m just trying to get to work, just like you. I’m sure we’d all rather be heading to the beach or the mountains on vacation, but c’mon, give me a break.

What’s at the root of all this discontent? Is it the economy? Is it the fact that we are working longer hours for less money? Is it because we see interest rates climbing faster than our paychecks and we can’t keep pace? Sure, if we think about it too long it will make us all crazy, but is that any reason to treat your fellow human being with anything less than the utmost respect? I’m amazed by the way some people think they can speak to other people. Being discourteous is one thing — maybe a momentary lapse — but having a sour attitude from morning until night is an entirely different matter.

And I know people like that. I know people that have so much for which to be thankful and yet they seem so unhappy, and they want to make others unhappy with them.

Maybe it’s because we see the hardworking Joe doing everything the right way and falling victim to people in authority that have no ethics. We see the wicked prosper and justice denied in many instances. If we dwell on that, it is certainly enough to bring us down and put us in a dark mood.

Speaking with a cousin recently, we agreed that the anger in this country is complicated. This government has managed, somehow, to burden us with a debt that even our grandchildren won’t be able to pay. We watch as our elderly struggle to heat their homes, put food on the table, get to their physician’s office, pay for prescription medication as high-powered fat cats float to earth in their golden parachutes.

People are in a naturally bad mood because nobody has enough money and we are all stressed out. Add to this the fact that the Flyers came back from three games down to eliminate the Bruins in seven and, well, I guess we’re all in a pretty bad mood.

Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail is dshaughnesey@lowellsun.com.