Wednesday, March 24, 2010


On my way to robotics club, my iPod transitioned to Get Ready from (hed) p.e.  This needed to be loud.  I spun the volume dial until it reached 18.  Get ready, ready!  Woo!  My people get ready!  I glanced at the dial again, still 18.  It has to be 18.  When it's loud, it's 18.  Medium volume is 12.  When it needs to be low, the volume reads 6.  19 is bad, it can never be 19.  Odd numbers are always bad.  Except for 3 and 5.  3 is good because two 3s will get you 6 and that is good.  And four 3s will get you 12 and 12 is good.  5 and multiples of 5 are always good.  You get the picture.
What I am describing is my quest to use patterns and repetition to create order and well-being.  Some people can describe it as a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety, or by combinations of such thoughts and behaviors.  I don’t believe I have hit bottom yet, but the behavior is definitely there.
There are certain things that have to be a certain way or I don’t feel comfortable.  I am sure we all have little quirks and efficiencies to make life easier.  Creating patterns to follow allow you to function without having to think about it.  Reducing everyday and repetitive tasks down to muscle memory and simple mnemonics make these tasks easy.  Don’t we all keep our cash in denomination order, largest to smallest from the outside in, and alphabetical order by serial number?  I don’t total up all of the bills to ensure they equal a good number, that would be silly.  (Hold please while I check…yup we’re still good.  Some times the little bastards get out of order in your pocket and you don’t realize it until you have to pay for something.)
I don’t know if I was always like this.  I know that my CD’s and DVD’s (cassette and VHS tapes in times long ago) have always been in alphabetical order, music by artist and release date, movies by title and sometimes when there are multiple versions (i.e. director’s cuts, digital enhancements, uncut, etc.) they go in release order.  Of course with kids, this makes it a little difficult.  They don’t understand order.  They just grab a movie and put it back on the shelf in random order, if they put it back at all.
These things aren’t compulsions or obsessions (yes, I have to keep reminding myself of this), they just make things easier.  If I want to watch the Blade Runner Final Director’s Cut, I know it is the third DVD in the Blade Runner section, which, of course, comes right after Black Hawk Down and right before Body Double.  It is extra special because two Ridley Scott movies happen to be right next to each other.
Isn’t it better to know that it takes 4 turns to completely close the cap on 16.9 oz. Coke bottle?  With those 4 turns you can be assured that your soda will not go flat.  You don’t have to count each time (but it helps), you just learn to do it that way.  You don’t have to unscrew the cap and do it again just to be sure it was 4 (but it helps).
And who doesn’t make sure that all of their t-shirts are right side out and folded so you can see the printing on the front?  Everyone keeps their white t-shirts separate from their colored t-shirts.  And their grungy work t-shirts separated from their everyday, ok-to-be-seen-out-in-public t-shirts.  Right?
Sometimes my little quirks efficiencies conflict with those around me.  Mostly it is my wife, who also has her own set of quirks. Right now I am concerned that my word count doesn’t exceed 648 (2*18*18).

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