com·pul·sion noun \kəm-ˈpəl-shən\
2: an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing)
I have a little behavioral quirk that I call Hyper-Efficiency Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You might call it Weirdness.
Here’s a recent example.
A television show I particularly wanted to watch started at 9 so I headed out of the living room at 8:55 for a quick trip to the bathroom. Our first floor powder room is closest, but I had to consider the upstairs bathroom option as well.
There were several compelling arguments in favor of the second floor.
- A pair of jeans I had mended was on the banister waiting to be carted upstairs and put away.
- I could see that the humidifier on the stairs landing was almost empty.
- The book of short stories I was reading was upstairs on my bedside table. The powder-room reading material was the same old, dog-eared Calvin & Hobbes anthology.
- I had peed in the upstairs toilet earlier and had not flushed.
If I went upstairs I could grab the humidifier reservoir on the way, put my jeans in the bedroom closet and get the book, then read at least 1 page while taking care of business in the bathroom. Maybe more than 1 page, depending on how things shook out. When done I could dispose of 2 operations with one flush.(*see Note) I could then wash my hands while refilling the humidifier and put the reservoir back in place on the way down the stairs. I would wait until the first commercial break to get my sewing supplies and a drink of water.
All this pottying cogitation took place in the 1-1/2 seconds needed to cover 20 feet of territory between the living room and the powder room. I made the obvious choice and detoured upstairs.
These mental gymnastics were not deliberate. I wasn’t even aware of my own thought processes until I was back in my Barcalounger and found I had missed the opening of the show. “Self” I asked myself, “how could you have been late for a program you were looking forward to so eagerly?”
Applying the bright light of conscious inquiry to the convoluted operations of my own brain was a bit terrifying, I admit, but I wasn’t surprised by the results. I’ve mentioned my squirrel-in-a-cage thought processes before. In fact, those who have been hanging around this blog for a while may think I have a particular fetish for deep thinking in and about the bathroom.
I’ve been obsessed with killing a whole flock of birds with one stone for most of my life. It’s a game to me.
I always have a book on CD going so I can “read” when my hands are busy. I reconcile my checkbook while waiting in the drive-through. I plan my errands by calibrating right vs. left turns, probable traffic patterns for the time of day, placement of various destinations in relation to one another, all factored against weather conditions. Columbus’ journey to the New World was a toy boat floating in the tub compared to the convoluted planning I put into a routine trip to the grocery store.
The downside of trying to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest amount of time is that I’m late for everything. It’s multitasking run amok.
The first time I remember thinking about this topic was when I saw the (original) movie Cheaper By The Dozen on TV as a little kid. Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy were efficiency experts with 12 children. One scene showed the father instructing a child on the most efficient way to take a bath while listening to foreign language lessons on a record player. This struck me as a very elegant use of time.
This conviction was shored up by a class I took in college that introduced me to the principles of project management. I’ve been living life as a series of boxes in a PERT diagram ever since.
Despite these “nurture” influences, I think such quirks have more to do with “nature”. Scientific study (defined as observing my own kids) confirms that we are born with these tendencies.
One daughter used to hold her breath between the telephone poles on a particular stretch of road on the ride to school. The other counted steps on regularly traveled stairways so she would always end up with her right foot on the last step. Maybe this proves nothing more than that the OCD apple doesn’t fall far from the uber-multitasking tree, but I don’t think my family is alone in this.
Humans are hard-wired to try to make sense of a complex world by creating patterns and developing rituals. Our quirks reach the level of true OCD only when they interfere with our ability to function effectively in life. Up to that point, I figure whatever makes you feel good is OK…unless it keeps you from getting to the bathroom in time.
What compulsions or rituals do you practice?
(*Note) Re: our home flushing policy. Don’t judge. We have a well and it has run dry several times. Unless you have experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of turning a faucet and getting gurgles instead of water, you are not allowed to feel superior or disgusted about our 2-pees-to-each-flush-when-there-are-no-strangers-in-the-house rule.