I have developed a habit of observing and scrutinising my thoughts and actions — in effect, I have made myself a subject of my own study, primarily for amusement and curiosity, but also with a view to self-improvement, as shown in previous posts, such as that one about counting stairs, and my more recent one about sleep. The observations contained herein are quite a non-event, and really affect nothing and no one, but perhaps someone, somewhere, can find some amusement in it too.
I was actually talking with a colleague/friend about our respective propensities toward what some people might call OCD. My friend is known in the workplace as being quite particular about how things are; she even jokes about it herself. People who know both of us probably don’t think I’m quite as bad as she is, but I have realised I’m quite particular in other ways, and, after talking to this friend, even she thinks I’m rather odd.
Before I continue, I must first tell you that I am right-handed. When I was younger, I tried becoming ambidextrous, and succeeded to some extent, but my left-hand-writing is not very neat (although still legible), and both writing and eating with my left hand are rather slow processes. But, anyway, I am right-handed.
Some time ago, I happened to observe that I always put on my right sock before the left, and must have both socks on before putting on my shoes (right shoe first, of course). Although it’s not really something that most people would consciously think about as they do it, I think I’ve always been vaguely aware of this habit of mine. I was particularly aware of it on those rare occasions that, for one reason or another, I happened to put on the left sock first, or to put the sock and shoe on the right foot (of course) before putting anything on the left.
At these times when I strayed from my usual, unwritten protocol, I didn’t always stop what I’m doing, but I’m always aware of how odd it is to have done it that way. However, I will admit that, more than once, I have taken the left sock off, so that I could then put the right sock on first, and then the left. To be fair, if I’m in a hurry, I do just continue as I was, and only think how odd it is (and a lot of the time I am in a hurry).
Having pondered on this for some time, I considered my other clothes donning habits. For pants, yes, the right leg always goes in first. I think I would feel rather uncoordinated trying to do it the other way around. For button-up shirts and jackets and such, the right arm also goes in first. For t-shirts, however, to my surprise, I tend to put the left arm through before the right. My only theory for this is that the right is better able to assist the left if it is not yet in its own sleeve (?)
Amused and intrigued by such observations, I have tried to challenge my low-level OCD. I no longer remove the left sock if I happen to put it on first (although I’m not yet at the stage of intentionally putting the left sock on first), and same with shoes. When I wash socks, I like to hang them up in their pairs, but the other week I decided to hang them higgledy-piggledy, and no sock was adjacent to its pair. This was done partly because I was quite tired, but I was then able to happily declare to my fellow OCD friend that nothing bad happened.
But my obsessive, compulsive behaviour does extend beyond clothing. One thing I’m particularly compelled to check and re-check is locked doors, especially my car’s doors. My car, you see, has key-less entry. This means it’s very easy to lock and unlock the doors without hardly even thinking about it. Consequently, I have, on a small handful of occasions, left my car unlocked in various places. Nothing happened, of course, because I don’t leave anything valuable in my car, and presumably people don’t go snooping around looking for unlocked cars, but it has roused a certain level of concern and paranoia within me.
Unfortunately, I cannot simply pull at the door handle to check it’s locked because my car will think I’m trying to open the door again and helpfully unlock itself; so I either have to peer inside to check, or just pay very particular attention to the locking of the car (which involves pressing a small button on the outside door handle, and listening for the signature beeps). For a long time now, I’ve taken to saying/thinking to myself “the door is locked” as I walk away in order to stop myself from turning back and checking again.
I’ve actually taken to saying this in Persian, and it is one phrase I will probably never forget: dar ghofl ast. Perhaps I could learn it in other languages too…