It all started with a tweet:
“Making a list of superstitions / foolish consistencies / lightweight OCD behaviors e.g. I always put my RIGHT shoe on first. You?”
This right shoe behavior started during ice hockey. The team was bad… like 0-10 bad. Last game of the season against the best team in the league who slaughtered us in a previous match-up. As I sat in the locker room considering a perfect beat-down of a season, I decided to become zen about situation… deliberate. Rather than stressing about the size of the beating, I considered the small parts of manageable reality sitting immediately in front of me.
“In what order shall I put my gear on? What is practical? What feels right? You know, I like putting my right skate on first. I can’t tell you why, but the order feels important. Right skate, then left.”
We killed them. 9-3. Sure, they started by playing half their game because they were already in the playoffs, but after I scored that hat trick in the first period, they woke up. We slapped them around for another two periods. It was glorious.
I credit the skates. No, I credit the skate application process.
It’s that story that goes through my head each morning as I stare down. I remember deciding to care about how I put things on my feet. It’s a silly superstitious quirk transformed into an unavoidable daily routine and that’s why I twittered it. I wanted to know who else was saddled with these foolish consistencies.
Steven Frank took the time to write me a lengthy mail on my tweet. He mentioned, “For a while I used to semi-believe that if I could tap out a certain rhythm on my desk while the modem was dialing, I’d get through to the BBS instead of a busy signal. Never actually worked in reality.”
I did that, too.
Steven continued, “Anxiety, OCD behaviors, and depression almost always come as a package deal. I’m sure that anyone who reports one has the others. And for some reason, they always seem to affect a lot of folks in tech. I’m not sure which way ’round the causality is, though.”
There’s a risk with giving a clever name to neuro-behaviorial developmental disorders. I wrote the original NADD (“Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder”) article expecting the inevitable comment, “You, sir, are making fun of people with legitimate disabilities. Jerk.”
Mostly those comments never arrived. Readers understood the meaning of NADD was not to belittle those with a disability, but rather to see the clever ways we’ve adapted our perceived deficiencies into distinct abilities.
It is with this thought that I present the following responses to my original tweet. I find them informative, sometimes hilarious, but mostly comforting.
- aquarium I hate to be on the left side when going somewhere
- bobthecow i check my zipper every time i walk out of a bathroom. even if i only went in to wash my hands.
- bonsai 1 cup of coffee in the morning. Always. Even when camping in the middle of nowhere.
- borkware I like light switches to be up when on, and down when off.
- brentsimmons I always sit on the right side of the plane, where it’s safe.
- ckolderup volume levels on TV/stereo/etc must be even or divisible by 5
- decafbad Toilet paper rolls go on with paper rolling OVER the roll, not under. Geez, people.
- dreid I make code fit in 80 columns, I delete trailing whitespace, spaces never tabs.
- dstringf Weird quirk – I drop the last word off sentences a lot, especially if I am nervous.
- elaptics putting my hand in my pocket to check that my keys are still there – even if I have just put them in there
- epochblue M&Ms must be eaten in even numbers. You wouldn’t want one side of your mouth to get jealous while the other eats an M&M, would you?
- ergelo always click my pen open twice before writing, it certainly won’t write as well if i don’t
- gooddoug Also, whenever I get a paper coffee cup sleeve, I _HAVE_ to line up the fold with the join in the paper cup. Always.
- hmfullen I can’t resist stacking things, basically any time I’m waiting for anything.
- isaacschlueter I avoid white cars.
- janl Use the right spoon size for the food (complex); when in doubt, a fork. Shoes off or laces lose when coding or sitting comfortably.
- jaredg I always sort the jelly and jam by flavor when eating at restaurants that put the carrier on the table.
- jexner same here – right shoe first. I also try not to step onto broken parts of pavement.
- jtradke must use phone on right ear. even if right hand is needed elsewhere.
- kissane My closet door must be closed at night so nothing can eat my shoes. (We keep neither dogs nor raccoons.)
- kmcg selected eating utensil must be right weight/heft for the moment. (utensils obviously not a matched set.)
- KuraFire car stereo volume in increments of 5; aligning cutlery in restaurants; aligning stacks of things; OH GOD THE LIST GOES ON.
- lfmoliveira must untangle tire air hoses at gas stations (and phone cords anywhere).
- luomat Realized one of my oddities tonight – I will *often* NOT click on the first result in Google until I’ve checked out some of the others
- maczter I always put my pants on both legs at the same time.
- mdhughes All gadgets/tools must go in pockets in the exact right order before leaving home, come out onto desk when I get to work/back home.
- meeju I can’t sleep if not having a mouthful of water before lay down
- melle Browser tabs and task bars have to have their items in specific order, or else they’ve gotta be closed up and re-started.
- nathansmonk When parking my car, I have to have a corner spot.
- naturallygeeky Always push the walk button at crosswalks 10x. That way it knows I’m in a hurry.
- nebulous If one of my feet stumbles/stutters on the ground while walking, I try to replicate it with my other foot.
- nevenmrgan every device light – MacBook, USB hub, TV, clock – must be covered at night. Ambient light is ok, small lights are NOT
- OcelotPotPie I always set my alarm clock in odd numbers. For example, waking up at 8:00AM is an alarm set to 8:01AM. Or 8:59.
- pburleson I don’t get up unless the clock is on a multiple of 5 ( i.e. 5, 10, 15, 20 )
- popthestack I constantly clear my clipboard by copying a single space. I accidentally pasted sensitive things in IM chats one too many times…
- robertpalmer I always wet the toothbrush before putting toothpaste on it. (We started a book of these where I used to work: “The Quirkbook”)
- ryanmears firefox and textmate windows must always be in the same upper left hand corner of my screen, and be the exact same dimensions.
- rynosoft I never realized it until a friend pointed it out, but I tend to sort my fries when eating fast food.
- sandrift Even after I *know* I’ve put my keys into my bag, I must double-check that they’re there before closing car door or trunk. Total OCD.
- simplepixels Checking my pockets repeatedly to make sure nothing fell out. I once had my pocketknife fall out in a pediatrician’s office…
- spotthehall It’s that 1-2-1, 2-4-2, 1-2-1 algorithm – applied to gaps between the pavement slabs…
- ssanchez I knock on subway / Tube doors to ask them to let me on / off, but only if they are the automatic, not push button to open ones
- studlycaps Whenever I see an open cupboard or drawer, I have to close it. I can’t bring myself to leave the room with it open
- tjeremy I have to chew the same number of things on the left side of my mouth as I do on the right side. Even down to color and #, eg: M&M
- zanshin Stairs have to be counted in groups of four.
- ZooFood The join in the paper coffee cup must align with the drinking hole on the lid. Must turn lights off when leave room, close cupboards.