Tech Life So nothing can eat my shoes

The Quirkbook

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.

101 Responses

  1. I’m sure I have my compulsive habits – I line my terminal windows up just .. so .. on my desktop.

    But the habit that rang through my memory was something I used to do on the rifle range, in a prior life when I was in the Marines.

    The range is important – the way that annual reviews are. Part of a promotion score is based on your range score – plus if you do really bad you have to wear a seriously dorky qualification badge so everyone knows what a bad shot you are.

    And funny – I can’t quite capture what it was. The exact position of the blocks holding my rounds? Perhaps it was where I put my pen or the way I recorded the shots and windage. I can almost feel what it was …

    I am certain that if you handed me an M16 and fifty rounds and the range OIC called ‘Targets!’ and up come the target carriage .. I’d have it right there, ready to use.

  2. Gregg 16 years ago

    I always, always pat my hand on the exterior of the airplane just to the right of the entry door as I board the plane. It prevents crashes and has thus far been 100% effective.

  3. sandrift 16 years ago

    Thanks for compiling and posting these. I’m indescribably pleased to know I’m not the only one.

    But what happened to the best one of all, about flying on the right side of the plane, “where it’s safe”?

  4. When drinking a can of beer I turn the tab to 90 degrees. It started so I could pick mine out, but even if I’m the only one drinking I still do it. Don’t hate me for it. I’m a human being too.

  5. @fregus I do the same thing whenever drinking a canned beverage… I’m not sure why I do it though.

  6. @sandrift – fixed.

    I also have entrance criteria for planes. I tap three times on the right side of the door as I board.

  7. It was recently pointed out to me that, in the kitchen, I smell *everything* before it goes into my mouth or into a dish. Even things that were just bought fresh, or things that I smelled just an hour ago for another purpose.

    I (apparently) have a keen sense of smell, and zero tolerance for mold, but I still smell things that can’t really go bad, like honey or crackers.

    I have a lot of the other ones mentioned here (lining things up, walking to match tiles or sidewalk slabs) but only sometimes, usually if I’m walking slower than I normally would ’cause I’m with other people, etc.

  8. It’s really funny reading some of those and realizing that other people do WEIRD THING X too!

  9. When taking stairs, I always have to hit the top step with the ‘positive’ foot (usually right, but changeable). If I miscalculate at the bottom, I’ll skip a step to ensure this happens.

  10. Maximilian 16 years ago

    I have to taste milk very cautiously before I pour it into my coffee, even if I know it’s fresh.

    Whenever I go from one place to another (like, to the bathroom) I have to check if I have my mobile, my keys and my wallet where they are supposed to be. I probably do that about 50 times a day.

    When I’m in an interactive Oracle SQL session and want to SELECT from a table I have to DESC it before. Just in case.

    And of course, one cup of coffee in the morning. No excuses.

  11. sapporo 16 years ago
    • I mark my beer bottle as mine with 2 scratches
    • I grab my beer bottle with its back towards me – same holds for coffee cup sleeves
    • Grammar and punktuation must be correct for everything I write, even when texting. No lolspeak for me, thank you.
    • My cell phone sits in my left front pocket, keys in right front pocket, wallet in the right back pocket. Nothing important is ever carried in a jacket pocket. This makes it very easy to constantly check whether everything is in place.
  12. Steven Hoy 16 years ago

    I have spent years and incredible effort identifying and eradicating these habits. It’s an ongoing effort – new quirks replace old quirks like water filling a lagoon. I now realise that it is itself, a quirk. Rejoice.

  13. So. Awesomely. Cool. Please do expand the list.

  14. So many of these are familiar. Also…

    The search box in my browser must be kept clean.

    If I spend more than a few minutes standing on a tile floor, I’ll start moving around in a knight’s pattern (L-shape).

    I used to arrange items on my desk with a certain symmetry known only to me, but I’ve lost that one.

  15. Vivid Hallucinations 16 years ago

    I have a certain order in which I have to do things in the morning, otherwise the day will be wasted, and I will not be productive.

    Things that go in my pockets can only be put in, in an arbitrary order, and they have to come out the same way.

    I also like my light switches to all line up. Up if they are on, down if they are off. It drives me crazy when more than one switch controls a circuit and one of them HAS to stay up for the light to stay off.

  16. Jared 16 years ago

    i enjoyed this tweet quite a bit. it’s somehow comforting to know there are other people that have the same weird quirks as you.

  17. If I’m in a bathroom or any room with square tiled floors, I make mental images using the blocks as pixels. I usually end up reading the alphabet and counting numbers. Sometimes I make pinwheels and set them spinning.

    I try to evenly distribute the weight of what is in my front pants pockets.

    Anything else I do, I’m not conscious of.

  18. Let’s put @ckolderup and @KuraFire in a car together and watch the fireworks.

    As for my list:


    @borkware (but that’s just good user interface)

    @decafbad (ditto)


    @jaredg (except I do it with the little @individual serving packets)

    @jtradke (left ear)

    @lfmoliveira (I resist doing this to people’s phone, they get wierded out by it)

    @melle (I won’t close/fix them, but I’ll feel “off”)


    @ryanmears (I keep my standard windows same place and size, just makes it easier to find, this is not a neurosis — do you hear me world? NOT A NEUROSIS!)


    @tjeremy (you, me and @epochblue)

    Well, only 13 out of 46. I seemed like much more than that as I was reading it.

  19. Part of me wonders if the Twitter user names are alphabetized as a result of the tool you used to aggregate the responses or whether they are alphabetized because you simply had to do so.

  20. Does anyone remember the Night Visions (like Outer Limits) episode, I think it was called “Patterns”?

    They bring a guy (played by Malcolm McDowell, I think) into a psychiatrist’s office. He has a whole bunch of various nervous ticks — tapping out rhythms, playing with the zippers on his clothes, twiddling his fingers in certain patterns, etc. He believes that he has an agreement with God that for each of these various twitches, something horrible *won’t* happen. One of them keeps the planes in the sky, another keeps it from raining fish, another keeps people’s cars from turning over onto their roofs.

    When Malcolm refuses to stop his habits, he’s eventually medicated and straight jacketed and says to his doctor that the agreement is *his* now. The doctor goes back to his desk, and before long, it starts raining fish, every car in the parking lot is on its roof, and he gets a frantic cell phone call from his wife screaming about the plane that she’s on going down.

    He starts up the various habits himself, and everything’s okay again. His wife calls back and says it was just a little turbulence, but he still keeps tapping and twitching away…

    Yeah, I’ve got the same border-line OCD as everyone else here. More as a tool to keep my scatterbrain in order than any kind of superstition, though. Shoes, keys, wallet, etc., all put in exactly the same place every day, receipts must be folded *just* so before going into the wallet. I do get irrationally bent out of shape if any of my careful ordered-ness is messed with, though…

  21. Voidious 16 years ago

    Great post. =) I have far too many to recount in a blog post comment, but here’s a couple…

    My most recent quirk: I have to understand every word spoken when watching a recorded show (mainly TV shows on DVD or DVR). If I can’t make out even one word, I rewind.

    Long standing quirk: I count syllables, sometimes using my jaw/teeth (closed = odd, open = even), and I look for patterns to make sentences / phrases symmetrical re: syllables.

  22. I microwave food for times not multiples of 5.

    It started out as a “motion efficiency” thing. :33 instead of :30, :55 instead of 1:00, :44 instead of :45…but now it’s :42 or 1:01 or :17 and I have no idea why.

  23. WOW .. I am glad I am not the only one!

    I have to sleep with pillows over my head so that insects can’t crawl into my nose and ears. Recently got confirmation that this could actually happen, while reading a CNN story about a kid who had a couple of spiders living in his ear.

    When I am in the shower I count down from 100 and I have to be done by the time I hit zero.

  24. Bryan Dyck 16 years ago


    Don’t feel bad; I’ve been doing exactly the same thing since I was a small child. Mind you, there are few things in the world that are as awesome as the smell of freshly-baked bread (or freshly-brewed coffee)! Oddly enough, my sister has a similar habit…

  25. Niall 16 years ago

    This post is comforting 🙂

    I get obsessive about locks. If I’m not absolutely completely certain that I’ve locked my car/house/whatever I have to go back and make certain. This has resulted in more delays (and at least one >30 minute trip) than I care to recall.

  26. When choosing CMYK colors in Illustrator/Photoshop/InDesign, I prefer to choose increments of 5%; i.e. C=75, M=45, Y=0, K=15 – percentages like 22%, 87% etc. feel weird to me. And forget those percentages that convert into decimal spaces – no way!

  27. Rui Guerreiro 16 years ago

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read this year, and apart from “The Nerd Handbook”, which I often quote, will be one of my top references to let people know me a bit closer without the need to explain it by myself.

    Since I match about 95% of those above mentioned “habbits”, here’s a couple that I do everyday and haven’t been mentioned:

    When writing on the computer, if I type something wrong, most of the time I need to go back and delete, not only the typo, but also the previous word, or words: one word if it has 3 or more letters, more than one word if the previous ones happen to be only two or one letters. Beat this!

    And also in the computer world: my mouse arrow is never left hanging, either in the middle, or touching any of the four sides of the screen, it has to linger somewhere else.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it was a great laugh, and made me feel like I’m not alone. Great article.

    Rui Guerreiro (Portugal)

  28. “I have to understand every word spoken when watching a recorded show (mainly TV shows on DVD or DVR). If I can’t make out even one word, I rewind.”

    I drive my wife absolutely crazy doing this. It’s gotten to the point I’ll leave the closed captioning turned on.

  29. Oh yeah, and of course all my bills are “in order” in my wallet. It just makes more sense that way, don’tchya know.

  30. Wow, it always feels pretty good to know there are other people out there like me. Sometimes I think I’m the only one.

    I think my three biggest are:

    1) organizing/stacking things

    2) never touch the doorknob on bathroom doors

    3) all M&Ms must be have the same number per color. Once they’re all even (say, 4 of each color) then I either eat all of one color or I eat one of each color at the same time

  31. steph 16 years ago

    The anxiety, depression, obsession list caught me off guard. The first two yes, the third not so much. I suspect I’m obsessive about not becoming obsessive. I get a very uncomfortable feeling if I’m not wearing a seatbelt in the car, and I always buckle up, but that’s self-preservation.

  32. Thomas G. Mayfield 16 years ago

    I started reading through this and thought, “These are my people.” Up until now, the only people I’ve seen with quirks similar to mine were actors in movies.

    I’ve slowly been able to drop many of my quirks or move them toward more unobtrusive habits that nobody notices (same quirk, less obvious). The one that’s stuck with me since I was just a wee tot is skipping stairs. I always skip stairs, and I get frustrated if I don’t land on the top step–I have to memorize whether a set of stairs is odd or even (generally by counting and remembering the count). One of my favorite memories is visiting the Utah State campus when deciding on a university. Every set of stairs on the campus that I could find (except for every other set in University Inn) was even, and I got to stop worrying about it for a week.

  33. Sibylle 16 years ago

    I like my windows and tabs arranged in a certain order, from left to right: google calendar, then Mint, then – whatever else. My bookmarks are arranged in such a way that in order to get to the google calendar bookmark (the first one I open after starting IE), I go down five, one over, down five, enter, all in a rhythmic pattern.

    I work from left to right: unfinished stuff/papers on the left, finished on the right. (That’s actually a feng-shui thing.)

    I am wearing my engagement ring on the “wrong” hand because wearing it on the other hand just feels wrong – not for any philosophical reason but – like nails on the blackboard.

    Used to do that stair thing, too, multiples of two for me, please; and my left foot had to be the dominant one.

    For email, I always fill in the “to” line last.

    I am obsessed with finding images in patterned floors (especially in restrooms) or wallpaper.

  34. mclark 16 years ago

    When walking on the sidewalk, if I step on a crack or a crease in the concrete with one foot, I have to do the same with my other foot, going so far as to matching up where on my foot I encountered the crack. I have to do this within a few steps, so I occasionally take an extra long or an extra short step if my normal stride won’t result in the desired effect.

  35. Matt` 16 years ago

    So many familiar things…

    The contents of my pockets are arranged just right (mobile + spare change in front left pocket, keys + USB memory stick in right front, paper money + train pass + student card in the back, I forget which way around but it doesn’t change)

    Browser search bar and find bar are kept clean, and the search bar is set back to the default of Google at the same time.

    If I start fidgeting with one finger (rub it, scrape under the nail etc.) I have to do the same to all my other fingers, or at least the other fingers on that hand… or the corresponding finger on the other hand.

    Volume on my media player goes in multiples of 12.5% (the keyboard shortcut adds that amount per press)

    I try not to do this, but still do occasionally – while walking I’ll be watching how many cracks/lines/spaces between paving slabs I step over, and trying to make it an even number as much of the time as possible (thinking in terms of a switch – off, on, off, on etc). Including making wiggling little detours across a pavement to go over an extra line.

    Having switches in the proper positions for their off/on status bugs me.

    On the Othello set, the 2-sided tiles have to point the same way in the rack so that they alternate black and white stripes

    My mouse cursor has to be kept somewhere on the active window, although that’s because of a tweaked setting that makes the “active” status follow the cursor… but still, can’t be hovering over anything clickable, preferable over some white space.

  36. I will zone in on a microwave with an LCD display that hasn’t been cleared, regardless of what I’m doing or whether I catch it in my peripheral. Then I will stop whatever I’m doing to clear it so the time is showing again. People tease me about it because I seem to have radar for it.

  37. Re: cracks in pavement…

    Seeing patterns in their junctions and trying to pass them just-so gets a lot more hectic when you’re on a bike. Maybe I’m helping preserve the bearings by winding paths of least resistance, but it just doesn’t feel like 100% rational when I catch myself!

    Glad to hear others like to see patterns and images whenever a grid appears in their environment. Right angles are so hard wired into the human mind there’s something positively *inevitable* about bitmaps!

    The “Knight’s move” pattern of movement is also a relief to hear. Ever since my aunt taught me chess there seemed to be something so right about imposing that pattern on objects in real life … was it all because of the knight’s freedom or just the geometry? Bishops and Castles never had it!

  38. You play Ice Hockey? In California?

    (Just kidding. I play in San Jose.)

    I have to smell the first bite of any food I eat before I eat it.

  39. Mine? Keys + coins goes in the left pocket… Cellphone + wallet goes in the right…

    I cant leave my home otherwise. I check aaaaaaall the time , like million times a day, without actually putting my hands in the pocekts…

    Its so OCD for me, that sometimes i take out my cellphone to check a number (with my right hand), pass the phone to my left hand… and when my right hand goes down and i dont feel the phone in my pocket i start to panic… then i remember i have it on my other hand… *blushes*

    Also, whenever i have to sign something, i “sign” on the air one time (a few cm’s above the paper) before actually signing… like a practice run to make sure the space privided for signing is enough, or if i have to “scale” my signature…

  40. @EROSAN: I’ve developed this same foible – Phone must be in front left pants pocket, wallet in left breast pocket of jacket, keys in right pocket (pants or jacket okay).

    I started doing this deliberately, otherwise I lose stuff.

    But now, when I have my phone/wallet out, and I pat myself down, I panic…and then remember where it is:)

  41. Ambrose 16 years ago

    Don’t the people obsessing over the order of your tabs know that they can be dragged into any order you want? Since Firefox 2 anyway.

  42. jack Pinette 16 years ago

    I love the stuff about repeating patterns on sidewalks and segmented flooring. I do that too, but I’ll one-up you.

    When I was a kid I had to twitch in rhythm whenever I took a ride in the car. The sequence would involve each foot individually (basically curling the toes hard and then uncurling/extending upward just as hard) and then each leg individually (clenching/unclenching the thigh). So left foot – right foot – left leg – right leg would be a typical “rightward” pattern; it would be followed by the mirror, “leftward” pattern of right foot – left foot – right leg – left leg.

    This would have to sync up, either directly or in mirror fashion, with a similar sequence taking place in my mouth; clenching teeth at the right or left canines, or the right or left molars.

    The sequence would need to reverse when the car passed a “barrier” (like a lamppost or telephone pole) or a “gap” (such as a driveway or connecting road).

    I thought I had left all that behind me as an adult, but I recently quit smoking and it all came back immediately.

  43. Thomas G. Mayfield 16 years ago

    @Jack, I quit smoking a couple months ago and suddenly had some of my quirks come back at me that I thought I’d grown out of nearly a decade ago.

    I did some cursory research and found that one of the causes of social anxiety (also far more present now) and OCD is a lack of serotonin. Nicotine increases serotonin levels.

  44. nanio 16 years ago

    I highlight and un-highlight text in my browser window constantly as I read, seeking blocks of patterns in the ending lengths of lines. I actively dislike sites where I can’t highlight for whatever reason.

    The NYTimes constantly pops up those stupid definition boxes due to this behavior. But it’s a small price to pay.

  45. A. Peon 16 years ago

    @Zachary Bedell: That “Night Visions” episode is certainly rooted in a story by Alfred Bester, who did a lot of screenwriting himself. I have it around here somewhere, but don’t know the title off the top of my head.

    Might as well throw in some of my odd habits:

    If a beverage requires a spoon or stirrer, I tend to leave it in. I have a whole plethora of reasons for it:

    * Something to rest my thumb against;

    * Cup marker;

    * Expedience (no need to put a drippy spoon down somewhere; ready for use when refill requires stirring)

    The persistence in the Firefox search box bugs me too, and so I never use it. I probably like stranger porn than you do, though.

    Guess I’ll also second the ‘microwave display’ quirk, mostly only if it’s misinterpretable as a time, mostly because if I don’t clear it there are good odds someone will walk in and say “It’s 2:30 already?”

    But for really annoying quirks:

    I can’t look people in the eye and talk (or more exactly, think) at the same time. This is a combination of rarely having to (if you do most of your talking in the car or on the phone..) and it being required for every minor punishment growing up (snaggle-toothed elementary school guidance counselor with lazy eye: “Look me in the eye…”). It certainly makes people think I’m fucked up in some much more major way than I am. I don’t have Asperger’s or trouble reading faces or anything, but if I need to visualize something or apply any reasoning, I’ll freeze up because *you’re staring right at me* or *you’re looking over there and that makes me think I should look over there and you wanted to know what about completely redesigning what again?*

    Save the forced eye contact for when we’re making out or some other time my autonomous responses are supposed to trump reasoning, people. I can read your reaction without staring straight at your eyeballs and I’m assuming you’ll also need to think before you respond.

    Finally, smoking hammers you with dopamine much more readily than with serotonin, and that’s inherently “satisfying.” I don’t think that there’s a new epidemic of social anxiety as much as improved communication making it more obvious, and the ability of both hypersocial people to congregate and antisocial people to isolate having been enhanced by technology and services.

  46. I must quit all apps on my Mac before leaving the studio for the day. It is essential. Why? No idea.

  47. Ugh, reading this entry was like reading a checklist.

  48. – Terminal windows are 80×24 for general use, 120 x 20 for tailing logs, 120×24 for mysql.

    – Will relabel individual screens so tasks are together.

    – Code trimmed to 78 chars (thus allowing commenting out code to stay w/in 80)

    – Can hardly ever take just one photo of a subject. At slow shutter speeds, two or three, hopefully one’s sharp. Otherwise, I bracket.

    – Tuna nigiri is always last.

    – Tap the outside skin of the plane upon entry.

  49. I once had a tire blow out on a highway as I went over one of those raised-bump reflector things associated with painted lane boundaries.

    So, for years now, lane-change maneuvers on high ways have been executed with a tenacious avoidance of going over those things. I’ve gotten quite good at it. It’s actually kind of hard for me to change lanes now and deliberately hit one, although occasionally their placement at very short intervals will trip me up.

    I don’t know that I recommend adopting this quirk, since at high speeds it can lead to more aggressive lane changes – although I think they are more eccentrically timed and phased than they are radical.

    But I just can’t help it. I cannot allow myself to drive over those man-made bumps if I can help it. If it happens anyway, I get very irritated.

  50. Grant 16 years ago

    They were all mildly amusing until I got to the highlighting words in the browser quirk. NYTimes drives me crazy.

  51. Sue D Nimh 16 years ago

    Since high school, and a friend who also liked StarTrek, the M&M’s have always had Star Trek crew members names. The greens, being Spock, are eaten last. They changed out the light brown for blue ones years ago, and ever since then, the Smurfs (blue ones) get eaten first, because they contaminate the package.

    And check the keys are in the same spot in my purse or in my backpack before I close the car door or the house door–only because I’ve locked myself out several times–self-protection, but still compulsive….

  52. I always eat the smaller half of a sandwich first. That way when you think you only have half left you actually have a little more. The best part is that one day my daughter (8 or 9 at the time) asked me which half of her sandwich was bigger. I asked why and she said, “so I can eat the small one first.” She’s screwed.

  53. Dster 16 years ago

    In high school, If I would brush up against someone or if someone would touch me I would wipe it off with my hand and then apply it to my shoe. People thought I was crazy including myself.

  54. @JimDoran

    When I drive, I MUST tap out the solid and dotted lines on the road against the steering wheel. I press my right pinky down for the far left margin line, and my left pinky for the left line. The other fingers and thumbs track all the other road markings. The more lanes, the better.

    I’ve been doing this since before I could drive (but not on the wheel).

  55. There needs to be a controlled balance to these habits. They can generate a feeling of comfort and well being but become liabilities when they must be done.

    I know because I have them to…

    Left shoe on first and when wearing gloves left glove on first.

  56. Hey melle, take a look at Taskbar Shuffle. It saves me lots of time restarting apps 🙂

  57. @Tim – The very kind Mr. Mayfield (above) hunted me down last week to direct me to precisely that app. Now I can relax at work, anyway. 🙂 Thanks for the heads up.

  58. @Nathan L. Walls: You should not worry about your “tuna nigiri goes last” quirk. You’ve been doing it the right way. Tuna should go last.

    Since the more fatty the fish, the more taste, you should always start with the ones with less fatty acids and then move to the ones which are more fatty… the darker the meat, the more fat the fish has. So start with… i dunno… bass or something which is white, then move to darker meats, like salmon… tuna is usually the one with more flavor on the plate, so it should be eaten at the end.

  59. I like the volume to increment by 2s. My husband by 5s. Once we had a TV where volume value 20 was not too loud or too soft. Then we could stop stealing the remote to fix the volume. On the tv in our bedroom, I try to be happy with a prime or square. (I find I like 9 better than 8 for some reason on that tv. I even remind myself that 8 is even and a cube, but I’m drawn to 9. But if my husband is in the room, it has to be 10. 9 makes him extra irritable.)

    If I scratch my left side, I have to scratch the same part of my right side with the same intensity and duration, or risk feeling uneven.

    If I’m waiting for something, I have to count. I counted my way through school, and currently count my way through putting the kids to sleep at night. I wish I had a kindle in my brain so I could read instead.

    I do all of this less than I did when I was younger. (Thankfully, or the whole right-side, left-side lopsided thing would have made me *nuts* when I was nursing my kids.)

  60. vaexizm 16 years ago

    I had one of the following reactions to reading each of these:

    1) “Wow, that guy’s nuts.”

    2) “That’s not a quirk, it’s a perfectly rational thing to do.”

    3) “NO!!! You’re doing it the wrong way!”

    I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m sure it can’t be good.

  61. -I have a tiny bladder, or at least that’s what I tell myself is the reason that I have to pee constantly. This embarrasses me to no end. I will sit and hold it until it’s painful just to avoid someone thinking that I have some sort of bladder control problem. I’m so ashamed of this that I even do it at home alone. If I’m out at a store or mall, if I have to go twice in the time that I’m there, I will seek out a different restroom, or failing that will leave the store entirely and go to another mall/store to finish my shopping and urinate.

  62. Murphy 16 years ago

    I’m not on twitter (*gasp*!) but I had to write in.

    First off, I had a slightly more complicated routine when I played hockey as well, and it led to a 19-3 season once, undefeated once I started the routine. 🙂

    Beyond that, every single motion I make has to be articulated, balanced and calculated based on my position and body structure, and maximized for efficiency. Whether I’m buttering my toast or getting out of my car. It’s best described as mechanically performing a small dance, but I like it.

    Unfortunately, this leads me to look incredibly clumsy if this is flubbed, or I have one more thing to grab than usual. But more often than not, I try to be as graceful as possible.

    One of the cuter quirks I have, according to my wife, is that I *must* walk on the outside of the sidewalk. I got this from my Grandma, who grew up in England in the 30’s. She said that men would walk on the outside so that when people threw their *ahem* buckets out the window, the men would get hit, and not the women. After she told me the story, I couldn’t do anything but be a gentleman.

    Other than that, I liked watching Monk because I could relate with the guy.

  63. Ben Wright 16 years ago

    Pushing down pop-up sprinkler heads that did not automatically go down after watering. I can’t seem to go on a walk through the neighborhood without seeing at least 5!

  64. Brian 16 years ago

    I had forgotten a lot of these until I read this article.

    I feel a compulsive urge to straighten a painting or photograph that is the smallest amount crooked and will go to great lengths to do so–this got me into a lot of trouble once in a museum. The hangers have to be placed on the rod so that the open part of the hanger is facing the inside of the closet, and all shirts must be hanging so that the fronts of the shirts are facing my left as I stand in front of the closet. I have to brush my teeth an even number of times on both sides, counting while I do so.

  65. “The hangers have to be placed on the rod so that the open part of the hanger is facing the inside of the closet, and all shirts must be hanging so that the fronts of the shirts are facing my left as I stand in front of the closet.”

    Wow, I do the exact same thing. I didn’t even think anything of it until you mentioned it.

  66. Andrew 16 years ago

    AHHHHGHGHGHGHHH, must rollback brain, must delete all knowledge of these ridiculous yet seductive behaviors.

  67. @D.J. Capelis — “Ugh, reading this entry was like reading a checklist.”

    That’s the comment where I had to choke back the laughter and start wiping the tears from my cheeks. And they just kept getting better.

    @Brad … I feel for your daughter, I really do.

    @Silvermine, I’m glad I never had to nurse. Because yes, that would have driven me insane.

    @vaexizm — “That’s not a quirk, it’s a perfectly rational thing to do.” Yup.

    — “NO!!! You’re doing it the wrong way!” That too.

    — I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m sure it can’t be good.

    I try not to think about that.

  68. I keep all my paper money facing the same way, largest on the inside, newest first (so they’re spent last). Paper money in right pocket, change and nail clippers in the left pocket. Always. Wallet back left, keys back right pocket.

    I, too, have been stricken with “where IS my cellphone???” while patting my pocket, yet holding it in the other hand. Nice to see I’m not the only one…

    And I ALWAYS have to lock my car myself, even if I didn’t drive. Makes my wife nuts.

  69. Keys in the back? Doesn’t that hurt when you sit on them? (In other words, “NO!!! You’re doing it the wrong way!”)

  70. Crapflinger 16 years ago

    I have to separate any candy or snack food that’s mixed. i.e. that 12lb bag of Jelly belly jelly beans MUST be segregated by flavor, then i eat each individual flavor in order from the ones i like the least (damned buttered popcorn) to the ones i like the best (mmmmm pear). same thing with skittles (eat the yellows first up to the purples) or M&Ms (the brown ones taste the best). i’ve even been known to do it with chex mix when left to my own devices (just throw the melba toast things in the trash)

  71. Crapflinger 16 years ago

    “If I’m in a bathroom or any room with square tiled floors, I make mental images using the blocks as pixels. I usually end up reading the alphabet and counting numbers. Sometimes I make pinwheels and set them spinning.”

    i’ve done this since i was a child…the weirdest thing is that i can make the most intricate patterns from the smallest tiles on a mosaic wall or the dots in the acoustic tiles on the ceiling…but i can’t for the life of me get one of those “magic eye” posters to work without getting nauseous

  72. Whenever I clip my nails, I wonder if the clippings will be retrieved for DNA sampling should I disappear without a trace. (Or with a small trace, hence the need to match DNA from my nail clippings.)

  73. Miss Jane 16 years ago

    Not only do I have some of these, I have acquired some new ones from this article…

    @rob & @bryan dyck – definitely food smelling, but also paper, books, newsletters etc; pretty much any paper-based material. This is from primary school when we got some really funky fumes off old copying technologies. This gets funny looks if you are in a bookstore or someone has given you a new book and the first thing you do is smell it.

    My main one is checking and cleaning the exterior (especially the top) of detergent bottles and other cleaning products. I actually know how I acquired this: a Seinfeld episode. It pointed out a tiny detail of the world which I have not been able to ignore since. If I am washing dishes at someone else’s house I always start by washing their detergent bottle. It is very satisfying to find and clean a particularly gunky one.

  74. Miss Jane, please come to my house. But instead of the detergent bottle, please check out the toothpaste tube. (In order to protect my wife’s reputation, I will blame the condition of that tube on the kids.)

  75. To Melle and others with OCD regarding required taskbar order, I’d recommend Taskbar Shuffle. You can just drag and drop the programs in the order you’d want them.

    You can also drag the tabs around in Firefox to get them in the order you want.

  76. outsider 16 years ago

    An old marching band habit I never got rid of – I have to start walking with my left foot, and if my left foot isn’t lining up on odd numbers when I count my steps, I do an odd step to line it back up.

  77. Books cannot ever be left open tepee’d on their spine. Gar. Pages in non-fiction books, non-entertainment related books can be dog-eared for reference, but the dog-ear cannot have a depth of more than 1 cm. Fiction books or nonfiction that is not for entertainment cannot be dog-eared, under penalty of death.

  78. Wisaakah 16 years ago

    @ Outsider,

    I also have to start with my left foot, and if listening to music a step on the left absolutely must line up with the accented beat. I wish I could blame it on marching band, but the truth is, I had this rule for as long as I can remember. Maybe that’s why I liked marching band so much?

  79. Not sure what’s scarier – how many people share my quirks, or how many of us think we are the only ones afflicted. I never imagined there’d be people (more than one!) who, like me, must set their volume to an even number.

    Let me add 3 that I didn’t read so far:

    I can’t dry just one hand. If only one hand is wet, I first have to rub them together to spread the moisture evenly. This isn’t about using a towel with dry hands, I can dry my kid’s hands just fine. It only kicks in if there is an uneven wetness distribution.

    When I put away dishes, things can’t touch unless they are meant to. If a glass inadvertently touches another, I start feeling an actual itch: to make it go away, I have to make the glass touch every other glass and cabinet walls in the vicinity, then pull it away so it’s equidistant from every nearby object. If I get it wrong, I must repeat.

    When I go out to eat and pay by credit card, I choose a tip amount that turns the total into a palindrome. I like to tell myself it’s so I can tell if I have fraudulent charges on my bank statement, but I haven’t checked a statement in years. If anyone out there has this last one, please chime in and let me know I’m not alone…

  80. Crapflinger 16 years ago

    “When I go out to eat and pay by credit card, I choose a tip amount that turns the total into a palindrome. I like to tell myself it’s so I can tell if I have fraudulent charges on my bank statement, but I haven’t checked a statement in years. If anyone out there has this last one, please chime in and let me know I’m not alone…”

    I don’t…but i might now…that sounds like fun…and could actually help you track stuff you buy

  81. Fantastic entry and contributions. There’s almost a sense of tribe. As for me, I have some quirky habits too.

    I have this belief that objects can charge positively or negatively, and when something charges negatively, it has to be left alone for a while to regain its neutrality, so to speak. This happens mostly with things I carry with me. I’ll explain with an example.

    If I just had a very bad day, and I was wearing a certain wristwatch, or a shirt I had put on for the occasion, I won’t be wearing that watch or shirt for at least two weeks. On the contrary, I’ll wear as frequently as possible those articles of clothing or accessories I had on/with me on a very good day, or on some occasion that turned out to be particularly positive or successful. Something inside me tells me that certain combinations of objects can create patterns of various degrees of compatibility with the reality and people surrounding me.

    Hmmm, it’s hard to explain, really, and re-reading my explanation I guess it makes me a complete lunatic. Heh.

    More “common” quirks include:

    – Must sleep tuned on my right side. It’s either that or insomnia.

    – Must put my left shoe on first.

    – Must always have a black pen with me. If I take a blue one by mistake in the morning, I have to buy a black one.

    – My café au lait must be 3 parts coffee, 1 part milk. It’s not negotiable.

    – My email clients (Apple Mail and Mailsmith) are set to check mail manually, to avoid bad news.

    – I have to watch a movie without interruptions of any sort.

    – I never use acronyms or abbreviations when texting someone.

    – I never leave my flat on Friday 17th.

    Ok, that’s enough 🙂



  82. HogSnot 16 years ago

    1. It feels weird to put on a sock and a shoe, then a sock and a shoe. I like to put on both socks, then both shoes.

    2. When I was a kid, my family found it amusing that I organized the clothes in my closet by color (ROYGBV, brown, black, white). Okay, I still do this.

    3. I *cannot* stand open cupboards or lights/electronics on in empty rooms. I’m having an especially hard time at the health club when I see the cardio TVs left on (must…turn…off…all..unwatched…televisions…)

  83. Sigh. I’m so relieved to read that other people have quirks too.

    The double checking locked doors, etc. has caused me the most effort. Sometimes I have been halfway to work and had to turn around because I convinced myself that I didn’t lock the door or close the garage door. At least once, I really hadn’t. That just fueled the checking quirk.

  84. -I have to lie on my left side to sleep. Can’t do it on my back or right hand side.

    -Scratch one side, scratch the other

    -Mobile, wallet and memory stick ALWAYS has to be in my bag, even if i’m just going to the shop

  85. Heather 16 years ago


    I love the list!

    I am/do over half the things on your list.

    It makes me smile… and not feel so alone!


  86. gregg- I also do that with the plane door but i also quickly kiss my hand first and rub a smooch on plane. so dumb but true!

  87. Jester2 16 years ago

    I have two habits my fiance cannot stand, and has alerted me repeatedly in dismay:

    1. When I eat any finger food (french fries, chips, chicken fingers), I eat it so that there’s a little piece left between my fingers. I do this so I can savor the flavor one last time of that particular piece.

    2. When I eat, i wave the utensil around before I eat it. I just like seeing the food move around before I enjoy it.

  88. Jester2 16 years ago

    I have two habits my fiance cannot stand, and alerts me repeatedly in dismay:

    1. When I eat any finger food (french fries, chips, chicken fingers), I eat it so that there’s a little piece left between my fingers. I do this so I can savor the flavor one last time of that particular piece.

    2. When I eat, i wave the utensil around before I eat it. I just like seeing the food move around before I enjoy it.

  89. nice list 🙂 this definitely makes me feel better knowing i am not alone.

    one of the weirdest quirks i have is that all the applications running on my computer have to be opened in a certain order — 1) chat client 2) music player 3) mail client 4) firefox 5) work folders. if one of these windows gets closed, i close everything else and start all over again.

    another weird one — i cannot sleep unless my pillows are arranged in a particular way. i dont know why.

  90. Ms "Pants Friend" Popplewell 16 years ago

    So this is my first ever blog comment….I know it sounds unusual, but I’ve been avoiding the whole T’internet world for a while now (my own personal quirk!).

    Other than that, I have this really unforgivable quirk of stupidly forgetting my best friend is coming to visit me (after travelling down the horrible picallilly line) only a few minutes after buying her a lovely dinner of chicken bones (her fave) dinner and cadbury’s buttons dessert!

    I just don’t know what is wrong with me.

    I hope that she’ll forgive me for being Ms “Pants Friend” Popplewell and find it in her heart to remember all of the lovely things I do for her normally….when I haven’t lost my mind!


  91. A bit late, but I’ll chime in:

    • I sort any candies by color and eat them in sets, saving orange and blue for last.
    • I also sort my fries and eat them in descending size order.
    • I click the lock button on my key fob twice to lock my car, and the end button on my cell phone to end calls.
    • I can’t sleep till I close my closet door. (I guess I read Cujo too many times or something like that.)
    • And the one that gets me the most flack: I CANNOT fall asleep if the sheets or blankets on my bed are wrinkled. I’ll leave the bed unmade during the day, and it doesn’t bother me at all… but I have to straighten the sheets before I climb into bed for the night.

    Thanks for giving me the chance to laugh at myself. I needed it today.

  92. Tanner Smith 16 years ago

    I have a quirk of clenching my mouth if there is a non-driveway like border on the side of the road I am on and releasing it if there is one. No idea why – kills time?

    I find it annoying if someone doesn’t reset the microwave time back to the time after cooking something. I have to close cabinets/drawers if I open them or someone doesn’t.

    My tabs in Firefox have to be in the same order. Digg on the left, webmail, and then anything else goes on the right.

    Trashbin/Recycle Bin must go on the bottom right corner – even if there are multiple monitors.

    Um, I can’t think of anymore.

    This should sorta be like a site, or a twitter bot – I could find it interesting and then it could have a function “find people crazy like you” and stuff. That would rock.

  93. cowsnkids 16 years ago

    I never change my clocks or watches. When daylight savings time happens my clocks/watches stay an hour behind.

  94. Carolyn 16 years ago

    I’m surprised that this one isn’t on the list that I’ve seen, because I know so many people who actually do this also.

    I constantly write out words that I see in the air. So when I’m watching TV, I constantly trace out the brand name of my television and the logos of the stations. I have major issues when I watch CNN because it has this think that traces the logo that I have to pay extra attention to and follow. If this seems weird, but friend will sit type out words that sees.

    Also, all the doors in my room need to be closed when I sleep, and I need to have at least a sheet covering me, even when its really hot out. I think this is left over from the child-like logic that monsters lack the ability to open doors and touch bed covers.

    Also,particularly at metro and train stations, I need to walk on each one of the “special” tiles designated to keeping you from falling off the platform. But just in general unless they’re really small or large I need to walk on one of each tile.

    That’s all that I can think of right now.

  95. Stacy 16 years ago

    I knew it . . . I am normal – hallelujah!!

    When changing the roll of toilet paper, the roll has to come over the top, not from the bottom. I’ve even been known to change it in other peoples bathrooms.

  96. OMG It’s really comforting knowing I’m not crazy. My Quirks:

    I MUST(!!!) count stairs that I’m climbing in patterns of eight. And rotations of my bike’s pedals.

    In the shower, I have to wash everything twice, otherwise I’m never clean enough… even if I were to scrub ’till I were sore the first time around.

    Tap the dashboard of any car I’m passenger in twice when going through any light that turns yellow.

    Even if I know I locked the door, after getting into bed at night, I MUST get out of bed, check, go to bed, then get out and check a second time.

    I’m noticing a pattern of numbers that I never really thought of before… all even numbers, and I have no choice in the matter. I won’t feel right unless I do it in the prescribed number, but for some reason when it’s left up to personal choice I ALWAYS pick odd numbers like 3, 9, or 27.

  97. GoodDoug 16 years ago

    After reading this again, I think Psychiatrists can save money on expensive lab tests for OCD by handing the subject a packet of M&Ms and seeing what happens.

  98. corioreo 15 years ago

    I need to keep things neat and tidy to the exclusion of everything else. Routinely I go through my possessions just to see what else I no longer need and can finally get rid of. Several months ago I began one cleanout process and ended it with a six-inch pile of paper in the middle of my floor, just waiting for me to haul out to the recycling bin. The problem with this habit is that I eventually run out of things I can get rid of. D:

    Also, things like closing cupboard doors and straightening rugs are BIG. FREAKING. DEAL. All lights that I deem ‘not in use’ are turned off, much to the chagrin of my family (who really do insist that they need the light).

    My bedroom door must be closed at all times when I’m in there working. No exceptions.

  99. I was thinking I had a unique one, until I read that nanio and Grant also highlight text while reading in a browser window. Dang. My wife can’t watch me web surf because the highlighting and un-highlighting are too distracting to her.

    I also sort Jelly Bellies by flavor, but that’s definitely just common sense.

    And I can’t write grammatically or incorrectly-spelled posts, but that’s just my proofreader dad’s genes.

    I also must end comments and blog posts with my name, regardless of whether it’s in the title or not.