*Note: By no means am I attempting to trivialize those who truly suffer from OCD. My tendencies are not incapacitating, they are just…twitchy.
I find the need to buy things in even numbers. I really can buy things in odd numbers, I just prefer not to. Sometimes I grab an odd number of items just to make a point. For example, when stocking up on my weekly supply of Wet Wipes, (I go through almost as many as Monk), I’ll blithely toss a handful of packets into my basket and go strolling along…and feel my feet sliding to a stop.
Well, really, seven is such an untidy number. Let’s make it eight. Oh, what the heck, we may as well make in an even ten.
That’s not to say that if a store was running low on an item, like say, bottles of Goo Gone, I would look at the three remaining, panic, and drop my basket and drive twenty miles to another store. I would buy the three, but it would bother me. I know. You’d expect me to buy two in that situation, but you see there are so many sticky labels to peel off of all those plastic storage containers. Why do so few manufacturers have those lovely labels that peel off smoothly? Why must so many of them use the sort that deceive you into thinking they’ll peel off cleanly and then halfway through start shredding into annoyingly triangular pieces? Where do they get this adhesive, anyway? If dentists used this substance instead of cement, no one would ever lose a crown.
Of course, odd numbers do have their place, such as in the case of time, which must be measured in increments of five, (obviously ten is preferable.) In such cases, ending a session on a torture device, (otherwise known as an aerobic machine), with fourteen or sixteen minutes would just be unseemly. Much better to end at fifteen if the flesh was too weak to make it to twenty. However, once one steps away from self-flagellation and proceeds to weight machines, then it’s right back to even numbers again. Nothing is quite so galling as making it to the eleventh repetition and then having the muscles start to quiver and…
Just a little more…push…almost…there…%$#! I can’t make it to twelve. And there’s certainly no way I can write 11.5 in my workout journal. Argh! I knew I should have ended at ten.
For that matter, the moment one walks through the gym doors numbers become an issue. Mathematical contortions are required in the “simple” act of choosing a mini locker to place ones keys and cellphone. In my case, thirteen is the only correct number. True, thirteen is an exasperating number because not only is it odd, it also has no tidy divisor. However, 13 is my birthday and therefore my “lucky” number. Not that my sort of people ever put anything to luck. No, everything requires careful analysis with pro’s and con’s columns or X vs. Y. When comparing options, it’s best to weight items in importance so that one may total up the columns and see that by 18 to 12, the grey pullover shirt is vastly superior to the navy button down. Success is also gained by making careful to-do lists. Often I’ll realize that I’ve already done something useful and will gleefully write it down just so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. But I digress.
Where was I? Oh, right. Lockers. Choosing locker number thirteen isn’t always possible. Occasionally I’m quite affronted to see that someone else has taken my locker.* The only way to remedy this conundrum is of course to use locker 12 or 14, but if hard pressed, 9 is acceptable because 13 has a three in it and 9 is a multiple of three and…Yes. This does actually go through my head every morning and yes, I do realize how completely ridiculous it is.
Another exception to the even numbers rule seems to be when checking things, such as how many times one must press the “lock” button on car keys. Answer: Three. One must push the button twice, walk away, doubt oneself and then push the button once more. I’m not sure why. Thrice is odd, but perhaps even I have to admit that pushing it a fourth time would be a bit excessive. When it comes to checking anything typewritten, the answer is: bare minimum, at least five times. In truth, I don’t actually count the number of times I scour every text, email, letter or essay with fine grit sandpaper until I feel fairly sure that there are no splintery to/too/two mix-ups or incorrect there/their/they’re foibles, misspelt words, poor grammar, missing punctuation or missing capitalization. It’s probably much more than five. Yes, I did say texts. I insist that any text I send adhere to all writing conventions. Never fear, I understand that this is not the standard by which you have chosen to live. If you send me a text with the first person typed ‘i’ somehow I will find it in my heart to forgive you, (and politely reply), but I would never, ever dream of committing the same crime myself. For this reason, even if I loved French fries above all else and/or was starving to death, I would never, ever darken the door to McDonald’s. Ronald McDonald’s creepiness was enough to scare me away but the “i’m lovin’ it” ad campaign, to me, signaled the death of our Mother Tongue. And yes, we’re Americans, so we’d already made great headway in brutally massacring the English language. However, the culture of texting ushered in a whole other realm of linguistic atrocities. Still, why bother to email or call when you can text? What, meet up with the person face-to-face? Exhausting. No, much better to type a two paragraph text and edit it five times (or more) to make sure that I won’t wake up at 3 o’ clock in the morning and suddenly realize that I used “further” when I ought to have used “farther.” ((Shudder))
But wait, there’s more! Buy this micro-OCD unit now for only $19.99 and free of charge we will throw in sample sized germaphobia! Just call 1-800-248-1632. Hurry, folks! This is a limited time offer!
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that I am also a semi-germaphobe. I say “semi” because no true germaphobe would be able to stay in my profession for more than five minutes altogether before having a mental collapse. (Monk would have a panic attack in less than two minutes if he could even see my workplace.) Until I can change to my fantasy career**, I must go through hundreds and hundreds of Wet Wipes. I am most certainly not the sort that takes stock in hand sanitizer. I still cannot fathom why a true purist would find any consolation in this method. Certainly, manufacturers claim that their product kills 99.9% of germs but then you are walking around with germ corpses all over your hands until you can reach the safety of soap and water. And what of the 0.1% surviving? I just know that one of them is rousing the other wounded and battered with the rallying cry, “We shall not admit defeat until we see the suds of doom! Attack!”
Recently, I’ve discovered that I now have to wash my hands before I use the toilet, not only after. Like you, I was once blissfully naïve, but now I cannot escape the thought that I’ve touched many unclean surfaces just on the way to the bathroom and then if I didn’t wash my hands first those evil germs would be all over the no longer hygienic bathroom tissue. Furthermore, one stall bathrooms are to be sought out because then one can also wash one’s hands immediately after flushing and before touching ones trouser buttons or zipper. Do you see what kind of world I live in?
*Some people even have the audacity to take my parking space, but usually that is the consequence of only being early to work by twenty minutes instead of thirty. It’s very unsettling to not arrive at work an hour early but the gym doesn’t open until five. I cringe at the thought of appearing to be such a slacker and feel the need to explain to my boss that he shouldn’t be proud of me because, no, I haven’t really begun to “lighten up” I’ve just rearranged my schedule.
**What’s my dream career? I thought you’d never ask! It’s so obvious that I can’t believe you haven’t already guessed it by now. OF COURSE God really designed me to be one of those personal organizers that swoop into your food pantry and attack it like ravenous pterodactyls, madly ripping away the fat free Ranch dressing you bought three years ago with a 2 for 1 coupon, (upon which you discovered that fat free anything is simply revolting), the cracker (biscuit) box with five semi-crumbled crackers that have been sitting getting stale since some time last Christmas, the instant oatmeal that yes, here I must cover my mouth in horror actually has…well, you know…the gruesome things that find the cereal when they’ve concluded that you are never going to eat it so why should they let it go to waste? After filling several thrilling trash bags, (yes, I did say several—have you looked at your pantry lately?) I would of course proceed to your refrigerator where to my shock/delight I discover an entire shelf of condiments that either have that much left or are beginning to grow fur and/or sinister black spots. There is also the cream that has long since become a solid and orange juice that is now alcoholic. Meanwhile, you are watching me with a mixture of mortification, (you knew it was bad, just not this bad) and growing unease because you’ve never seen me act like this. My eyes are much too dilated and my smile and cries of satisfaction with each item thrown in the trash begin to border on hysterical. But that is because you could never understand how throwing things away is the most exhilarating experience on planet Earth. Forget drugs. Filling garbage bag after garbage bag fills me with such ecstasy that I’m almost pleased that you are such a complete pig. As I haul out the last Hefty you feel a sense of relief, but, my friend, that relief will be quite short-lived.
Because we have only begun! Your kitchen has been merely purified of all that is gross and outdated. We haven’t even touched your spice rack! I pause because logically, they ought to be lined up in alphabetical order, but you just couldn’t do anything methodically, could you? Here we have a teeny tiny container of aniseed (who uses that anyway?) and a gargantuan bottle of cinnamon. I could alphabetize them but then I am faced with the dispiriting sight of tall, short, really short, tall, tall, short, short, really short—you couldn’t even manage a pattern, could you? Yet if I place them by height, (Hmm…ought that to be ascending or descending?) you would then have Parsley cheek to jowl with Garlic Salt. P with G? Never! (By the way, do you really need that much garlic salt? I mean weren’t you just complaining last week about your lack of success in the dating arena? Need I point out that there is at least a correlation if not a cause and effect?)
You hold your breath (not much of a loss, really, see above) filled with anticipation because you think that faced with this impasse, I’ll either implode on the spot or give up and leave you alone. What? And not earn the exorbitant fee I’m charging you? Yes, I said fee. Yes, I know I’m your friend but this is a business, not a charity. Do you want me to continue or leave your spices in this haphazard disaster? No, of course Parsley and Garlic haven’t defeated me (cough, cough), I have the perfect solution: You must now go out and buy those little stainless steel spice containers that come in, and this is the key here Mr./Ms. Erratic Shopper, uniform shapes and sizes. I think we’d better move on now, or I shall begin to obsess about the need for total uniformity and be tempted to buy containers for everything. Even I can see that would be overkill.
Moving on to the rest of your house…
Don’t worry too much as we approach your wardrobe. I’m not qualified to be the fashion police. (Hey now, that little comment was uncalled for. Are you really still upset about how much you had to spend at Crate & Barrel?) Call in Stacy London or Clinton Kelly if you are a complete masochist or just stick with me and edit your closet based on how long it’s been since you wore it last. Anything over a year and you’d better have a pretty good explanation my friend. Otherwise, it’s Goodwill City or Bust. (Yes, of course you may keep those relaxed fit jeans. I know it’s been two years since you were last seen in public wearing them. Nevertheless, we must all cling to the dying hope that someday this hideous blight called “skinny jeans” will have ended. Pray.) Once we have pared it down it will be a snap for me to classify each article. For example: Kingdom: Clothing, Phylum: Tops, Class: Shirts, Order: Summer Wear, Family: Short Sleeves with Collars, Genus: Polo shirts, Species: Navy Blue. I know it looks a bit daunting at first, but I will tack this Clothing Taxonomy Table to the door of your closet/wardrobe for reference. I’m sure you will soon find getting dressed for work or pleasure an efficient and effective process. (What? Ha! No, I’m not going to iron them for you! I don’t care about perfection that much.)
Hurry up, because it’s nearly four and we haven’t even touched your office ye…Oh, my goodness. I will have to cancel my appointment with tomorrow’s client. And perhaps the day after. Good thing you just got paid, eh?
Further Reading and Viewing
(Yes, “further” not “farther.” I checked.)
26 Struggles That All Germaphobes Will Understand
Because the world is a filthy, filthy place.
By Adam Davis Buzzfeed Staff
Monk, the Television Series
“My OCD” Song, by Rhett and Link (Youtube it. Hilarious.)