As a writer, I trade upon odd and unusual characteristics.
Conventional writing wisdom says that a story’s protagonist, no matter how much of an everyday, person-in-your-neighbourhood s/he’s meant to represent, should possess some special quality – something that not only makes him/her memorable but also plays a role in motivating and ultimately resolving the story’s plot.
I mine a lot of my own life in my creation of characters – both my own characteristics and those of people I observe. I then proceed to spend months and years with these fictional people, to the point that they become like real people to me: fully-realized, self-determining, and with certain traits in common with me.
This, I suppose, has the effect of inuring me to my own oddities.
Besides, if my characters can be unusual, surely it’s normal for me to abnormal as well since I sometimes consider myself a character in my own story (albeit a story with no real internal logic, discernible plot, or predictable climax to which all events inevitably point).
I’m also an intensely purpose-driven person – one for whom there’s a rational explanation for almost all my actions, much like the actions in a story. So all my habits have reasons behind them that make perfect sense to me.
All this to say it’s been with considerable surprise and no small amount of abashment over the years that others have brought me to the attention of things I do differently than most. Five things in particular are as follows:
1) I wear my sunglasses all year round
This has nothing to do with the fact I was a Corey Hart fan in my youth (I don’t actually wear my sunglasses at night during any season).
But I do wear them outside of summer months, and why not? July and August isn’t the only time the sun shines.
To say my eyes are light-sensitive is a bit redundant (light sensitivity is the eyes’ whole raison d’être), but squinting against even the light of fall and winter puts me at risk of daily migraines (and premature crow’s feet to boot!)
As well, because my sunnies are polarized and their lenses are a mellow golden brown, they sharpen and brighten my view on an overcast or rainy day, which makes them excellent for both cycling and driving.
But I’ve been told this is unusual behaviour – that I look like I’m trying to look cool or to hide something since you can’t see my eyes.
2) I let my toast cool down before I eat it
There’s nothing worse in the world (okay, probably not the world, but still) than soggy bread. Which is exactly what happens when you take hot toast from the toaster and put it on a cold plate. Gross.
The second I finish buttering (or more often, peanut buttering) my toast (or bagels, pita, etc.), I immediately shove the knife under it to allow for air flow to prevent it sweating and sogging.
If I’m feeling particularly persnickety, or if the toast will be used for a sandwich, I’ll either lay it out on a cooling rack like a cake fresh from the oven or stand the two pieces up so they can lean against each other like a tent.
All this, so I’ve been told, is an atypical solution to an otherwise common problem – one that most people solve by just eating the toast faster.
3) I carry multiple pairs of socks in my bag
This one I’d have thought wouldn’t be strange, especially in Vancouver were it rains 9 months of the year and locals pride themselves on refusing to carry umbrellas.
The fact that all my spare sock pairs are purposely different types, though – wool knee socks I case I get cold; rayon crew socks in case I get warm; nylon foot liners in case it gets so warm, I essentially don’t want to wear socks at all – only seems to add to the strangeness of my extra provisions.
Is it my fault I don’t thermoregulate well? Geez, just wait until I’m menopausal.
4) I eat pizza with a knife and fork
Pizza is so awkward to eat without cutlery: it’s hot; the slices are often big and floppy and greasy; there’re those strings of cheese that happen when you bite into a piece of pizza. Whose wants to deal with all that mess on your hands, and potentially down the front of your shirt!?
5) I do the same chores on the same day every week
Of the five habits in this list, this is the one I legitimately don’t understand other people not doing.
Maybe this is a result of my highly disciplined upbringing by my military father. Regardless, I’ve blogged in the past about how routines free up one’s mind to deal with other, more important considerations. Like writing, in my case, or dealing with unforeseen problems that befall me (e.g. recently discovering that everyone in my apartment building is being “renovicted”).
Studies have shown that decision fatigue is real, meaning that the greater the number of decisions one has to make in a day, the poorer in quality the later decisions become. This concept is the reason President Obama famously wears only blue or grey suits.
If I only have a handful of good decisions in me each day, I certainly don’t want to waste one on deciding what day I should vacuum the carpets (the answer to which I already know is Thursday).
What habits do you have that others find bizarre? Conversely, are there things other people do that you find strange? Let me know in the comments.