I don’t care who you are — you have a quirk, an idiosyncrasy — you do something weird. I have more than one. Some are probably common — at least that’s what I tell myself — others are, I’m sure, more, let’s just call them — unique — and leave it at that.
I won’t address my deep-seated phobias or fears, to do so I’d need to go book-length AND advertise for readers who possess large amounts of spare time — shut-ins spring to mind. I’ll just concentrate on one of my more bizarre and, up to now, well-hidden habits.
Lots of folks count their steps. It should go without saying that I do that, too. I don’t consider this behavior to be particularly out of the ordinary. I do this other thing with numbers, though, that could be described as slightly strange. I’ll try to explain it as best I can.
I call it “simplifying”. It involves bringing strings of numbers down to one number. For example, the number 747 would be a 9 — here’s why: 7+4+7 = 18; 1+8 = 9. See? Simple, right? And, one would think, fairly innocuous.
Most of the time it is. Innocuous. Except when it’s not — like when I use the “even” or the “odd” properties of the simplified number to ascribe “goodness” or “badness” to a thing. “Evenness” is “good”; “Oddness” is bad. In the above example, the number 747 is “bad” — because it simplifies to the number 9, which, as any first-grader knows, is odd. And odd is bad. I don’t know why, it just is. Everybody knows this.
The problem arises in how and when I choose to apply this technique. Far too often I rely upon it to make decisions, like when I have to choose between two dentists or when I’m selecting a lottery number. I tell myself that one dentist is just as good as another dentist. And tons of lottery players have a “system”! There’s nothing wrong with having a system.
There have been other instances, though, when I have actually gone out of my way to insure an even number. My original wedding date simplified to a 5, which troubled me. So, I changed the date. (My husband still thinks I did so because The Mets were having a good year and we wouldn’t have wanted to be out of the country if they had gotten into The World Series — only I know the real reason!)
Really, he’s lucky that I married him at all! His birth date simplifies to a 7. Actually, ALL of our birth dates wind up odd — there’s nothing that can be done about it. I couldn’t very well refuse to take my daughter home from the hospital because, through no fault of her own, she wound up a 9. That would’ve been crazy, right? I do, however, take some small comfort in knowing that my birth date is the only one that can be brought to evenness by incorporating my birth year. Obviously, this makes me better than them. And I am. Ask anyone who knows us.
Of course I worry that one day my system will fail me — that I’ll trust that the truck with the even license plate won’t be the one to mow me down. Until I’m splattered all over the road by that number 4, I’ll just go ahead and continue to simplify. Because it calms me. I know! I know! It’s weird.