Counting corners and lines

2014-03-31 09:07

Sitting at a corner cafe recently I watched an elderly gentleman sit down at a table holding a coffee, complimentary biscuit, serviette, plastic spoon and two sachets of sugar. He moved to the middle of the bench and proceeded to arrange his coffee to the left of his body. Then, starting with the biscuit, he neatly placed the serviette, spoon and sugar sachets side by side in a perfectly arranged order. He admired his tidiness and then straightened the serviette again. Completely intrigued, it felt like I was watching a screen test for As Good As It Gets.

The entire time the gentleman sipped at his coffee he aligned the serviette, used sugar sachets, spoon and uneaten biscuit neatly. Over and over.

Watching the man reminded me of a funny story Nathaniel tells about how he is always late for everything because he does rounds before he leaves home. He goes around the house tightening all the taps, closing all the windows, unplugging basins and baths, making sure the stove is switched off, all before he feels comfortable enough to leave. Then, as he is halfway down the block he turns around and goes back home to see if he had indeed completed his rounds and not forgotten anything.

Look it up, hearing Nathaniel tell the story is a complete treat.

In similar fashion a former colleague of mine boldly once spoke of how, as a teenager, he would count lines and corners. Sounds crazy. I know. We always laughed about it.

He explained how he would count corners created by windows and door frames and try to accumulate the numbered corners to get to five. Then he would count them five times over until he got to twenty five. Twenty five was his lucky number. As soon as he hit that sweet spot it would start all over again.

He never knew why he did this.

We have a family member that walks around her house straightening curtains, dish towels hanging on hooks, duvets, pillows, throws and woolie rugs almost impossible to keep neat, all the time. I've always wondered why she’s dead set on decorating her house with those rugs with the strings at the end when they are so difficult to keep tidy. They can ruin your life. Keeping those strings straight can consume your very existence. One whisper of a wind blowing through an open window can rearrange those little buggers and then you’re back to square one.

I don’t know if she’ll ever just let go.

I've had my fair share of these indulgences. Like the cable car station at the top of Table Mountain. It bothers me whenever I see it. Could we have not built something that kept the line at the top of the mountain straight?! Seriously?

I suppose we all have our little traits that link us to each other in ways not openly admitted. Talking about it makes us realise we all do it in some way or another, and that when all is said and done we’re a lot more similar than we often like to believe.

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