The terrible suffering of the lawful and orderly

It’s perplexing to me the traits people choose to make fun of in others.  We’ve discussed previously the awful prejudice visited upon me simply due to my gender (for those who missed it, check out the “But you’re a man…” post).  That is tough enough, but at least I shared that pain with all men.  Gird yourself, all, for the tale to follow will surely bring tears to your eyes and heartache to your soul.  It is a tale of unjust bias and scorn visited upon me (and all like me).  Woe be to those who obey the law and are neat.

When I was young, my room was often an impressive maze of comics, paperbacks and newspapers.  With uncanny skill, I could navigate from the door to my closet or bed without scrunching any of the prized reading material.  While the advantages for me were limitless (can you say “easy access”?), my Mom was less impressed with the solution.  She asked, pleaded and requested of me to clean my room so she could at least vacuum the floor.  What does a young boy care about a vacuumed floor?  I would nod or mumble in assent but never actually get around to the “picking up”.

One weekend, my sister and I were visiting with Grandma and Grandpa.  Mom had made her usual attempt to get me to clean my room with the usual results.  Her last request came with a caution.  Clean the room up or she would throw everything out.  Moms make those types of threats all the time but we kids know they never go through with it (think of all the money they spent on that stuff).  I nodded gravely at her warning and assured her I would tackle the job forthwith.  I may have picked up a book or two before a comic caught my eye and distracted me.  Before I knew, it was time to leave.  I closed the door to my room and thought “Well, at least I picked up a little“.

You know where this story is going.  When I returned home Sunday night, I opened the door to my bedroom and beheld my carpets for the first time in many months (or perhaps longer).  I was surprised, of course, but not yet afraid.  That came momentarily.  After I looked in my closet and saw no comics and books stacked in there.  Nor were they in the dresser.  Or…or….ANYWHERE!  Oh the humanity!  She couldn’t have?  She wouldn’t have?

She did.

Several sobbing hours later, she came into my room and saw I was finally willing to listen.  She explained why she had to do what she did and what would be required for me to be able to resume my reading and collecting.  Being a great Mom (something time taught me), she softened the pain somewhat by offering to take me to the drug store for some new comics the next day.  Long years later, I used to joke with Mom that if she had not thrown out those comics, I could have bought her a house with them.  Suffice to say, my room stayed clean from then….until this very day.

My friends and coworkers often times ridicule me about my “neatness”.  I’m no Felix Unger, with such an obsession over neatness that it rules my life, but I found out, after that teary lesson, that keeping a room clean takes little more than picking up stuff each day.  In fact, it’s actually a harder life with a mess than it is to keep things neat.  Tripping over strewn clothes or shoes or not having a clear sink because of the dishes left there requires more work than putting stuff away at the end of the day.  And regular readers know how much I detest cleaning, so anything that makes that less of a chore is aces with me.

So I like to be organized, if not “anal”, as some people have “accused” me of.  A particular stickler for me was when a girlfriend laughed at me for keeping my DVD’s in alphabetical order.  Now granted, if you have a couple dozen DVD’s, who cares?  But when you have about a hundred (maybe more, I’m not “anal” enough to count them), I ask, why wouldn’t you alphabetize them?  When guests come over and want to watch something, why would you want to dig through dozens and dozens of boxes to find a movie it would otherwise take you seconds to locate.  And how hard is it to keep them in alphabetical order?  You’re only watching one at a time (maybe a few, at the extreme).  That’s hardly an “effort” to put them back.  I’m not sure I was insulted, but I was certainly disappointed.

Hey, I get it.  If you’ve got young kids who are at the age of learning how to spell, getting them to put anything back in its place is a chore.  On the other hand, how cool is that for a learning aid when it’s the kids’ own favorite movies.  As in “Why do we put ‘Cars’ in front of ‘Dora’?”  Try it with your kids.  I give you the idea free of charge.  Of course, that means you will have to start keeping stuff in alpha order, too.  Maybe you better think twice about that.  You don’t want to get laughed at by your friends.

Here’s another source of humor for others:  a clean desk.  For some reason, in the workplace, a messy desk is often confused with a busy person.  Sure they’re busy.  They’re trying to find the piece of paper somewhere on that messy desk that they needed for that meeting starting in a few minutes.  Here’s my theory:  You can only work on one thing at a time.  Multitasking is a myth.  You may have many things you are juggling at the same time (awaiting call backs, something on the computer, something on the phone, etc.), but doing the job effectively requires concentration.  You do not really work multiple things at once, you simply switch back and forth and hope that your short term memory keeps what you were doing on the one thing fresh while you work on the other.  Have you ever experienced that vacant moment when you thought “Now, what was I going to do with this?”  That’s multitasking.

My solution to having multiple things to do at once was simply to have only one on my desk at any point in time.  Finish it, move on.  Do you have to stop and take a call or visit someone’s desk?  Sure.  But it’s amazing how quickly you can work when you focus on a task at a time (as much as possible).  Of course, having no clutter on my desk led to that cruelest of injustice:  the stale “wit” of my co-workers.  Once again, the orderly of the world are ridiculed for their virtues.  It tears at your very soul, doesn’t it?

I am also pilloried for that most rare trait that I and, at last count, eight other people in the world had in common with me:  I obey traffic laws.  That means stopping at a red light or octoganal sign before turning right.  Using a blinker to signal lane changes.  Yielding the right-of-way to cars at intersections and (gasp) pedestrians.  And, that most awful, inconsiderate thing of all:  I drive the speed limit.  Everywhere.  In town, on the road, side streets, highways.  On longer trips, I just set the cruise control.  I move placidly over to the right lane and watch the speeding blurs that my brain suggests are cars.  And for this, I get another heaping dose of “wit”.

As I usually do in these posts, it’s time for me to digress a little.  As you know, I’ve had a few years in the Finance and Accounting field.  I am very good with numbers.  Not illegal good and not quite Rain Man good, but pretty swift with numbers in my head.  I have on occasion amused myself while sitting at a traffic light by calculating how much quicker that angry dude on the cell phone would get to my destination at the speed he is going versus my own legally allowed speed.  The results of my “Tortoise and Hare meets Florida driving” analysis often comes up in a difference of minutes.  But in actuality, in city driving those traffic lights are the great equalizer and I’m often able to watch my distracted “competition” throughout a good portion of our drive.

So let’s review:  I drive the speed limit which nets great gas mileage, no tickets (don’t get me started on how people react to seeing police cars…how embarrassing) and a drive time effectively the same as all those Racer X cars out there who have a “need for speed”.  You would think such simple brilliance would be worthy of admiration, or at least simple acknowledgement.  Instead, it gets made fun of.  By my own family, even!  Oh how I suffer!

Suffer not the slings and arrows?  Such is the lot of the law-abiding and neat of the world.  Forever condemned to be ridiculed by those who, perhaps deep down, are secretly envious of such simple practices that bring ease and stress-free living.   It’s a somber thought and I don’t care for somber.  I think I’ll go watch an old comedy favorite to lighten my mood.  Shouldn’t take but a moment to find it.

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