They say that if you do something often enough, it becomes a habit.
—TANGENT, YES, ALREADY —
When people say, “They say,” who ARE they talking about?
I always wonder, and yet I say it on occasion. I suppose “They” refers to scientists or lawmakers or parents or society as a whole, depending on the context. But I usually envision “They” as a panel of faceless, suit-wearing professionals, all bearing the look of someone who holds several advanced degrees in very impressive-sounding fields, with shoulders squared and perfect posture, sitting behind a large mahogany conference table and rendering verdicts on all manner of things, like how long to wait before swimming after eating a big meal… or how far away from the television you should sit… or whether John Lennon is, in fact, a dreamer.
—END OF TANGENT—
A habit is really something that you can do on autopilot.
For some things, this is true. I can do my shower routine totally without thought. (Wet hair, shampoo, wash face, rinse hair, condition, shave legs, wash The Rest, rinse hair, the end.) I don’t have to devote conscious attention to driving my car – shifting is all a matter of muscle memory at this point. Dialing into my client’s conference line for meetings no longer requires me to look up the access code. I’ve keyed it in so often, it’s an ingrained behavior.
But there are some things that I do – not every day, necessarily, but REGULARLY – that I always forget about.
And the forgetting annoys the crap out of me.
For instance, I hate it when I open the oven door to retrieve a cookie sheet and I stick my head in too fast (not actually IN, mind you, just in enough to grab the cookie sheet without burning myself) and the heat blasts me in the face and fogs my glasses. And yet I stick my head in too fast EVERY TIME.
Then there’s the kitchen sink. Which I not only use EVERY DAY, but MULTIPLE TIMES every day. And yet I can NEVER remember that the cold water faucet turns the wrong way. And I inevitably blast the water when I’m trying to turn it off.
Sometimes, when I am too starving to wait until a normal hour to eat lunch, or when I get to pop over to the gym early, I will watch a bit of The People’s Court. I have a weird fascination with court shows, primarily with the people who appear on them and the way they act in COURT, in front of a JUDGE, and also MILLIONS OF TV VIEWERS. And, while she’s not quite at blunt and sassy as Judge Judy, I am quite fond of Judge Marilyn Milian. Mainly because she is likely to throw out a Spanish idiom at any moment.
But even though I watch it, probably, once a week or so, I ALWAYS forget just how much I loathe the two guys who narrate (?) the show. They use bad puns – sometimes the SAME bad puns (“Renter, he hardly knew her!” “Wrecker her, he hardly knew her!” “Stiffed her, he hardly knew her!” Seriously, the “hardly knew her” thing is WAY OVERUSED on The People’s Court.). One of the guys talks to people on the street in the middle of the case, to get their off-the-cuff impressions of how things are going and how the judge should rule, and often cuts them off and sometimes makes fun of them. (Once, he told a girl she looked like some actress, which was neither here nor there.) The other guy talks to the plaintiff/defendant after the judgment has been rendered and is sometimes quite rude in getting them to hurry it along (Is he surprised that people who turned to a TV SHOW to get their case settled like to jabber on without end?). They ALWAYS annoy me, and yet I never remember just how MUCH they annoy me until I turn on the show.
I seem to also often forget about my own stomach’s capacity for food storage. Which is totally stupid, because I fill that very stomach EVERY DAY. MANY times a day. And yet, if I am particularly hungry when I go to a restaurant, I suddenly think my normal everyday stomach can hold an appetizer AND an entrée AND maybe a side order of fries AND a salad. Then by the time I’m done with my salad, I’m FULL, and the entrée and the fries haven’t even arrived yet. But the next time I’m really hungry? I do the same thing, all over again.
And then there’s the DVR. The shows on NBC in particular tend to run into each other a bit. So when we DVR an episode of The Office, the funny little end part gets cut off. This happens with The Closer, too. (Reruns play on TNT every day, and I record them and watch the episodes when my husband is on call. I would like to look just like Kyra Sedgwick when I am 45 please.) And yet I NEVER REMEMBER a) that this is going to happen, and am repeatedly disappointed when it happens and b) to do something about it – like extend the recording by one minute, or record the show after The Office or The Closer. This is a problem that happens almost weekly, so you’d think I could EASILY remember it. And yet, no, I do not.
It is no secret that I have a terrible – TERRIBLE – memory. So I feel like I count very much on those kinds of rote, habitual activities that render memory unnecessary.
And when they fail me? ARGH.