“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
― Jerome K. Jerome
This, you may recall, was Jerome K Jerome’s follow-up to his mega smash hit book of the day, Three Men in a Boat. It was published in 1896 as a volume of light-hearted essays on a range of everyday topics, and which would be, were he writing them nowadays, a series of jovial blogs. What follows is not of any great consequence, but it might be mildly diverting for a few minutes! Call them micro-blogs, but thankfully longer microblogs than the 140 character tweets we hear so much about these days.
The tendency among most people is to shudder in horror when we see people who are so obsessive that they have to follow a pattern of behaviour – and Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As it Gets is a prime example – but is there not a bit in each of us that is obsessive about some ritual form of behaviour? Is there not part of each of us that tends towards the OCD?
When things have to be just so or you simply cannot be happy – ring any bells? Thing is that it will be different for each of us. We don’t all walk in a warped way to avoid stepping on the cracks in pavements, but we might organise the dining table with the cutlery in a particular order, or wash hands with absolute precision when we’ve touched anything, or whatever it happens to be.
I just wonder why we have such obsessive rituals, though I suppose it’s pretty obvious that they are born as they are of some sort of anxiety and need to grasp hold of stability and continuity, without which we each are a quivering mass of indecisive jelly (if such a thing could possibly exist.)
Having spent years working in hospitals and recently been a recipient of hospital services, I can say from both sides of the fence that they are highly complex and often baffling places. Geographically, you may be able to find your way to A&E but once sucked inside the multiplicity of signs and maps pointing through doors, along corridors, up stairs, in every direction makes you wish you had brought a loaf in order to create a trail of breadcrumbs. No matter how many I visit, I’m forever going down new corridors and finding departments I never knew existed, some staffed by people who have not seen light of day for many a long year.
On any given day you will see people of all ages, shapes and sizes peering down corridors and at signs trying to find the way to eye clinics or X-ray or physiotherapy or whatever. Some will be staggering on crutches, in wheelchairs or nursing an injury of some description. Others will be wheeled down corridors by porters on beds, triangulating between ward, radiology and theatre. Reminds me of that wonderful quote that hospitals would all be run efficiently but for the patients.
Sometimes you wonder how any two people get together at all, let alone stay in the same relationship for decades. Apart from anything else, finding someone with a mutual love and who wants the same things as you seems like a real needle in a haystack, but then once you have found them you’re playing a game of roulette whether you will grown closer or grow apart, since everyone changes. At one time people did stay together because it was the done thing, but I’m not convinced that the vagaries of human nature are compatible with a couple meeting as teenagers and staying together for upwards of 50 or 60 years without wanting to tear one another’s throats out on occasion.
Ah, but this is now the era of Internet dating. The meat market is constantly available on a computer near you. Does that make it easier to find a lasting relationship? Not in my experience, though we all have to live in hope. Were it not for that most women would be spinsters and men would be spending all night on porn sites. Hang on a minute…
We all need money and have to go through an often bizarre set of rituals to obtain it, sometimes like playing obscure games to the rules devised by other people for which you are duly rewarded. Then you have to pay: taxes, mortgages, bills and much more, but eventually you might have a small sum left over with which to indulge your passions and fantasies. That could be on a new car or a fantastic holiday or home improvements, but then the pressure is on to borrow money or use cards to get what we want without delay. Instant gratification rather than saving up for things that matter. Remember when we used to have to do that if we wanted things?
I always thought it was a means to an end, and could not buy me love nor happiness, but it seems most of our society would sooner be unhappy in style than live within their means.
It always struck me as odd and hypocritical that the government is keen to tax and encourage the consumption of items that are proven to be dangerous to our health, notably alcohol and tobacco (albeit with restrictions to prevent us over-indulging in one and doing so in public for the other), while banning other socially taken substances on the grounds that they are harmful to our health. Most of us enjoy a tipple and occasionally having a skinful, while tut-tutting privately about binge drinking and drink-driving.
Always more complicated than that, of course. I have a friend who is a dried-out alcoholic, but such is his addiction to pub culture that he still visits pubs but drinks pints of lime and soda. If you’re out with him the rounds come thick and fast, but if you’re drinking beers you will be well on the way to oblivion while he stays disappointingly sober. At least you have a designated driver that way!