December 01, 2002

"It's Purely Out of Habit"

"It's Purely Out of Habit" c. Ryan Rhodes, June 27, 2001

Overall, I see myself as a self-improvement type of guy. I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make myself even greater than I am, as difficult as that is to imagine.

As great as I like to think I am, I am willing to admit that I suffer from a few of the human shortcomings known as "habits." Now, I don't necessarily indulge in the more dangerous habits like smoking or chewing, but I've been prone to engage in some pretty unseemly repetitious activities at certain points throughout my life.

For example, I used to chew my fingernails on a daily basis. Granted, this is not an unusual habit but, on more than one occasion, I actually drew blood and kept right on chewing. I was probably two nibbles away from blood poisoning when I gave up the irritating habit my second year of college. Nowadays, rather than sheer my nails with my teeth, I use my dental dexterity to simply clean underneath them, which is just as gross, but it doesn't involve bloodshed. It's all about compromise.

There are, of course, some current habits I could stand to part with. For example, I could, just possibly, maybe, afford to cut back on my use of expletives. Although I am by no means a swearing machine, I have been known to let some verbal venom fly on occasion. Such occasions usually occur during rounds of golf, Vikings' games, whenever I hurt myself, and when I sit down to write a marginally humorous column. All of these are arenas for truly mind numbingly hot language, and it's a *&%$#*@ habit that I could probably do without.

Now, habits with which I'm aware are really not a big problem. I know they exist and I make a conscious decision whether to make an attempt at self-improvement and end them. However, I also have some habits that I refer to as "heartbeat habits." These habits are so ingrained, and so commonplace, I simply don't notice them, just like my heartbeat.

Examples of "heartbeat habits" include whistling at inopportune times, drumming my fingers to an imaginary beat on hard surfaces, and rambling on and on about mind numbing topics that really don't go anywhere, much like this column.

Last week, as I labored at my computer console, the young woman who shares my office called my attention to one of my "heartbeat habits." It had been a typically long day, and I stretched, grunted, and scratched myself, all of which could be considered bad habits. However, it was a far more common habit that drew the ire of my office co-worker (to protect her identity, I'll simply refer to her as Gretal). For the record, Gretal is an attractive German intern who will be working in my office for the next couple of months. I only mention this because I'll refer to these facts again later in the column.

The "heartbeat habit" Gretal called my attention to was, of all things, cracking my knuckles, an act that I perform countless times over the course of a day. Gretal insisted that the repetitious act would result in me developing arthritis, an insinuation that prompted me to search the Internet to prove her wrong. I won't bore you with the details of my search, except to say it involved the words "synovial," "gas," "crack," and "metacarpophalangeal." I also discovered that there is no definitive proof that knuckle cracking causes arthritis.

"Okay," countered Gretal (and I'm not making this up), "What about the way you suck snot into your throat?"

Now, this statement drew a completely blank stare from me until Gretal mimed exactly what she meant. In short, she was referring to the way that I, once in awhile I assure you, snorted snot rather than blowing it into a Kleenex. I'm a snorter, a snuffler, a sniffler, a snot sucker. Gretal had exposed me to yet another "heartbeat habit," and I was horrified.

Mind you, I wasn't particularly horrified because I was a "snuffler." After all, snuffling is simply less time consuming and frankly less gross than blowing my enzymes into a tissue. Rather, I was horrified that my snuffling was audible enough to irritate other people. What's worse, because Gretal is German, I'm actually guilty of being an international irritation. In other words, I managed to irritate a representative of a nationality that created such irritating things as sauerkraut and fahrferghnugen (or however that irritating word is spelled).

Although I probably have habits that are far more severe than snorfing snot, I made a vow then and there to take more conscious control of my snuffling. It's a habit I simply have to break. I don't want to spark an international incident after all.

Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker.

Posted by Ryan at December 1, 2002 10:06 PM
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