# Unusual Habits: Share Your Own!

• Borek
In summary, a teenager goes through a phase of checking whether the number on every license plate divides by three. Every day begins with a race to prepare the coffee maker basket, filter, and coffee, within a second or two.

#### Borek

Mentor
No, I don't mean the kinky ones.

You know, like these thing kids do when walking on the sidewalk, stepping only on tiles and avoiding gaps (hey, these are wires, they can electrocute you!), or quite the opposite - stepping only on gaps and cracks (everyone knows sidewalk is actually a mesh of rods, with holes between). Or reading every sign backwards.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase when I checked whether the number on every license plate divides by three. Up to now I sometimes check if the number of syllables in a statement divide by four.

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2milehi, Wrichik Basu and DennisN
When I lock my car doors, I always check the driver's door to be sure I actually locked them. And yes, once or twice I discovered that I'd mistakenly pushed the "unlock" button on my remote key fob.

Hamiltonian and Keith_McClary
For me, this an example of relativity. What I consider to be a strange of mine, and what my wife considers to be a strange habit of mine, often are not the same.

Keith_McClary and berkeman
If I do everything perfectly, I can just finish preparing the coffee maker basket, filter, and coffee, in the time it takes to fill the water basin, to within a second or two. But I have to move very quickly and precisely.

So every day begins with a race.

jasonRF, DennisN and LCSphysicist
Borek said:
When I was a teenager I went through a phase when I checked whether the number on every license plate divides by three. Up to now I sometimes check if the number of syllables in a statement divide by four.
Very unusual (to me, at least) and very funny!

berkeman said:
When I lock my car doors, I always check the driver's door to be sure I actually locked them. And yes, once or twice I discovered that I'd mistakenly pushed the "unlock" button on my remote key fob.
I can relate to this more than I would like to. And I think double-checking is a quite common phenomenon.
I'm pretty convinced it has its roots in common fears/insecurities (fear of losing something, fear of making mistakes).
In some cases it can go so far as starting to count the number of times you are checking things, and you can't get relief until you've checked something a certain number of times. Then it can start to become a problem, since over-checking things is a pointless behavior. Regretfully, I've been there, done that. But I know better now.

Edit: I still do double-checking myself when I leave my home, I haven't shaked that behavior. When I lock my door, I try the door to make sure it's locked.

Edit 2: I also want to share something I learned from a professional who helped me with my issue. He told me it's okay to check something (like doors are locked, windows are closed) one time. If you check things like that more than one time, i.e. you are making a prolonged ritual out of it, it is not helpful.

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berkeman
DennisN said:
I also want to share something I learned from a professional who helped me with my issue. He told me it's okay to check something (like doors are locked, windows are closed) one time. If you check things like that more than one time, i.e. you are making a prolonged ritual out of it, it is not helpful.
For some time when I left home I've been always worried if the iron was unplugged or not. I did check it when I've finished ironing, but it became routine so I've forgot the result. So I had to go back from the door to check. But then that also became habit, so I've forgot the result of that too by the garden gate... It was quite disturbing at the end.

Without an expert helping me I had to settle with a timer (time limited plug).

Spinnor and DennisN
I do a lot of counting behind the wheel. I test how "uniform" the distribution of glow posts / electricity posts is. At a fixed bpm I know how many bars it takes to travel X meters (with cruise control active). Music jargon. On foot I do similar things, e.g I fix a goal ahead and I try to get there with at most N steps. Other times I try to walk in a certain time signature.

I'm probably the only one in the country to order extra mayo and put it between my burger at McD's (with ketchup already in there).

As a teenager I avoided manhole covers on the streets - some silly superstition I had heard as a kid. Now I catch myself trying to steer past some every now and then

Borek
Rive said:
For some time when I left home I've been always worried if the iron was unplugged or not. I did check it when I've finished ironing, but it became routine so I've forgot the result. So I had to go back from the door to check. But then that also became habit, so I've forgot the result of that too by the garden gate... It was quite disturbing at the end.
You describe the issue well, I know what it is like. Checking for things that can cause a fire also seems quite common. Over the years I've understood that these kinds of behaviors are far more common than I used to think.

My cat and I talk with each other through eye blinks. The slow blink is essentially a word to a cat. It is an acknowledgment that everything is okay as well as a "Yo! What's happening?" Long ago she realized that I can speak blink and we've been talking ever since.

I had a GF who freaked out over this LOL! She couldn't believe she could blink at a cat and almost without fail, it would blink back. When she firsts learned about this she kept blinking and blinking and the cat just kept blinking back! It was sooooooo funny! Every time the cat blinked back my GF just got more freaked out.

And we always blink goodbye when I leave. :)

DennisN
I often try to keep my total rotations zero. That is, if I were to walk all the way around a block at some point I will turn myself around in the opposite direction to balance that. A relatively mild, benign compulsion.

Spinnor, Borek and Hamiltonian
JT Smith said:
I often try to keep my total rotations zero. That is, if I were to walk all the way around a block at some point I will turn myself around in the opposite direction to balance that. A relatively mild, benign compulsion.
Do you take the rotation of the Earth into account?

Borek said:
No, I don't mean the kinky ones.
There goes all of my ideas

In all seriousness, I click lock on my car several times every time and only stop clicking once the car beeps at me. I do that since there have been a few times it did not lock even though I clicked the lock button. Also in videogames I always save multiple times also because I have had issues of saving not working...

Ivan Seeking said:
Do you take the rotation of the Earth into account?

Not so far. Please don't give that part of my brain any ideas.

I have other, similar quirks. For example, if I accidentally touch something I often feel compelled to touch it a second time, in order to achieve a kind of parity. Years ago my GP at the time called such behaviors "uncontrollable controllables". I guess they're not severe enough to be labeled obsessive-compulsive but probably fit into the lower end that spectrum.

Ivan Seeking said:
My cat and I talk with each other through eye blinks. The slow blink is essentially a word to a cat. It is an acknowledgment that everything is okay as well as a "Yo! What's happening?" Long ago she realized that I can speak blink and we've been talking ever since.

I had a GF who freaked out over this LOL! She couldn't believe she could blink at a cat and almost without fail, it would blink back. When she firsts learned about this she kept blinking and blinking and the cat just kept blinking back! It was sooooooo funny! Every time the cat blinked back my GF just got more freaked out.

And we always blink goodbye when I leave. :)

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Nope, sorry, you've failed the strangeness test. This just shows that you know how animals communicate; where body language is key. As a dog trainer, I use this stuff all the time. For example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calming_signals

I am surprised that Wikipedia didn't include blinking/staring in their list. It's huge.

DennisN and Ivan Seeking
DaveE said:
Nope, sorry, you've failed the strangeness test. This just shows that you know how animals communicate; where body language is key. As a dog trainer, I use this stuff all the time. For example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calming_signals

I am surprised that Wikipedia didn't include blinking/staring in their list. It's huge.
I discovered that the long blink works with baby deer as well. I had practiced my skills as a deer whisperer for many years - literally a better part of 20 years. I learned how to approach wild deer. And over time I got better and better at it. But then one day there was a mom and fawn outside my office door. I went out and eventually made eye contact with the baby. On a whim I gave her a long blink. Her head perked up immediately and she was staring into my eyes. So gave her another long blink. That really got her attention and she started to run towards me. I gave her another blink and she started towards me again! But then mom saw what was happening. She ran over and got between me and the fawn and right in my face. She was preparing to attack. I thought I was in BIG trouble LOL!

I just started talking very calmly and reassuring her that I wasn't going to hurt her baby. She seemed to understand well enough and backed down a bit. At that point I backed up to my door and got inside. Whew!

On another occasion I gave a few long blinks to three dogs that belonged to a friend of mine. We were up on a balcony and they were right below. That all went nuts and started barking at me. My buddy looked at me and said "What in the hell did you do to my dogs!?" I told him I just blinked a few times. I don't know why they freaked out!

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DennisN and BillTre
It might have even been this little fawn.

It wasn't this one but he was a good looking boy

But as for strange habits, I can also tell you that if you want to approach wild turkeys, you have to walk like a turkey.

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DennisN and Hamiltonian
JT Smith said:
I often try to keep my total rotations zero. That is, if I were to walk all the way around a block at some point I will turn myself around in the opposite direction to balance that. A relatively mild, benign compulsion.
My electric hair trimmer would drive you insane. In seriousness though, this drives me nuts and I often wind cords left-handed/backwards to try to un-twist them.

When I was a kid and bored in church I taught myself to lace my fingers with the left ones on top.

I count footsteps - invariably when walking to a fast-food joint on lunch hour.

There were three Subways, all within about the same distance, so I had to count footsteps to see which one was closer. They tend to fall within 400 to 500 footsteps, which, given an average step of 2.5 feet, works out to 1,000 to 1,250 feet.

When listening to music at work I always try to change the lyrics to something ridiculous, dark, and dirty.

Also, any songs that have any oooohs or woahs, I try to imagine the song being sung by creepy Herbert from Family Guy. I never liked that Take On Me song, but I can't help but laugh when he hits that high note.

Ivan Seeking said:
My cat and I talk with each other through eye blinks.
Same here. I've heard it's an expression of trust; they don't fear you, so they can allow themselves to close their eyes (there is also some info about the eye communication here on Wikipedia).

Strange as it may sound, some cats can also try to mimic some sounds of their human fellows.
When I discovered this a long time ago, I was utterly astonished and fascinated.

One of my former cats, when it was very young, had done something I did not approve of.
Because of this, I looked at the cat, and it looked at me, and I made a sound of disapproval; three small "eh":s in a row, "eh-eh-eh". It was just something I did without expecting anything from it, of course.
To my utter astonishment, my young cat replied back with three similar cat versions of the sound.
I just stood there and couldn't believe what I had just heard.
Ever since then, I started to communicate with that cat with sounds, very basic communication of course, and it grew up to be a very "talkative" cat. For instance, he almost always "announced" himself with some certain sounds when he had been away somewhere and came back. It became a sort of greeting between us, I think.

I've done similar things with one of the cats I have now. She is not as "talkative" as my former cat, but she has mimicked some sounds I have made. It works particularly well when we are in the kitchen and she is hungry and expects food from me. Then I sometimes make some certain, unusual sounds and quite often she tries to repeat them. It's very fun.

Cats also communicate a lot of things through body language, of course. The tail is one of the easiest indicator of their mood, e.g.

High tail with slightly bent tip: Happy/content.
Moving tail left/right: Playful for fighting/on the hunt.
Violently moving tail left/right: Anxious/angry.
Horizontally held tail: Ok, but not particularly happy. Maybe bored.
Tail down to the ground: Not feeling well.

(there is also some info about the tail communication here on Wikipedia).

Edit: Here's a photo of my "talkative" cat. Sadly he is not alive anymore.

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Ivan Seeking
DennisN said:
I've done similar things with one of the cats I have now. She is not as "talkative" as my former cat, but she has mimicked some sounds I have made.
Here's a very short video example for fun. A test with her to establish some very basic communication :

collinsmark and Ivan Seeking
DennisN said:
Same here. I've heard it's an expression of trust; they don't fear you, so they can allow themselves to close their eyes (there is also some info about the eye communication here on Wikipedia).

Strange as it may sound, some cats can also try to mimic some sounds of their human fellows.
When I discovered this a long time ago, I was utterly astonished and fascinated.

One of my former cats, when it was very young, had done something I did not approve of.
Because of this, I looked at the cat, and it looked at me, and I made a sound of disapproval; three small "eh":s in a row, "eh-eh-eh". It was just something I did without expecting anything from it, of course.
To my utter astonishment, my young cat replied back with three similar cat versions of the sound.
I just stood there and couldn't believe what I had just heard.
Ever since then, I started to communicate with that cat with sounds, very basic communication of course, and it grew up to be a very "talkative" cat. For instance, he almost always "announced" himself with some certain sounds when he had been away somewhere and came back. It became a sort of greeting between us, I think.

I've done similar things with one of the cats I have now. She is not as "talkative" as my former cat, but she has mimicked some sounds I have made. It works particularly well when we are in the kitchen and she is hungry and expects food from me. Then I sometimes make some certain, unusual sounds and quite often she tries to repeat them. It's very fun.

Cats also communicate a lot of things through body language, of course. The tail is one of the easiest indicator of their mood, e.g.

High tail with slightly bent tip: Happy/content.
Moving tail left/right: Playful for fighting/on the hunt.
Violently moving tail left/right: Anxious/angry.
Horizontally held tail: Ok, but not particularly happy. Maybe bored.
Tail down to the ground: Not feeling well.

(there is also some info about the tail communication here on Wikipedia).

Edit: Here's a photo of my "talkative" cat. Sadly he is not alive anymore.

View attachment 290008

collinsmark and DennisN
When I was four, I lived across the rad from the National Zoo of Washington, DC. I spent a lot of time in the zoo, which was like a play ground to me.

Now I am thinking that would be a good place to survey a wide variety of animals with your blinking trick.
You can get close to some but not others, and some only during certain seasons. In the winter some are housed in doors to keep them warm.

russ_watters said:
My electric hair trimmer would drive you insane.

Why?

I used to volunteer at the local shelter and visited hundreds of cats and kittens. Of course everybody knows about the slow blink phenomenon. But in my experience a large percentage of cats haven't heard about it. You might think, well, they just didn't trust me but their behavior often indicated strongly that they did. So, I don't know. What goes on in those little walnut sized brains?

I just tried it this morning with one of the 6 week old kittens I have in my temporary care. She blinked back several times before getting distracted.

russ_watters said:
In seriousness though, this drives me nuts and I often wind cords left-handed/backwards to try to un-twist them.
When I was taking a video arts course, I met a teacher there you really wanted people to coil up their cords with loops of alternating handedness (this is difficult to explain), for his expensive cables.
If you do this, you can just throw a cable out from a coil and have no kinking. Nice trick.

DennisN, russ_watters, OmCheeto and 1 other person
BillTre said:
When I was taking a video arts course, I met a teacher there you really wanted people to coil up their cords with loops of alternating handedness (this is difficult to explain), for his expensive cables.
If you do this, you can just throw a cable out from a coil and have no kinking. Nice trick.
Got a link to some instructional pictures or a video? I'd love to learn how to do that...

Basically, a figure eight.

Something you learn when racing sailboats. If you coil a line in a circle, it introduces a twist with every coil.

The figure eight does not.

russ_watters, BillTre and Borg
berkeman said:
Got a link to some instructional pictures or a video? I'd love to learn how to do that...
It's just like coiling regularlike, but don't force it. It is actually more natural.

If you try to coil something stiff, like a 30A 50ft extension cord, you almost can't not coil it in a figure eight, because it resists twisting.

hutchphd
berkeman said:
Got a link to some instructional pictures or a video? I'd love to learn how to do that...
Here are a couple:

As you hang a new coil on one hand, alternate the way you rotate the other hand as you place the next coil in the hand holding the bundle.

It reminds me of DNA supercoiling.

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Rive, Borek and berkeman
Thanks Bill, that's super helpful. I've tried all kinds of tricks, and this is the first one that makes sense. Of course, I had to pause the start of the video and get an extension cord from the garage, and play the start several times in a row, but now I get it.

Thanks!

BillTre
I don't pick up pennies that I see lying on the ground unless I know I dropped them. But I'll pick up nickles and larger denominations.

Klystron
Stephen Tashi said:
I don't pick up pennies that I see lying on the ground unless I know I dropped them. But I'll pick up nickles and larger denominations.
You're young and thin, aren't you?

There is a direct correlation between the denominations of coins one will stoop to pick up and one's age.

There is a direct correlation between the denominations of coins one will stoop to pick up and one's body mass index.

berkeman
Stephen Tashi said:
I don't pick up pennies that I see lying on the ground unless I know I dropped them. But I'll pick up nickles and larger denominations.
I do (don't do?) that too. I mean, I too leave the clutter lying.
What I pick up are the components. Screws, wheel weights, other (small) stuff lying around the sides of any road with heavy traffic.

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