1.13: Secret weird things I do

One of my favorite podcasts is Reconcilable Differences, which is a biweekly conversation between two parents in tech/podcasting about their lives. It’s a huge inspiration for this blog.

There is a recurring segment the two hosts (John Siracusa and Merlin Mann) talk about called “Secret Weird Things People Do,” in which they talk about just that — not just confessing to the things they do, but also dig into where the weird thing came from, why they do those things, whether it’s actually weird or pretty normal, and the like. I find these discussions incredibly interesting and compelling and humbling.

In that spirit, here is a list of some secret weird things I do:

  • I cannot let my kitchen get messy, and if I do, it viscerally bugs me to the point of a near-anxiety attack. This is especially problematic since my wife is an Italian who leaves a huge mess in her wake when she cooks. Typically at meal time, I am cleaning up as she is making messes — much to her frustration, since sometimes I inadvertently wash dishes she is still using. If we are hosting people for dinner, I will try to escape the conversation to clean up the kitchen — also to the frustration of my wife.

  • If I need a reminder to do something (say, in an app), I can’t just take it down. I need to pick a time and appropriate category/list for that thing, even if it’s neither easily categorizable nor time-sensitive. Sometimes this bites me when I get a reminder at a horribly inopportune time, but it’s the only way I know how to keep track of things.

  • If you ask me to do something, I can’t listen to the next thing you have to say until I write that ask down. Due to the previous weird thing, this might take me an extra second and I’m sorry.

  • I compulsively look for things to automate, organize or optimize in my home, even if it’s a negative return on investment. (Merlin talked about this in a recent episode.) I spent an absurd amount of time trying to correctly place speakers around our house for audio playback. I rearrange my iOS device home screens almost daily — not for fun, but because I think I’m missing something by how they’re arranged. I track my dog’s bowel movements in a Numbers spreadsheet. I’ve set up part of my home to be smart and I’m not sure it was worth it, but it keeps feeling like something I must do. Sometimes this extends into my wife’s stuff, and she usually gets frustrated with me. I’ll probably write more about each of these weird things later.

  • I compulsively use GPS in my car even when I three-hundred-percent know where I am going and there is no possibility of traffic.

  • I don’t bite my nails, but I pick at them compulsively. Alicia loathes it and slaps/pinches me to get me to stop. I think this used to be a nervous tick, but now it just happens constantly.

  • If there is a stack of books (or book-shaped things like laptops/iPads), I must have them perfectly aligned in the stack. If there is a book in the pile that is slightly rotated, I must rotate it so all the edges are aligned.

  • Despite a lot of my cleanliness-related weird things, I don’t seem to be bothered by objects covered in dust.

Are these things actually weird? Do other people do weird things like this?