20 May 2013

Lost and found - and lost again

One of my OCD behaviours is checking, which forms an integral part of many of my ordering habits: the precision with which I arrange items means I can simultaneously check if any are missing.

It was while sorting the contents of my handbag that I spotted a gap where my mobile phone should be. Cue panic - until I remembered I'd taken it out in the car to check for messages on the way home from the supermarket. 

I went back out to our car park, in the dark, and found the phone lying on the passenger seat of my car. Crisis over. 

Until the next one ten minutes later.

Having unpacked my shopping, I carried out a final check of my handbag - only to discover that now my car keys were missing. I rummaged around in my flat for a while, assuming I'd put them down somewhere on the way back in. Finally, I admitted defeat, went outside again, and found them dangling in the car door. 

I'd averted two crises in one night - the possible theft of both my phone and my car - thanks to my checking.

Photo: Peter Gettins Photography
But what would really have happened if I hadn't scrutinised my handbag so carefully?

The likelihood of anyone seeing my phone was practically non-existent. The likelihood of anyone who might see it actually bothering to steal it, zero. It's ancient and has all the functionality of a carrier pigeon. In fact, probably less - it's likely there's a pigeon somewhere that could be trained to take a photo, which my phone can't. 

And, as our car park is secured by spike-topped gates, the only people who can access it are fellow residents. Now, some of them might put their recycling in the wrong bins, or play their music too loudly, but I'm pretty sure none of them would steal from a neighbour. 

As for my car, it's a 15-year-old, 1-litre Micra, which needed an expensive amount of welding to get it through its last MOT. It's served me well, but it's hardly a prime candidate for resale, a joy ride or use in a bank robbery.

However, none of this logical analysis persuades me that I should give up my checks. Quite the opposite. Never mind theft, I don't want to risk losing my phone or keys, because I can do without the associated hassle.

Perhaps I could verify their location without spending five minutes putting my bag in order. The ordering and checking are inextricably linked, though: if my things don't have a designated home, how will I know when they're missing? I know that's how most people operate, but that's why most people lose stuff all the time.

All this experience has done is reinforce the 'value' of my habits - and left me a little bit more lost to OCD.


Lindsay said...

Can't help remembering the time my mechanic, who worked in a slightly dodgy area of N London, admitted he'd left my car parked overnight on the road with its keys in the door. It was still there the next morning! Huge relief to still have my car, but a pang of regret that it didn't represent joy for possible joy-riders.

On a serious note, much 'obsessive' behaviour is rooted in good sense!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for your comment, Lindsay, it's certainly true that a lot of OCD behaviours have their roots in common sense and 'normal' practices.