25 November 2013

Street life

Take my writer's curiosity and love of people-watching, add the fact that I live in a first-floor flat overlooking a busy road, and you have the makings of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Unlike James Stewart's character in Rear Window, I can't claim to have witnessed a murder - fortunately. I have, however, noticed a few people displaying OCD-style behaviours.

One man, whom I've seen several times, appears to have various compulsions associated with parking his car.

Our road is in a controlled parking zone, so is marked with bays, and the one opposite is only big enough for one large car, or a small car and a Smart car-sized vehicle. 

This particular driver is obsessed with fitting his small car centrally in this space. He repeatedly gets out to check its position, walking all around the car, before getting back in and moving it backwards or forwards. He does this several times before he's satisfied. 

Once the car is parked, he then sits in it for ages, scanning the inside, apparently checking the contents. 

And he is unable just to lock up and walk away. He comes back again and again, repeatedly circling the car and rattling the door handles. Sometimes he even gets back in to move it, or to check the interior once more.  

Photo: Peter Gettins Photography
He can be stuck in this cycle of parking, checking and locking up for 10-15 minutes. As I go about my own business, I feel compelled to keep an eye on him, until he breaks free.

Meanwhile, one of the tenants in the house opposite often returns to check the front door is locked. 

Recently, he came out, locked up and disappeared out of sight down the street. He reappeared a moment later, jiggled the door handle and walked away again. This time, he only made it to the pavement before going back. He tested the handle again, removed his hand and turned away. Almost immediately, without taking a single step, he twisted back and tried it for the fourth, and last, time. 

Above, I described these behaviours as OCD-style, because I have no idea if either of these men actually has the condition.

However, an estimated 2-3% of the population do - making something in the region of 1.27-1.91m people nationally, based on the latest population figures (63.7m in August 2013). 

What if you take that down to street level? 

Internet research reveals there are 133 properties in my road. Assuming an occupancy of 2 people per household - probably somewhat low, as many are large family homes - that means an average of between 5 and 8 could have OCD just in this one quarter-mile stretch of London. 

That figure somehow makes the condition's impact more real to me than any national or global statistics. It also makes me feel a lot less isolated in living with it: maybe just a few doors away, so is someone else.


Anonymous said...

Haha I wonder if anyone on my street is watching me in the same way. My little compulsion - I don't know if you'd consider it 'OCD-style' is that I hate switching off my in-car music in the middle of a song. I'm always very happy when I park up just as a song finishes - but sometimes I get trapped in my car, waiting for the song to finish before I can get out. And quite often, I'm headbanging and/or singing along... which probably provides a bit of entertainment for the neighbours.

Helen Barbour said...

That's really funny - and, I suspect, not uncommon. I can certainly relate to that, with my need for 'wholeness'.

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