During the latter section, I use an A3-sized version of the photo below to demonstrate what I mean by ordering. This shows one of my kitchen cupboard shelves and is an example of how it might look at any given time - the exact contents vary from day to day.
|Photo: Peter Gettins Photography|
As soon as I held up the sheet, a woman at the back called out 'What's wrong with that?' The challenge was not so much in what she said, as how she said it: her tone was definitely tetchy. If I'd been a comedian, I'd have called it a heckle.
I responded indirectly by explaining my very precise rules for arranging such items: the labels must face forward, be centred and lined up vertically, and the products must be centred to each other from front to back.
As I told the audience, being able to identify the contents of these containers is practical; positioning them with millimetre precision isn't - it's pointless and time-consuming.
My new friend wasn't satisfied. 'Do you use a ruler?' she asked. The question could have been intended as a joke, but, again, I didn't get that sense from her tone.
'No, but there's an idea!' I said lightly, to deflect any implied criticism. In fact, I don't need a ruler, as compulsions are all about what 'feels right' and that internal measure is more accurate than any physical tool.
To further lighten the mood, I commented that I could see from this photo that some things were actually a little off-centre and not up to my usual standards. In fact, that's actually hard to judge from this shot: as the picture was taken head on, the items to the left and right appear to be on a diagonal.
'Yes, they are!' my friend agreed, with an air that somehow combined both reproach and smugness. By now, I really felt as though she were questioning my credentials as an OCD sufferer.
She concluded by asking 'Do you use a spirit level?' Again, the answer was 'no', as most of the time I'm ordering items sitting on flat surfaces.
Since then, I've reflected on this exchange and realise that I may have misjudged my inquisitor. Although I felt under attack, her comments could just as easily have been interpreted as defensive.
She may well have OCD herself, perhaps undiagnosed, so the fact that I was attributing my behaviours to a mental illness - and openly acknowledging how ridiculous they were - could have been quite challenging to her.
She left before I could speak to her one to one, but I do hope, if my suspicions are correct, that she gets help - and manages to resist the lure of the ruler and spirit level.