Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I am a compulsive straightener and neat freak. I walk around our apartment lining up loose papers, making sure that if shoes are lying on the floor they all point in the same direction, opening all the window shades to the same height, not leaving the bedroom in the morning with the bed unmade, removing plates from the table even before you may have finished eating, together with a thousand other annoying little routines. I get on my own nerves sometimes.

Last Wednesday evening, Joanne and I traveled to Great Barrington for a 2 day mini-vacation. Whether my office is busy or not, I have to check my e-mail virtually non-stop throughout the day (from the moment I get up until I go to sleep). I call in way too often to see if I have any messages, and generally obsess about whatever may or may not be happening. I cannot, given my shortcomings, ever truly escape. Thus, I took a briefcase (more like a suitcase) full of files with me for our trip.

Once we arrived at our destination, we unpacked. Instead of the files being placed on the floor next to my desk, they were put in a closet across from where I was to do my work. It would not have met my neat-meter test for this case to be out in the open. It was tucked away, hidden from view. No clutter was allowed.

The next 3 days passed without incident. I did what work I had, created many unnecessary e-mails as usual, printed out copies of these communications and of any documents reviewed. All of these papers were neatly stacked in a pile on my desk.

Sunday morning we headed back to New Jersey. The bed was made, the dishes were put away, the shades that had all been opened to the exact same level were now closed, the towels were aligned in a neat row in the bathroom. All was in order. The papers on my desk were removed and put into the suitcase for the journey. Off we went.

It was not until Sunday evening that the sickening reality struck me. I was asking Richie if he had paid a particular bill. He had not BECAUSE THE BILL WAS WITH THE FILES IN MASSACHUSETTS.

Only by the greatest luck did my compulsive disorder not result in a round trip of 250 miles on Monday morning. It turns out that we have friends from New Jersey who also have a house in Great Barrington. They were at their house Sunday evening and not returning to New Jersey until Monday afternoon. I found someone with the master key to all the units in the complex. My friends retrieved the files and disaster was avoided.

Did I learn any lessons from my near miss? I don't think that is a possibility. There is something deeply ingrained that drives me ever onward. Even now, as I write, I have to end this piece because there are 3 pens not lined up in size order on the other side of the room. If Joanne sleeps much later, I am going to be forced to make the bed with her in it. I need help.


Anonymous said...

I can use you Tuesdays & Fridays. Do you do laundry?

Robert said...

what is the rate of pay?

Anonymous said...

Stop being a messuggenah.

Robert said...

How does one do that?

Richie Jay said...

I am hereby stating my formal objection to your self-categorization as a neat freak. Yes, you enjoy lining things up in size order, stacking tall piles of assorted miscellany and tchotchkes, and hiding things from other people (and, apparently, yourself) that happen to clutter your view--but I wouldn't characterize any of these activities as a form of cleaning, and I wouldn't say that they actually help maintain a neater home, since I usually have to rearrange the objects in non-height-order, unstack the piles to separate the trash from the urgent notices, and play hide-and-go-seek to find my belongings. Plus, you don't exactly excel at traditional cleaning activities like dishwashing, clothes washing, house washing, and anything else hyphen washing (I should note here that I am not claiming to be good at these things either).

However, I can't say that I mind that my bed miraculously makes itself from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, you're my mother!

Robert said...

However you may see me, you cannot deny that I am a straightener of epic proportions.

By the way, I have now received multiple offers to be a house cleaner (more like a house straightener). I am mulling over my options.

I may have found a new career.

Robert said...

Mickey, your mother must be a highly exceptional woman

Anonymous said...

i have to agree with richie on this one, but must also admit that i am guilty of some of these compulsions myself. thanks for the good genes, dad!

Robert said...

Why do you think Nussbaum means nut tree? Certainly, for us, in many ways, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree.