When I was a kid I was obsessed with making sure that all the lights in the house were turned off when they weren’t being used. I would follow my older brother and sister around the house turning off every light just as they turned them on, chastising them constantly, “Don’t you know what you’re doing?”
There were times when I had to make sure that the same light was off, six times in a span of ten minutes. I would think, maybe I made a mistake the last time I checked, maybe I didn’t turn it all the way off, maybe I need to go check again.
Actually, what I was really thinking was, my God, there is a limited amount of fossil fuel on the planet and my family is going to be personally responsible for depleting every ounce of it, and if I don’t go once more and check the light in the bathroom to make sure that, yes, the four previous times I checked I was right, it’s off, I’m going to be an accomplice, and we’re all going to die in the dark.
I suffered a similar obsession with making sure the water was turned off. My mother would force me to stay in my room when she was washing dishes, because if I was allowed anywhere near the kitchen, I’d turn the water off between each dish she washed.
It drove me crazy, sitting in my room hearing the gush of water escaping down the kitchen sink knowing that I was related to the person who was going to waste every drop of water in the world.
I don’t necessarily think I was a crazy kid, alone in my obsessive-compulsion. I think I can safely blame the public school system in Tennessee for every fear I had as a child, from having a barn animal land on me in a tornado to dying from just looking at poison ivy.
I seriously thought that not washing my hands was just about as dangerous as a Russian nuclear attack, and I figured that since I could really do something about the germs on my hands, the germs they warned us about in the film strip we saw every year, that I was really making a difference in the world. Gorbachev would know that I washed my hands all the time and would thus be reluctant to blow up my house.
Dare I ask — and I may very well regret this — what were you obsessive-compulsive about as a kid?