We are a diverse species. However, most of us prefer to live in groups that share common characteristics. It’s comforting to hang out with folks who mirror our looks and predilections. Homogeneity just feels good. We enjoy people who share our dreams, schemes and nose shapes. It feels safe and familiar. Oh, we accept minor deviations. Dolly Parton’s natural attributes are outside the norm but she is viewed with awed appreciation. However, we have to force ourselves to make room for those who are inherently different. The unusually tall or small must deal with a world that doesn’t fit. Handicapped folks face barriers that most of us never consider. It takes effort to shuffle the cards and sort ourselves based on things that matter rather than unimportant externalities.
However, sometimes the things that separate us from the crowd are not obvious at first glance. We call those characteristics “eccentricities.” Everyone is odd in some way. My son, Nate, taps his heel --- constantly. My husband has a grudge against the bank – any
bank, all banks. My cousin Karen loves her things to be purple – clothes, cars, keys, toasters, computers, cell phones, etc. In my travels, I met a man who blinked twice, lifted his hat and replaced it on his head every five minutes. I knew a girl in college who kept knitting needles under her pillow – just in case. She could never adequately explain the circumstance that would necessitate their retrieval. An emergency knitting project, maybe?
In my case, I have two eccentricities. First, I am geographically challenged. It’s not that I don’t know where I’m going, it’s just that I don’t know where I am now. Apparently, my ancestors were neither gatherers nor hunters so I was born without the orientation gene. Second, I can’t open anything. From aspirin bottles to shrink-wrapped items from Amazon, packaged goods deny me their contents with frustrating regularity. Doors, locks, purses and file cabinets give me trouble too – as do websites, ATM machines and brassiere clasps. I have an equally contentious relationship with electronic products sealed inside molded plastic. I can see the object of my desire but neither teeth nor scissors nor blow torches can pry it loose.
You might say that these two peculiarities aren’t all that bad. Weird, yes – but small in the overall scheme of things. True, it’s not like Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good as it Gets” who needed to turn the lights on, off, on, off and on each time he entered a room. It’s not nearly as strange as my friend Mindy who’s afraid of wind or my friend Dale who’s afraid of weather or my friend Peter who rates dirt.
However, my personal brand of craziness does have its drawbacks. For example, the other day I was reading up on self-defense techniques. Given my two failings, it was a frightening list of tips:
* If you sense problems on your way, just change your route. Change my route? Are you kidding? I get lost on the way to the bathroom. No way am I going to risk being attacked when I don’t know where I am – which is most of the time.
* Do not wear conspicuous jewelry when you are walking the streets alone. What good is jewelry if it’s not conspicuous? Especially after it took me thirty minutes to get it out of the box and around my neck.
* Do not act or look like an easy target. Okay, what does an easy target look like? Someone told me that my long hair gives a bad guy something to grab. Seems to me if he was going to grab something, he’d go for the conspicuous jewelry.
* Don’t hitchhike. Well, duh.
* Don’t pull over to the side of a dark, lonely road even if a stranger gestures for you to. Double duh.
* Don’t get in a taxi that has a central locking mechanism. Now this is down right terrifying for a person who can’t open a mustard jar. How many taxis don’t have a central locking mechanism these days? Now I have nightmares about trying to unlock a locked taxi on a dark, lonely road. Sometimes the stranger is waiting for me to get out, sometimes he’s in the taxi with me. EEEK!
* Go for your attackers gonads. Get real. I want to stay as far away from them as possible – and besides, I have trouble with zippers too.
By the way, does anyone want to take a shot at unlocking my medic alert bracelet?