2013 Grateful 36

Sixty-two, I said.
What? she asked.
There were sixty-two carriages on that freight train, I replied.
Why did you count them? she asked.
I don’t know… why did I?

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I realised this weekend that I have the strangest habit of counting things. Standing at the station in Dárzini, about 25 km south of Riga, a goods train passed. Without thinking, I started to count the carriages. I’ve never stopped to think about why I do this but on reflection, I do it often. I’ve narrowed it down to those times when I’m not doing anything else – when I’m waiting for someone or something to happen. Perhaps it’s my version of doodling. In Prague last month, I counted the steps (100) up to our apartment. I know there are 127 leading up to mine in Budapest. At mass on Sundays, I count the people in the church. I know that it takes 121 seconds on the escalator to get out of Széll Kálman tér metro station (I’ve counted them). I know there are nine towns between Waterford and Dublin (I know them by heart).

I can tell you how many times you’ve said my name in conversation, or how often you’ve used a particular filler word. I can tell you the number of times you’ve stirred your tea/coffee or how often you’ve checked your phone. I’m not doing it to judge (okay – the checking your phone is a definite judgment thing) – I just do it. And it doesn’t matter who you are or how well I know you. That has no bearing on anything at all.

I counted my postcards before I dropped them in the postbox today – I knew there were 15 but still I counted them. I counted toothpicks on the restaurant table at dinner, and the number of tables, chairs, and coat pegs. Sometimes, I even count my peas. I don’t need to know this information; it serves me no purpose. And I’m not suffering from a latent version of OCD. I just have this thing about counting… a thing I only realised I had today.

This week was an interesting week – it started off in Budapest and ended up in Riga. Those sorts of weeks are always interesting. Apart from having the wherewithal to travel and good friends to travel with, this week I’m grateful that after all these years of living with me, I still manage to surprise myself. That can only be good, can’t it? Perhaps it’s a growing sense of awareness of what I do and why I do it, or perhaps it was simply prompted by that simple question – why? Whatever. It’s not important. I’m just grateful that I’m still able to keep myself amused.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

7 replies
  1. Bernard Adams
    Bernard Adams says:

    What is the largest number in a set that you can assess correctly without having actually to count them one by one?

  2. Deb Fowler
    Deb Fowler says:

    I call it OCD and find myself doing it all the time. Only I have to repeat it over and over it drives some of the people I know crazy, other’s are so used to my many quirks ( constantly sweeping, wiping, or stiring) that it is a joke. Nonetheless it is me and all I can do is laugh so thanks for making me smile and grateful.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  2. […] It’s a first world problem, I know. And despite the fact that 99 times out of a 100 my luggage travels on the same plane as I do, that anxious gene kicks in when my suitcase doesn’t arrive in the first 17 on the conveyor belt. I have no idea why I count the pieces of luggage as they appear and can’t explain the increasing heart rate as I approach the magic number, or why it even is the magic number  – but I’m a counter. […]

  3. […] have a habit of counting things, particularly train carriages, but New Mexico trains defied any attempt to add their length. Miles and miles of trains travelled alongside the Interstate […]

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