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?
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