Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Being Strange

I told the story, in a much earlier blog, of working at my first just-out-of-college job in the customer service department of the Olson Rug Company, and receiving a letter from a lady who wanted the company to give her new rugs in exchange for “The Secret.” She had, she explained, offered The Secret to the Sheriff, but he was sitting on two chairs.

I fear this dear lady went a bit beyond the limits of “strange”, but every human being has his or her little idiosyncrasies and degrees of strangeness. It comes far more naturally to some than to others. While most do their best to hide them, I rather enjoy mine. At times I think I rather cultivate them, like hothouse flowers.

But as I was thinking of this topic, I realized that many of my strangenesses (like making up words like “strangenesses”) are directly related to my fascination with words.

I like to make up ditties which, like a spot of raspberry jam on a white shirt, tend to be nearly impossible to remove, cropping up randomly years later. Two which leapt to mind the minute I though of it involve my cat, Crickett, Cricketty Cricketty Crickett, Fell fast asleep in a thicket. Dreamed of a rose shaped like a nose and thought ‘When I wake up, I’ll pick it and Bozo, a marvelous yellow lab I had for only a short time before he was killed by a car: Bozo Bozo Bozo; punch ‘em in the no-zo. Make ‘em pay, then run away, ‘cause that’s the way it goes-zo. Why they should still be with me after so many years, I have no idea.

And I frequently find myself playing a strange word game of rhyming opposites, which I tie together by thinking of them as greetings, and which potentially has no end: “Hello, morning, hello, noon/Hello fork, hello, spoon/Hello here, hello there/Hello sofa, hello chair”…ad infinitum. I find I can play it until my mind grows numb (Hello smile, hello pout/Hello in, hello out…see what I mean?)

I enjoy figuring out how many words can be made from other words without repeating letters: I think I got at least 53 from the word “diplomat”, for example.

For the most part, my idiosyncracies affect no one but me, and I consider them totally harmless. I take an odd sense of comfort in them, and were I just to shut up about having them, most would not be aware I had them (perhaps yet another idiosyncracy: self delusion).

My mind’s tendency to resemble a downed power line, thrashing about and sending off sprays of sparks, provides me with both pleasure and frustration. As I finished the last paragraph…and there is a link between them, obtuse as it may be…I suddenly thought of a guy I met in Los Angeles. He was aboard the Andrea Doria when it sank, so I was fascinated by him. A nice looking guy, he had particularly nice hair. But I hadn’t known him for more than ten minutes when he informed me he wore a full toupee. Now, I never in the world would have known it had he not told me and still cannot figure out why he did. One would imagine people wear a toupee to hide the fact that they are bald. But why go to the trouble if you’re going to tell everyone you meet you’re wearing one?

So I guess it boils down to the fact that, as mentioned above, admit it or not, strangenesses and idiosyncracies are a part of human existence. And as long as we have them, we might as well enjoy them.

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