Sunday, November 27, 2005

OCD: Fun For the Whole Family

I have always thought of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) as a somewhat tragic situation, that a poor person would spend hours washing his or her hands, or straightening already-straight paintings, or counting the stairs up to their bedroom hundreds of times a day. It just makes you feel so bad for someone who is trapped in that place where they can't enjoy life unless all the limoge boxes on the mantel are exactly 2.31 centimeters apart, to be checked and re-checked at 45 minute intervals.

It just SOUNDS exhausting and unfortunate.

Until today when we had a change of mind about OCD, courtesy of my neighbor David Flipton. (We call him David Flipton because we remember that his first name is David but it has now been too long since we were introduced to now go back and say, "What is your last name again?" So because he is a self-described "flipper" of homes, constantly fretting about his property values because he just wants to "fix it up and sell it for a bundle," his last name became Flipton).

Anyway, today found my [as a friend called him recently] "very intense" neighbor, David Flipton, using a leafblower to clear out my whole front yard, the entire side of my street, and all of his yard and his side of the street as well. We clearly don't need to improve DC's municipal services; we just need to hide this guy's medication!

It started innocently enough with The Intense Mr. Flipton leafblowing his own yard. (My particular annoyance with leafblowers being used for 6x6 yards in the middle of the city is a topic for another post)... Regardless, I heard it roaring for what seemed like half an hour which aroused my curiosity. So I looked out the window and saw him blowing all of the leaves on his side of the street into separate neat little piles in the tree boxes lining the street. Meticulously.

I then went back to minding my own business, which no doubt involved something to do with The Wiggles nonstop singing or my work--or a messy combination of both: "Three key post-assessment strategies for improving your organization's fundraising return-on-investment include Dancing With Wags the Dog, eating Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy, and Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car."

Anyway, twenty minutes later I was still hearing the nonstop roaring of the leafblower and I was really getting mad in that way you do when you feel impotent to stop whatever it is that's making you mad in the first place. You just stand there talking to yourself or the one other unfortunate person in the room, saying loudly and exasperatedly, "What the hell is he doing?! I mean, come oooon! What could he be doing for 40 minutes?! That's insane! Someone should stop him!"

Then we look out and he is doing our side of the street as well. When we open the door to take out some trash, he asks if he can do our yard too, which of course we decline with an, "Oh my goodness, no! Don't be silly!" To which he intensely replies, "No really. It will only take 5 minutes. Really." So, seeing that he NEEDED to leafblow the front lawn (by which I mean "5x5 plot of grass"), we relented and then watched awkwardly as my neighbor did unpaid gardening work for us as if it was the thing that was holding the cosmos together. The Bambina was looking through the storm door at him, and then looking at me like, "Are you going to tell me why some dude is standing in MY garden wearing a machine that blows leaves into the street, or am I just going to have to assume it's one of those unknowable things like why I can't touch the little electric holes in the wall or why I can't play with my poop or why you keep yammering "Gentle! Gentle!" every time I display my new ability to say 'eye' by poking my finger in yours?"

She was agog. I was aghast. And then he said the thing that confirmed the non-medical OCD diagnosis: "I was just doing the other side of the street, and it looked so neat and this side looked so messy that I just figured I'd clean it all up while I was at it."

You know, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you have once or twice looked across the street and deemed it not as clean as your side of the street; perhaps you have even deemed another neighbor's yard to be not as clean as yours and have immediately rushed over there to rearrange their lawn ornaments so you can finally sit down and enjoy your day in mental peace and quiet. No? Oh. Okay.

But maybe you would have if only you'd had a leafblower!


Miko said...

Whenever people get down on OCD types, I like to remind them that OCD is probably responsible for the fact that when you go into a library, you can find the book you want. When you go into the grocery store, the food is organized by type. When you go to a doctor's office, you can feel relatively confident that the clean instruments were not mixed with the used ones. And so on. All the relaxed, 'oh, throw it anywhere' folk in the world wouldn't have gotten those systems developed.

I know, I sound a little defensive. My utensils are sorted by size.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, and if you hadn't been home during the leaf re-distribution, we might have gotten a warm post about the miraculous cleanup and kindness of strangers...even in the big city...and how it's still the best darn place on earth to raise your Bambina. I, for one, appreciate the efforts of those who shovel snow/remove leaves/pick-up litter even if the sidewalk in front of my house is not on their official turf. It takes a village, E.

E said...

Which was exactly my point, anonymous! And that there's nothing wrong with OCD being the contributing factor.