A Matter of Habit

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Each morning I go through my checklist: am I breathing?  Yes.  Good.  Are the paramedics, teary-eyed, looking down on me and shaking their heads?  No.  Excellent.  Am I wearing a shroud?  No.  Even better.  I check my eyes: white is good (obviously the surrounding bits and not the blue bit in the middle – finding that to be white would be most disconcerting); yellow very much not so.  Since the government started regularly monitoring the poo of people of my age, it has become something of a morbid fascination for me, so I check it (thankfully, just a passing glance into the pan remains the only requirement.  I do not need to rummage through it.  I do not, yet, have to check my underwear): too dark means I need an appointment with the doctor; too pale means that I need an appointment with a solicitor and an undertaker.  I check my teeth: all there, a miracle has occurred overnight – perhaps the tooth fairy, in straitened circumstances, is trying to get some money back; some there, the dental status quo has been maintained; none there, my wife has taken exception to me snoring again.  I take my morning tablets: this routine often involves much needed bending and stretching exercise as I scrabble around the floor in order to retrieve whatever I have dropped.  If it is a workday I will put in my contact lenses, if it is not I sidestep the need to ram my fingers into my eyes and poke myself in them with the arm of my glasses instead.

Between the pill retrieval and the contact lens insertion comes the shower – at least that’s what I tell the optician who always insists I must not wear my contacts in water as, if I didn’t wear my lenses in the shower, I wouldn’t be able to find the tap.  Showering has become more and more of a ritual as I get older.  I am reconciled to becoming an old man – I can just about cope with that.  What I can’t cope with is the possibility of becoming a smelly old man.  I don’t know whether it is possible to drown by syphonic action, but the risk is preferable to that of smelling of wee.  I am instead accompanied wherever I may go by the whiff of shower gel and shampoo.  I seldom take a bath.  It’s ok if I want to read a book, although by and large I prefer to do that dry, but I never get out feeling clean.  I’ve been laying in the water that I’ve been washing in, for goodness sake!  Surely all the muck makes its way back onto me.  And no matter what I do with myself, I always seem to be left with some extremity or other (usually a knee) protruding like a Pacific Island, just above the waterline and it always makes me feel cold.  The only way I can manage to submerge all of me – breathing apparatus excluded – is to lie flat and corpse-like below the suds and that makes my blood run cold.  Perhaps it is not quite so space-restricted, but the bath is a mite too coffin-like for me.  I’m much happier taking my ablutions in the vertical.

Breakfast is two small cups of strong black coffee – never one large, even if I am in a hurry – and porridge with sultanas, blueberries and honey (anything other than taste the oats).  I watch the news, because you just can’t beat starting the day in a state of depression, and I watch the weather, although I must admit that it is mostly to see exactly who is forecasting it.  I trust some of them, but I just know that others take pleasure in sending me out in the wrong coat.  If I am leaving the house I check that my hair does not look too unruly (it does), that my flies are zipped up, and I take a final ‘just in case’ wee, at which time I invariably forget to redo my flies.  People used to recognise me by my hair (red, long and very thick – still) but now I fear that it is my underwear.  I check my ‘state of dress’ so often these days that I am developing a callus.

When I was younger – before I had to check that I had locked the doors at least three times before I left the house – I laughed in the face of habit.  It was something that sad, old people were tethered to.  If I could write a letter to my younger self it would say “OK smart-arse, so you were right, but not bright enough to stop yourself from falling into the traps you saw everybody else falling into.” 

Oh, and I talk to myself…


11 thoughts on “A Matter of Habit

  1. Ahh, the smell of wee syndrome… I’ve started to annoy Mrs Underfelt by asking her constantly if I smell of wee. I’m sure that one day she will say “Yes, you reek”. Hopefully that day will only come when I’m ensconced in a care home, unloved, unwashed and sat in my Shackleton High Back, next to a radiator in my wee drenched pyjama bottoms. As for the morning pill routine. I pop the pill out of its armoured casing and watch as it falls to the floor and under the washing machine. The next day, I move further down the work surface well away from the washing machine, however, the pill rolls under the washing machine. Day three, I go into the living room, pop the pill out, it rolls under the washing machine!!! If there is a god, then he’s taking the p**s… Or should I say ‘Wee’…

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  2. Rather uncomfortably, I have realised that my morning’s also do have a certain amount of predictability to them. Perhaps when my mind finally goes, possibly next week at the current rate, I could easily still maintain it using one of those job-threatening AI robot things.

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      1. BTW, talking of routines, haven’t seen you round mine recently, but having changed names, I can see why it might have upset your routine…
        Of course, you might have just got bored with me, which I often do as well, so there’s that…

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  3. Talking to yourself guarantees that you will always get the right answers. That’s my theory, though when I think of how often I don’t much like myself….I may have to re-think that. Taking a bath is good for aching bits but I agree, you have to have enough room. The bath in my current house is definitely of the coffin variety so it’s almost always a shower now.

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