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Some things nobody knows about me

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I was talking on the phone the other day, and it occurred to me that it's possible that nobody knows that I often pace while I talk on the phone. I stride briskly from one end of the house to the other, spin on my heel, stride back, walking with a sort of nervous energy as if I have somewhere important to be.

It's possible that one or two people have seen me do that, but I don't tend to do it when there are other people around.

But that got me thinking about what else there might be that I've never told anyone.

Of course, it's important to keep a few such things completely secret, just in case your future self ever needs to convince your past self that it's really you by telling you something that nobody else knows.

But if I ever find myself in that position, there'll be various things I can choose from. So I don't think I'll be interfering with transtemporal communications if I mention a couple of other things that I don't think I've ever told anyone:

  • I count seconds, or at least quasi-seconds. Whenever I have to wait for something, or want to stay in one place for a while, or want to know how long something takes—I habitually count in my head: One one-thousand, two one-thousand, etc. I've been doing that since I was a kid; I think what got me started was a mix of the time that we were waiting to do something (maybe a small-plane flight at a county fair or something?) and my parents told me to count to a thousand to pass the time, and a science fiction story in which someone starts counting and then later realizes that they're still subconsciously counting in the back of their head. Oh, and a programmable-calculator game that my father and I wrote when I was a kid, in which you would try to let the program run for as close to exactly five seconds as possible. But when I'm counting seconds these days I don't normally try for precision; if I count slowly, it's more like two seconds per number.
  • I imagine unlikely real-world scenarios and what I might say if they were to happen. If I notice that I'm speeding, for example, sometimes I'll invent entire dialogues with imaginary police officers, telling them what my excuse was. This isn't just an indirect think-about-it-in-general-terms kind of thing; it's more like a daydream or a fantasy. I suspect that a lot of people do this, maybe most people, but I don't think I ever hear anyone talk about it, except that the characters in Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly do it regularly. I was startled when I first read that book, a few years ago, because this thing the characters did was so recognizable, but I couldn't remember ever having heard anyone mention it before.
  • When I was a kid, I had a persistent superstition that any part of my body that wasn't covered by covers when I was in bed at night could get eaten by monsters. (I say “superstition” because it was maybe a little less than a belief but a little more than a fear.) I made an exception for my head so I could breathe, but it was important to have (for example) my arms and shoulders covered up. These days, I no longer believe the monsters thing even a little bit, but it still sometimes takes a conscious effort to stick an arm or a leg out from under the sheet and blankets; I'm still a little uncomfortable with not being covered up.
  • I compulsively check the locks on my doors at night. Even after I know that I've checked them, I sometimes feel the need to check them again. I know people have seen me doing these checks, but I've rarely talked about it.

(Wrote most of this in July 2014; may have mentioned one or two of these things to one or two people since then, so it's possibly not true that literally nobody knows these things about me. But it was probably true a couple years ago.)

(See also Facebook thread for this post.)

2 Comments

Thank you for this post! I laughed at your disclaimer and cautionary note about the transtemporal communications imperative.

I also pace while on the phone, and feel and follow the urge to lock and recheck doors before going to sleep. (Although regular mindfulness meditation practice reduces the need to re-check, because I actually concentrate on and notice the original locking, and then remember it better.)

I'd love to hear more about the imaginary scenario playing-out. Do those stories usually involve reacting to negative or worrisome stimuli, or are the Jonbar points sometimes good things?


Thanks for the comment! I was surprised by the number of commenters who do various of these things; I knew some of them were common, but didn't realize how many of them are.

Excellent point about mindfulness. I've actually intermittently worked on exactly that over the past couple years, specifically regarding the locks: pay more attention as I check them, in order to remember that I've done it already. But it still takes conscious effort to remember to do that, which I guess isn't surprising—mindfulness requires mindfulness.

Imaginary scenarios: Good question. I think it's almost always negative stuff; I think it's kind of a way for me to feel protected or prepared about possible negative things. And I think it's always interaction with a human; I think I know people who plan out responses to emergencies ("if the room catches on fire, here's what I'll do"), but for me it's more about giving excuses and explanations if I get caught doing something that I know I shouldn't be doing, or that I know is against the rules. (I guess that's why I associate it with driving; speeding is probably the thing I do most often that's against the rules.) I think I'm less likely to feel the need for protection/preparation for positive outcomes. But that's all gut-feeling responses to your question; I'll have to think more about situations when this comes up.


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