Habits We Can’t Explain

Every morning I roll out of bed, wander into the living room, turn on the lights (I get up when it’s still dark), and scan the walls for spiders. Have I seen even one spider since we moved to Las Vegas last January? No. It’s a habit—long ingrained—because I don’t want any nasty surprises.

Habits are interesting phenomena. They’re defined as a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. Some habits are good—like looking both ways before you cross the street. Others are downright peculiar.

Another thing I do is check the back seat before I get into my car by myself at night. I don’t know what I expect to find in a locked car. A clown with a gleaming knife? A dead body? A spider?

Let’s get back to the spiders. I became well-acquainted with them during our eight-month boat trip that took us to lots of old docks and public showers in marinas. The first thing I’d do when I went off to shower in the morning was check the stall for…you know. Often there was one high up in a corner or worse, hanging on the shower curtain. On those days I picked up my bag and towel and went back to the boat. Showers on the boat were timed and short. But private.

At one new high priced marina in Michigan, I was sure I wasn’t going to have any tiny voyeurs in my shower. I enjoyed the hot water for days until a little girl about eight took me aside one morning and with a very serious face told me to be careful. They’d found a brown recluse spider on one of the curtains. Guess where I showered thereafter.

Enough about habits born of phobias. Another bad habit I have is biting my lower lip whenever I’m stressed. Other people grind their teeth or abuse their hangnails. Not me. I chew the heck out of my lip until it looks like I’ve had a collagen treatment. Another: If I’m watching a sports team I care about and they fall way behind, I turn the TV off. Why? It’s only a game. I admit I’ve missed a lot of comebacks.

And my final bad habit (that I will share). I do something no writer should ever admit. If I’m desperate to know what happens in a book, I read the ending, then go back and see how it all transpired. Bad girl. Bad girl.

I’m sure all of you are perfect, but if you have a bad habit (or a good one), care to share? I’m always looking for ways to make my characters more interesting.

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