The Godfather: Peter Corris on quirks
Quirks, I suppose we all have them. A friend insists that the toilet paper roll be positioned so that the paper comes down from behind the roll rather than the front. To continue in that vein, I knew someone who, physically and psychologically, could not defecate in any toilet except his own at home. How he got by when on holiday I don’t know.
I’m aware of several people who, when reading a suspenseful book, will turn to the last chapter to resolve the suspense because it is detrimental to their enjoyment of the story. I find this puzzling; quirky. Agatha Christie, notoriously, wrote the last chapter of her clue-puzzle mysteries first. This is more of a writing strategy than a quirk but equally incomprehensible to me, who wrote as one reads – not knowing more than one step ahead.
The famous and powerful are not exempt. Ronald Reagan, we are told, kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk – a curious enough fact in itself in my view. But all the jelly beans were black, because Reagan admitted that he hated making decisions. In keeping the sweets in only one colour he had avoided a decision, albeit a minor one.
Gough Whitlam, according to his wife Margaret, would not eat leftovers in any shape or form. No microwaved curried prawns for Gough.
I’ll admit to a few quirks of my own. I insist that the water be actually boiling when it reaches the cup and the tea bag. If Jean makes a cup of tea and moves away, I’ll re-boil the jug even though only a few seconds have elapsed.
I must have a clear desk before I can do any work. I don’t require things to be in specific places, just that there be no clutter and what I need is at hand. Rhys Jones, renowned archaeologist and a colleague and friend at the ANU, said that anyone with a clean desk wasn’t thinking. I beg to differ – I need a clean slate before I can start to think.
I never carry a wallet. I have one which contains the multitude of cards necessary for living the 21st century – ID, credit cards, Medicare and Medibank Private, Cabcharge, seniors card, etc, etc. But it stays at home on my desk. I take the cards I anticipate needing for the business of the day, along with my money, in my pockets. I have a horror of being bereft of all the cards through my carelessness or theft.
The only time I was subject to this calamity was when we were burgled in Newton. The wallet went along with cash, my passport and, oddly, my electric razor. Were this to happen again – unlikely in these very secure premises – I’d lament the loss of the cards and cash, but the passport has expired and, as anyone can see from the photo accompanying this column, I no longer have nor need an electric razor.