So you Have OCD? BFD


Five million Americans suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.

There are thousands of us who actually enjoy it.

My OCD comes in handy. Certain physical traits or conditions lend themselves to some occupations, turning what could be a liability into an asset. A stunted sense of smell due to sinus polyps or a damaged olfactory nerve, for instance, could be a boon to a garbage man. Especially if there is a frat house or veterinary clinic on his route.

Someone with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease might come in handy down at Sherwin-Williams when the paint shaker is on the fritz.

Or take a person born with polydactylism—extra digits. Talk about the perfect endorser for nail files! Or perhaps custom made baseball mitts. On the other hand, they have seven fingers.

One of my income streams (more like a dribble) is derived from freelance graphic design.   In that field, OCD is a usually a blessing, sometimes a curse. Mine is mild enough to be annoying and/or entertaining, but I use it to my advantage when arranging visual elements.

Back in the 20th century I worked for a couple of sign shops. In the sign game, the ability to apply graphics straight and level without any measuring was known as “Jesus Eyes.” I had Jesus Eyes.

I once worked with a talented artist whose own OCD was complemented by a light case of Tourette Syndrome. Somehow this mild twitchiness coupled with his own Jesus Eyes gave him almost superhuman facility when it came to sign making.

I once was helping him apply some complex graphics to the side of a panel van. After a couple of hours affixing the vinyl film to the truck—his measuring tape never leaving his belt—I suggested that he might want to take a quick measurement, just to double-check his work.

He wheeled around to face me, a razor-sharp Olfa knife in his hand, and said nothing. He blinked both eyes rapidly and independently (this was really the only physical manifestation of his Tourette’s. Profane outbursts are more a Hollywood cartoon of the affliction). He turned his head slightly to one side, keeping me locked in his gaze. His thumb idly flicked the stainless steel blade in and out of the Olfa knife’s handle.

“Are you impugning my mojo?”

I spread my hands. “Just a quick double-check, man. I’m sure it’s money.”

With a hiss of disgust, he whipped out his tape measure and laid it on a couple of sections of artwork. Of course it was money, as in “right on the.” Like me, the man had a deep-seated need for things to be straight and level, but he was permanently calibrated to the universe. I never questioned his estimation skills again.

Laymen who encounter a craftsman or artisan with Jesus Eyes are usually awed, or at least suitably impressed. Some, though, especially tightwad customers with their own control issues, need to be reassured. I have a stock answer for them.

“Oh, don’t worry,” I’ll say. “I’ll be checking these measurements and spacings using the O.E.P. It’s the industry standard.”

That explanation will usually suffice, but if they remain skeptical I spell it out for them. “Ocular Estimation Paradigm. You know, eyeballing.”

One irony of OCD is that the letters in the acronym are not in alphabetical order. That bothers me enough that I’ve come up with my own term, Affliction Disorder Syndrome. ADS. Ah. Better.

My ADS enables me to accurately estimate sizes, distances, capacities and other spatial relationships with reliable results. My Jesus Eyes were so sharp at one point that I considered training for the Spatial Olympics.

But every gift comes with a price, right? Like that $50 your grandpa gave you when you graduated from high school (“Use it for a résumé!”). ADS can sometimes be inconvenient (for others) and downright embarrassing.

When I walk along the sidewalk I don’t avoid the cracks—I avoid the imaginary lines that extend from the cracks.

In our house, pictures on the wall can only be grouped in odd numbers. If someone gives us a quartet of original paintings, I will either throw one away when nobody’s looking, or break out the acrylics and paint a fifth one to match.

So you Have OCD? BFD. Bob Wire, Humor Blogger.

Nobody will miss just this one. Photo: Sophia Therriault

When pouring coffee beans in the grinder, I can’t stop myself from adding just a couple more beans after it’s full. Same with flour or sugar in a recipe, dog food in the dish, soap in the washing machine, or tequila in a Long Island Iced Tea.

Every item in the dishwasher must be placed as close as possible to the cabinet or drawer where it is stored. There has to be an odd number of fruit in the fruit bowl (I eat a fair amount of extra fruit because of this). It bugs the hell out of me that the microwave dings four times and not five.

If my wife tells me in the morning that eight orange poppies are blooming in the back yard, by the time she comes home from work there will be seven.

I feel lucky that my family is accepting of my ADS, and generally they take it in stride. (“Spoons don’t go in the front basket, sweetie, they have to go in the second one. It’s important to your father.”) They will sit patiently while I maneuver the car into the exact geographic center of a parking space. They don’t bat an eye when I re-stack all the clean towels so they follow the color spectrum. It doesn’t seem to bother them that I’m constantly nudging the couch and love seat, keeping them exactly perpendicular to each other.

It could be much worse. I don’t need to wash my hands 50 times a day (although I do have to shake them off ten times after I do wash). I don’t have to recite the Constitution every time I have sex. Hell, there’s barely enough time for the Preamble.

I’m not afraid to let the different foods on my plate touch each other as I eat them in alphabetical order.

Yes, ADS, OCD, anal-retentive behavior, whatever you want to call it, affects my life but  really has minimal impact. I laugh at myself, and it’s okay if you laugh at me too.

Just do not ever, under any circumstances, impugn my mojo.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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