Obsessive Compulsive

Tech Life886 words5 minutes to read

I think I’m obsessive-compulsive. Not like the guy who washes his hands hundreds of times a day, or like Adrian Monk — the TV detective that suffers from all sorts of phobias and anxieties and has these oddball little quirks — kind of obsessive. But a little.

I think it all started when I was a kid. I was the kid that had to have all of my toy cars lined up exactly right, or it was no good. When I was about 5 years old, I randomly watched my dad put his socks on. You know that long line stitch in the sock that’s supposed to go straight over your toes? Yeah. My dad’s stitch was looping over his toes from the top to the bottom. I saw that and felt my brain short-circuit.

When I was in Jr. High or High School, I started noticing that if you looked at my socks you could see where the big toe went. Apparently this was because I unconsciously wore the same socks on the same feet. A left-foot sock was always worn on the left foot, and the same was true for right-foot socks. I would even go so far as to flipping one sock inside-out if I could only find 2 left or right-foot socks. I still do this to this day.

I always, ALWAYS keep my wallet in my right pocket, and my keys, chapstick, and a pen in the left pocket. If I’m missing any of those items, I almost feel naked. Well, no. I take that back. But things do feel not-quite-right.

When playing Monopoly, the Chance and Community Chest cards MUST stay within their assigned boxes on the board. If I notice them out of place, I have to fix them. Except for the times when somebody else moves my things, I haven’t lost my shoes, wallet, or car keys in over 10 years. Why? Because I only put them in one or two places when they’re not on my person.

It seems funny to talk about, because it doesn’t seem like any of this is out of the ordinary… but for many people it is. My wife can’t keep track of her head, and it’s attached to her body. But even though I’ve been doing all of these things for my entire life (at least as long as I can remember, anyway), the thought of actually being a little OCD never occurred to me until last week.

Last week, I discovered OpenID. OpenID is a cool system, where you can authenticate (sign-in) to an OpenID-enabled service, and that will activate your URL (your website address, among other things) as your OpenID “key” to other OpenID-enabled services. (I know that was probably a terrible way to explain it, but it’s really not all that relevant to the story.)

37signals launched a new service last week called Highrise, which is a way to manage your contacts, conversations you had with them, follow-up tasks, etc. Highrise also supports OpenID authentication. Once I got my OpenID set up, I logged into Highrise with it. I typed in “”, and it logged me right in. I thought that was really cool, so I logged out, and again typed “”. It logged me in again. Sweet. Log out, type “” again. Log back in. I’m not really sure how long this went on for, but I began looking for other services that supported OpenID, like Zooomr, and Live Journal, and there’s a Mediawiki extension that supports it, and there are at least a couple dozen sites and/or services that support it already. I just kept logging in, logging out, logging in, logging out.

After a while I looked at the clock, and realized I’d been logging in and out of services for about two hours. Two hours of my life — wasted — because I thought that OpenID authentication was really cool. No… it’s, like, 5 minutes cool. Maybe 10. Not 120 minutes cool. Not two hours cool. And here I sit, talking about something I never noticed about myself until last week.

It makes sense though, and it certainly explains a lot of my behavior over the last 27 years. It explains why I have a sock “thing”. It explains why things need to be alphabetized. It explains why when I’m drinking a Pepsi from a can, I never leave any Pepsi in the lip of the can after each drink. It explains why I’m the one who’s responsible for how my furniture is arranged and how the kitchen is organized — not my wife. It explains why I became a web developer… and before that I was a musician… and before that I was a kid who was really good at math.

Thing is, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, it certainly serves me well that I never lose my shoes or my keys. But I know it drives other people crazy. Should I even care? My impulsive side wants to arbitrarily change something about the way I do things. Sometimes that works out for me, and sometimes it drives me crazy. I’m not sure if I’ll even do anything about this new revelation, I just thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about it.

Ryan Parman

Ryan Parman is an experienced software engineer, open source evangelist, and passionate user advocate currently living in Seattle. He is the creator of and , and worked on DevOps and Security at . He is now bringing learning into the digital age as an Engineering Lead and Site Reliability Engineer at . Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than .