Creatures of Habit

Voice Card  -  Volume 13  -  John Card Number 6  -  Sun, Mar 25, 1990 06:52 PM

A few days ago, while sorting through my mail, I found a small yellow envelope from my bank. Opening it, I discovered that my checking account had been billed for another year's rent of a safe deposit box.

"Hmmm," I thought, "where shall I put this?" I didn't want to throw it out, but it didn't fit into any of the categories that defined various heaps and piles of paper around the house. After a moment's thought, I decided to set it atop one of my grandmother's old china cabinets. But as I reached for this spot I found that it already contained an identical yellow envelope, glazed with dust and bearing a postmark exactly one year earlier than the one I held in my hand.

Apparently I had gone through the exact same thought processes a year ago and come up with exactly the same solution. For a brief and awful instant I caught a god's-eye glimpse of what my life looks like from a great distance: a foolish little man going round and round in circles.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. Once I found an old cassette tape in the back of a drawer. I popped it into the nearest recorder and discovered that it was a recording of a conversation I had back in college with one of my best friends, Mike Peterson. Mike and I used to sit in my closet-like dormitory room and talk the night away.

I don't normally tape my conversations; this tape came about as part of an assignment in my psycholinguistics class. I was supposed to tape a casual conversation (with permission, of course) and then transcribe it precisely so as to discover what speech really sounds like when you listen to it closely. Mike and I talked about philosophy and girls and books and girls and life (and girls). Over time the tape migrated to the back of a drawer and turned into a time capsule.

What has this to do with my little yellow envelope? As it turned out, I listened to this time capsule a day or so after having lunch with Mike. And some of the same things we talked about all those many years ago popped up again in our lunch conversation. As I listened to the tape I realized that we not only said many of the same things, we used many of the same words! Whole sentences, whole soliloquies made the passage of time almost unscathed! Apparently, Mike and I just keep saying the same damn things over and over again.

We are creatures of habit and try as we might to grow and change and break out of our ruts, the truth is that most of our time is spent like planets revolving forever in the same invisible circles.