Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Routines - My Way or the Wrong Way?

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There is an old episode of "All In The Family" that illustrates brilliantly how rigidly we all adhere to our routines and patterns of behavior. In this episode, Archie and his son-in-law Mike ("affectionately" known as Meathead) are getting ready to go fishing, and Archie discovers Mike putting on his socks and shoes; first Mike puts on his right sock and his right shoe, then begins to put on his left sock and left shoe. Archie, baffled by this behavior, insists that the "proper" way to put on socks and shoes is sock, sock, shoe, shoe. This begins an argument about the correct way to clad the feet. Archie insists that if you put on both socks first, and you have to run out of the house in an emergency, you have two warm feet. Mike counters that, doing it his way, if you have to flee the house in hurry, and it's raining outside, you at least have one warm, dry foot. The disagreement escalates into an all-out battle over the simple act of putting on shoes and socks.

Over the twelve years of my marriage, there have been many occasions on which my wife and I have disagreed about the "correct" way to do such things as load the dishwasher, fold the laundry, drive the car, and other things that seem minor on their surface, but which could potentially escalate to an argument and someone getting his/her feelings hurt. We have finally come to the conclusion that just because someone does something differently than you would do it, does not make it wrong, just different. This was not an easy compromise. It's funny how seriously we all take our own eccentricities and how tenaciously we cling to the behaviors we've learned and practiced all our lives.

So, let me ask you this: Do you put on both socks and then both shoes, or do you prefer the one sock-one shoe method? Do you load the dishwasher from the back to the front or from the front to the back? Do you fold your socks by turning down the tops over the pair, or do you tie matching socks together to be sure they stay together? Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or from the end?

Are any of these things worth arguing about? Is it possible to re-train your brain to accept new ways of doing things or will you hold on to "this is the way I've always done it"? Consider Archie and Meathead - they never did reach agreement about the sock/shoe issue, and the fishing trip was called off.