Tuesday, July 03, 2012


As the political campaigns have basically exhausted themselves to the point where both parties are now just reciting the same lies and accusations over and over, and quite likely will continue doing so from now until the elections, and the corporations are simply recycling their money from one pocket to another (from one type of their business to another, that is, for example, from munitions to their media empires), I find my mind wandering. For no apparent reason I decided to examine quirks. That is, what precisely, is a quirk?

I should have known better. I quickly learned there is no precision in the study of quirks. Quoting my online dictionary I learned that a quirk can be an “abrupt twist or curve,” an “idiosyncrasy,” or even an “accident,” or “vagary.” A vagary can be “an erratic, unpredictable, or extravagant manifestation.” I suspect even these definitions do not exhaust the possibilities. But this has led me to consider a number of things that I guess might be quirks.

Is it just a strange quirk, for example, that in the English language the word “live” spelled backwards is “evil?” Or the word “god spelled backward is “dog?” I wonder if there even is an explanation for this, I guess it could be considered an accident. A different quirk might be a young man I knew who would fly into a near rage at the very mention of Ernest Hemingway. He was not a writer or a literary critic or a literary person of any kind. Although he had perhaps two quarters of college, he worked in a restaurant had nothing to do with academia, writing, literary criticism, or anything even distantly related to the subject of his ire. The object of his rage was his contention that Hemingway was a fraud who had actually stolen his famous style from someone else. I have no idea where he got this idea, whether it was true or not, or why it so bothered him. As far as I know he had no other similar quirks. I suppose one could consider it an idiosyncrasy.

Similarly, I once knew a young woman who was actually a pretty bad cook. She did cook, but only the simplest of meals, and was not in the least bit pretentious about her cooking. But she insisted, indeed demanded, that she had to use only parmesan cheese she could grate herself, none of that already prepared stuff that came in a shaker. This could, I guess be considered an idiosyncrasy, but perhaps it was more likely “an erratic, unpredictable or extravagant manifestation.” Also, I once knew a woman, a college graduate, perhaps not the smartest girl on the block, but not completely stupid either, who swore she did not know how to use a broom! I am convinced she did not say this merely to avoid having to sweep, she really meant it. She did not seem to be handicapped in any other way. I assume this comes under the category of idiosyncrasy.

There was a gambler I once knew who, when playing poker or any other game, insisted that all his coins, of whatever denomination, or his chips, had to be all heads or at least the same sides up. This to me was a strange quirk, but I guess you could consider it also an idiosyncrasy, but it was also pretty obviously a compulsion, still another variety of quirk? Another man I knew had a hobby, locking pay toilet doors shut. He would put in his quarter, locking the door, then climb out over the top, or creep under the doors, depending upon the style of the particular facility. He was otherwise as far as I know perfectly normal. Perhaps this could qualify as “an abrupt twist,” or maybe just another idiosyncrasy. Still another person I know has a strange thing about knives. Not necessarily sharp, pointed, or dangerous knives, just plain old blunt kitchen knives. If there are a number of kitchen utensils of any kind waiting to be washed, including even forks and spoons, she will pick out, wash, dry, and put away the kitchen knife and leave the rest. I have no idea why she does this but she always does it. I regard this as a genuine quirk as it does not seem to fit under any of the definitions I have of quirk. It could be considered an idiosyncrasy, but it is not an abrupt twist or curve, accident, or vagary. There is also the possibility that a quirk may also just be an affectation. A wonderful woman I once knew always wore a feather boa to parties. It was a quirk but also an affectation. No other women of that time or place ever wore a feather boa, it was an endearing quirk that made us all love her all the more. We all knew it was an affectation but we thought of it as just another quirk of her marvelous personality.

Still another possible quirk might have to do with superstitions. Another gambler I once knew refused to wear an opal stickpin his wife had given him because he believed opals were bad luck. He also refused to cross where a black cat had crossed in front of him. He did not seem to be bothered by broken mirrors, walking under ladders, or other common superstitions. I think his beliefs about black cats and opals may be considered quirks, but who knows, it seems quirks can be just about anything.

I could think of myriad other examples, but a recent (maybe) classic quirk might be seen in the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts when he agreed with the more liberal side of the Supreme Court Justices on the subject of health care. This can be seen both as an abrupt twist or curve, as well as an erratic, unpredictable and extravagant manifestation. It also raises an interesting question, does a quirk have to be accidental? That is, if something like Robert’s decision was carefully planned in advance, can it truly be considered just a quirk? The subject of quirks, I fear, is far too quirky for my feeble aging brain.

Life is a journey
forever towards the west
and the setting sun


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