Messy deskI believed, until very recently, that a clean desk was a sign of a deranged mind. Books and movies often portray obsessive, neat freak oddballs who have to have all their pencils sharpened to the same length, spend hours picking lint off the floor and spraying everything and everyone with antibacterial aerosols. I am nothing like that.

I was willing to admit that I may be slightly neurotic. Neurotics are people who have trouble dealing with stress.  They may be fearful, depressed, anxious or guilt ridden depending on the situation at hand. In other words, you, your entire family, your friends and almost everyone you’ve ever met fall into that category.

Of course, not everyone is neurotic. There are psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists out and about in the general population. I wouldn’t recommend their company. You’re better off hanging with neurotics.

Notice that I qualified my personal brand of neurosis as slight. Phobias plague many garden variety fruitcakes. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not paralyzed with unreasonable fears. All of my fears are perfectly rational. Like snakes. I have an excellent reason for letting out a high pitched scream and running away when one appears. All snakes are poisonous. Deadly as a matter of fact. Zoologists disagree with me on this point but they’re just plain wrong. Last summer, a five foot black snake slithered under our fence and made his way across the lawn. It was up to my wife to escort the creature from Hell out of our yard and into the nearby woods. My masculinity took a hit that afternoon but I lived to tell about it.

Other neurotics suffer from unrelenting guilt. The priests, nuns and brothers in Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school and Catholic University attempted to program me in this regard but it had no effect. None whatsoever. And if it did, it would be my fault. What am I saying? It is my fault. And I feel terrible about it. Sorry. Really, really sorry.

Okay, I had my quirks but, before last December, I was sure of one thing. I wasn’t an obsessive person. Then my best friend, Gerry, called. After twenty minutes of quality bullshitting, the topic of sanity cropped up.

“I may be a little crazy but at least I’m not an obsessive person.” I said.

“You’re kidding right?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? What do you think I mean?”

“I don’t get what you’re saying.”

“You’re one of the most obsessive people I know.”

“No, I’m not,” I said with a touch of pride. “My desk is a mess.”

“That has nothing to do with it.”

“Sure it does.”

“Do you remember when your concrete patio had a stain on it? You spent days scrubbing it, trying every cleaner and solvent you could buy, asking me every twelve minutes if the stain looked any lighter. You remember that?”

“Yeah but…”

“That’s obsessive. You check the stock market what? Every twenty minutes?”

“Not every twenty minutes.”

“Okay, every ten minutes. That’s obsessive.”


“And right now, you’re working on building that website, Pie In The Eye, right?”

“I don’t see…”

“And for the last ten days, you’ve spent every waking minute in front of your computer, working on it. Don’t you think that’s more than a little obsessive?”

“Oh God.”

I gazed at the disaster between me and the monitor. It was a large desk and there was no room left for anything. Stuff was getting buried and spilled upon. I had been eating all my meals at the desk. The dishes were piling up, ditto for the drinking glasses, empty ice cream containers and scraps of paper with indecipherable notes. I had forty three tabs open on Safari. I was going to bed later and later. My vision was a little blurry and my ass was numb.

The old Pink Floyd song began to echo inside my skull. “The lunatic is in my head…lock the door, throw away the key, there’s someone in my head but it’s not me.”

I too had someone in my head and he was a pathological liar. “Another ten minutes and this website will be finished. Then you can take a break.” He knew he was wrong, but he didn’t care. He just wanted the project done, even if it meant killing me. What an obsessive bastard.

Gerry was right, of course. And I really, really hate when that happens. My good buddy has a nasty habit of stripping away my delusions. Once gone, they never come back. And I miss them. The last time that happened, he dispossessed me of my intense dislike of Broadway musicals.

He posed a simple question. “How can you say you hate musicals when you know the melody and lyrics of every song in every musical you’ve ever seen?”

A pox on him for knowing me so well.

You may be wondering. Did I come to terms with the fact that, despite decades of denial, I really was a Broadway musical aficionado? That’s a tough question. I really don’t know. But I can tell you this. I saw Book of Mormon and it was just fabulous!

Here’s to the craziness that dwells inside us all and the folks that open our eyes to it whether we like it or not.

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

Mark Twain

A Clean Desk Is A Sign Of A Deranged Mind
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