Road Counting

10 December 2007 | Diary

I’ve set myself the challenge of counting the number of roads I cross on my morning journey to work.

The plain people of Cyberspace: Why, by crikey, why?

I’m getting there, I’m getting there.

The plain people of Cyberspace: And it doesn’t sound like much of a “challenge” either.

Well, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s entirely challenging. I’ve being trying to accomplish this seemingly feckless task for the past two weeks and have still not been able to do so. The problem is that I always forget I’m supposed to be doing it. After about nine roads I’ve lost interest and my mind has wondered off into sexier, more Thundercats-based territories.

I began the game initially as an idle if slightly obsessive-compulsive way to make the bleary-eyed ante meridiem journey pass more swiftly and to potentially empty my head of the borderline-suicidal “Must escape! Robbie want out!” thoughts that so frequently plague me on the way to the concentration camp, um office.

To begin with, it was the sort of activity you’d set a craphead six-year-old to do in the back of the family car while on the eternal drive to Skegness. “See how many cars you can spot with an ampersand in their numberplate.”

But I realised it was also an exercise in risk management. Work out the number of roads you cross and you might be able to alter your journey slightly in order to cross fewer roads and consequently minimize the probability of your being splatted by a car (or in my case, another car).

The fact that I was once hit by a car may be explanation enough for this odd behaviour. I remember reading about a woman who would count the number of times she chewed her food after an unfortunate shrimp incident.

Besides, I like counting things. It’s comforting. Ask me how many steps there are in my building up to my attic and I’ll know. Ask me know many bollards there are between my office and the cash machine and I’ll tell you. Go on. Test me.

But now that I can’t seem to achieve the road count, I’ve become fixated upon trying to do so.

The plain people of Cyberspace: Clearly not fixated enough or you’d know by now.

The problem lies in a short attention span. Counting is a simple exercise but when I get to about the tenth road, I have either lost count or forgotten I’m supposed to be playing and have started looking for phallic-shapes in the clouds.

But I don’t like to think my attention span is short. I don’t watch television anymore; haven’t played computer games in years and have even stopped getting newspapers. Everything entering my eyes and ears is wholesome and this should surely help in fostering a good attention span.

So in a way the road-counting exercise is also a way of combating this problem. It’s like how people with Alzheimer’s are encouraged to do puzzles.

Talking to Neil Scott in the CCA bar the other night, he mentioned that he had been reading Freakonomics. When he mentioned the chapter about black people’s child-naming conventions, I noted that I had almost entirely forgotten that whole section of the book even though I had only read it two months previously. In one eye and out the other, as it were.

We’re not really encouraged to remember stuff these days though are we? I couldn’t tell you what my mother’s phone number is – it’s in the speed dial.

This should really be fought against. What is a man but the sum of his memories? A trip to the mind gym might be in order.

Rationalization aside, I’m nuts aren’t I?

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