Of Habit and Habits

A habit is something you do without thinking - which is why most of us have so many of them

Biting nails"Click! Click! Click!" The sound punctuates a serious conversation I am trying to have with a friend. "Sorry!" she apologises, as I shoot her my special alien-zapping glare. Reluctantly keeping her pen aside she shrugs, "I just can't help clicking my pen lid, on and off. It's a habit."

"And, a really bad one." I mutter to myself under my breath, greatly tempted to grab the offending pen and snap it into two.

Some people have strange habits that disturb when you are in conversation with them. Whether it is a casual conversation, or even in offices and corporate meetings, there are some habits that people can't seem to let go of.

Drum beats

There are people who chew their nails and lips obsessively and when deep in thought. I was one of them to chew my lips, till a friend ventured to point out my "lip" flaw. The mirror reflected my grotesque contractions - lip-chewing made me resemble a gargoyle in the process. This was the end of my masticating-my-lips habit.

Take for instance, the habit of enthusiastically tapping the table, or any surface at hand, creating a very annoying staccato sound. Do these people imagine they have a latent award-winning musician lying dormant somewhere inside them? And, this continuous, most exasperating practice will somehow, most miraculously, bring him/her to the fore?

Or, how about folks that jiggle their legs. Either feet are wiggled feverishly while seated, or one foot is placed on the other knee and jiggled away, with no consideration given to other people's sensibilities. Trying to coax, or warm-up, the latent athlete inside you, may be?

A former classmate used to blink obsessively, so much so he kept getting asked if he was all right! Having a conversation with him was a tough call because if you faced him, you concentrated on his blinking and this often derailed your train of thought. The only way to speak was to look away and talk, which was equally uncomfortable and embarrassing. Incidentally, his problem emerged after his mother dragged him to an optician, where she found out that all he needed was a pair of spectacles, something he put off wearing for vanity's sake and continued to blink furiously!

Gestures galore

There are also people so pumped with adrenaline that they can't help but click their fingers to make a point. Even when not required. Fingers are clicked while summoning waiters, hailing a cab, or urging people to move forward in a snaking queue. Watching people who are so habituated to this rude gesture I wonder if they have an imaginary pet who they keep summoning!

The cell phone is the worst and most offending habit anyone can have. A mobile phone in your hand and you are a slave to it. With no thought given to the reaction and disturbance the obsessive fascination with the phone is causing to people around, you are on cloud nine.

Either people are talking loud enough to be heard till Australia, or else they are furiously typing out and sending messages away, as if their life depended upon it. And, all this while interrupting you mid- sentence, or walking away from conversations without as much as an "Excuse Me."

Read the word habit as "have-it." "Good "have-its," once established, are just as hard to break as are bad "have-its."

We first make our habits and, thereafter, our habits make us. So, good, bad, annoying, pleasing, what would you label your "have-it?"

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