Published In The Great North Arrow, February 2022: Viola Desmond and My OCDness

 - jim Young

“[3 knocks] Penny, [3 knocks] Penny, [3 knocks] Penny.” - Sheldon Cooper

I have a mental illness.


Now I know many of my family and friends are sniggering away following a cry of “Duh!” or “Just one?” and that’s okay with me. 


I also know that Mental Illness is not something to laugh about, but mine kind of is. At least I think it’s funny and that’s pretty much half the battle right there.


My mental illness is OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). I like to convince myself that it’s not serious to the point where I must knock three times while repeating one’s name as Sheldon Cooper does on “The Big Bang Theory”, but actually, sometimes it does manifest itself to similar extremes. 


However, my OCD becomes most obvious upon opening one of our beer fridges or having a quick peek into our pantry. Cans or bottles are all neatly arranged in rows with the label, English side out. That’s not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with having the French side out. It’s just that, well, I speak English. If I spoke French, I would have the French side out. It’s that simple. Thank god I’m not bilingual. I wouldn’t know how to stock my shelves then.


The very fact that I felt the need to explain that, is evidence itself of my OCD. Or maybe it’s just my desire to be politically correct. Or maybe it’s my OCD controlling my desire to be politically correct.


Further inspection of the pantry will quickly reveal that yes, they have all been rotated with the earliest expiry dates at the front. (Beer in the fridge never lasts long enough for the expiry date to be an issue.) 


One might argue that I am just a creature of habit or a product of my environment. One of the earliest jobs I had at my father’s grocery store in Stroud was to “face the products” - lining up all the cans and containers and pulling them to the front of the shelves to make all the aisles look full and tidy.


My money tells a similar story and could be related to the same origins. When I graduated to the cash register at our family IGA, I was taught that the bills in the cash drawer were to be filed away with the Queen’s head all facing the same direction. (Editor’s note: All Canadian Banknotes in the 1950s and 1960s were adorned only with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth.)


There are few cashiers or even bank tellers today that still practice this habit and I can’t help but wonder if those that do might not also suffer from OCD tendencies.


A few years ago however, a government plot set out to mess with people like me that suffer from OCD.


Over the years I was able to adapt to the replacing of the queen’s portrait with portraits of former Prime Ministers. It didn’t even bother me when they started to move the portraits from the right side of the bill to the center or put multiple portraits on a single bill.


There was still a sense of order. Face up, right side up. It was still easy to ensure they were all properly organized for my wallet. Of course they also need to be kept in order of value of least to most.


But then along came Viola Desmond in 2018, to grace the New Canadian 10 Dollar Bill. Don’t get me wrong here. I am pleased that Viola Desmond is being recognized for her contributions to Civil Rights in Canada. 


I just think the bill was poorly designed with no regard for those like me that suffer from an OCD. Was there any specific purpose in formatting the New 10 Dollar Bill in portrait, instead of landscape style like all the others? How is THAT supposed to fit in my wallet with my other bills?


Face side up is simple enough but what is the proper orientation of the New 10 Dollar Bill consistent with other Bills in my wallet? This has never been an issue in the past. No matter which way you turn it, the New 10 Dollar Bill just does not fit with my other money.  


With a government that seems hell bent on ensuring they don’t offend anyone, I just don’t think the design change was well thought out. And if I was a politically correct extremist I would contact my MP to file an official complaint on behalf of all people with OCD.


Instead I think I will just make sure I avoid the Viola Desmond ten dollar bills as much as possible and ensure I spend them first when I do find one in my possession.


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