Columns

Letting Our Quirk Flags Fly

At a recent lunch with my friend Sarah Bain, she raised her eyebrows when our server brought water to our table and I asked for a straw.

“You always do that,” she said. “Why?”

Puzzled, I asked what she meant.

“You always ask for a straw for your water, but never for cocktails or wine or coffee,” she said. “It’s weird.”

It’s good to have observant friends. I hadn’t thought about the why of wanting a straw for water. I pointed to the red bubbled plastic glass.

“I don’t like putting my mouth on those glasses. It grosses me out. I figure hot coffee destroys any germs, likewise alcohol. But water?”

She deliberately rubbed her mouth all over the rim of her glass. While I gagged, she said, “It’s a quirk, but I guess it would be weirder if you brought your own utensils.”

A quirk? I didn’t know I had any of those!

“What’s your quirk?” I asked.

She thought about it for a minute.

“I don’t touch public bathroom doors.”

When I asked how she entered the facilities without touching the door, she admitted that she usually waits for someone else to come along or uses a tissue to open it.

I’m not sure that’s quirky. I think a lot of people don’t like touching anything in public restrooms, including doors.

I decided to poll my Facebook friends about their quirks and their responses made my straw-for-water issue look positively pedestrian.

Former colleague Pia Hallenberg said at wine tastings, she always turns her glass exactly two times before taking a sip. She also confesses to being a compulsive stacker.

“Napkins, magazines, newspapers, books, whatever can be stacked in neat stacks, I shall stack,” she said.

Heather Clarke can’t abide a chair that isn’t properly pushed in.

“I have actually pushed chairs in at work and in restaurants as I pass tables,” she said.

I think chair pusher-inners are providing a public service, and my friend Ashley Lorraine who navigates the world using a wheelchair agreed.

Jeanie Buchanan straightens things – all kinds of things.

“Mainly pictures on walls,” she said. “And it can be in stranger’s houses; the doctor’s office. Pens, paper, books – I straighten them, too. Today, I straightened a row of Kraft cheese slices at Grocery Outlet.”

Regarding dining out, Dan Webster is more concerned about napkins than straws.

“I always ask for an extra napkin because I don’t like to put my silverware down on a table that doesn’t have a clean tablecloth,” he said. “They usually wipe those bare tables down with a rag or sponge that I suspect isn’t sanitary. It may not be true, but I’m not taking any chances.”

While Sarah seemed thankful I don’t bring utensils from home, I know someone who does exactly that.

“I have a thing about eating off silverware at a restaurant or letting my silverware touch a table, so I bring my own and bring a utensil rest with me,” Cecile Charles said. “It holds my own cotton napkin.”

I’d never heard of utensil rest! Now, I kind of want a set.

Some folks’ quirks are on the edgy side.

“I pull off the ‘Do Not Remove’ tags from mattresses and pillows in hotels (and at my kids’ houses, too, mea culpa),” Linda Finney said.

I hope the tag authorities don’t read this column.

Sarah’s other professed quirk truly horrified me.

“I usually read the end of a book before I start it,” she said. “Is that weird or a quirk?”

“That’s an abomination!” I replied.

When I told my son, Sam, about my alleged quirky straw habit, he shook his head.

“Using straws is the most effective way to drink,” he said. “Besides, pretty soon you’ll be getting all your food through a straw, so it’s good to get some practice.”

For the record, I still have all my teeth. Well, most of them.

The truth is, I don’t like the taste of restaurant water, so I rarely drink more than a few sips even when it’s my only beverage.

Sarah pointed that out as she emptied her second refill.

We said goodbye in the restaurant parking lot, but I called her a few seconds later.

“Yes?” she said.

“Um, I’m really thirsty,” I said. “So thirsty!”

I hung up to the sounds of her guffaws.

The minute I got home, I went to the kitchen, filled a glass with ice and water and drank the whole thing.

No straw needed.

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available on Amazon and bookstores nationwide.

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