A Confession of Arithmomania

Ever since I was a small lad I have had a compulsion to count things that appear before me. I would always count the hens when I went to feed them, then count the eggs they produced.

While waiting at a railroad crossing I would count each train car as it passed by. Sometimes that was frustrating trying to keep track of noisy objects moving at 50 miles per hour. I tried to count cat whiskers but when he turned his head I lost count and in frustration I had to start again. Once I used the scissors to cut off his whiskers while he slept, I got a good count that time. I felt real bad when mom told me the cat needed whiskers to help him walk in the dark. Granddaddy told me that a cat measures space with his whiskers. If the whiskers won’t fit, the shoulders won’t fit either. I was happy to see his whiskers grow back because he was a night hunter and a big consumer of mice. Mice were never counted but we had six cats and we never ran out of mice. At one point I felt sad when ole Tom crunched and ate a mouse but my feelings soon changed. A mouse got into the Corn Flake box and we had to give that contaminated box to the chickens.

I know now that I sacrificed education to pursue counting. No matter what class, while the teacher was teaching, I was busy counting, venetian blind panels, floor tiles, cinderblocks in the wall. If I could look out the window, I would count trees after I had counted the window panes.

I have had this compulsive behavior for more than 65 years and most of it happens as an unconscious amusement I am not aware of. Since I do not take notes or even try to remember the totals, that allows me to recount the objects every time I encounter that space. I have no shame. Even in church I have a favorite assortment of things I must count every Sunday. I justify counting by not trying to remember the totals. I no longer count my fingers and toes, I remember.

I always knew there was no real reason to compulsively count but that never stopped me. It was a habit I enjoyed to blot out periods of boredom. I often wondered if there were other aliens like me who substituted counting for concentration?

High school was an especially challenging time of life for this teenager. There were girls, cars and a family, a large family to deal with.

I did not especially like high school and I questioned why I needed to learn French, Spanish or Algebra because I never planned to go to any of those places. I now realize that Spanish is handy to know when trying to avoid the Hot Spices at the Mexican restaurant.

One place I never counted to fight off boredom was my Agriculture class which included membership in the Future Farmers of America Club. The teacher was a Colonel in the US Army Reserves and he was a very interesting fellow who could work with his hands. He taught welding, wood/metal work, and many skills needed on the farm. Our class project was rebuilding an old International tractor. To raise money for our club we made popcorn for all of the home football games. He taught us to measure board feet of lumber in standing trees and how to measure grade when digging a ditch for irrigation or drainage. He had a sharp mind, rough hands and a keen sense of humor, rare qualities not found in most of the other teachers. I never found time to count in his classes.

So time marches on and now I know there are others in society who do and always have counted. Their counting stories are very similar to mine. We count some of the same things without shame.

There you have it, the true life confession of a person who claims to be quite normal and who proudly admits to being an ARITHMOMANIAC…