Eileen’s mother took against her future daughter-in-law because the poor girl was pegging socks on the line by the TOE instead of by the TOP (Thanks for the anecdote, Eileen)
On our first business trip together, my colleague Arthur B pointed out indignantly that I was opening my boiled egg “at the wrong end” (Thanks for that, Arthur, my good friend)
When making cheese on toast for a colleague, she asked me why on earth I was putting butter on the toast as well as cheese (Thanks for that, Jane)
A friend visiting me was horrified at the small opening I cut in a carton of milk (Thanks for that, John M)
In Turkey, I caused a sensation in the kitchen by cutting a cucumber into concentric rings instead of longitudinally (Thanks for that, Zeynep)
When cutting a simple sandwich, I cut it in half across the middle; lady friends have pointed out that the “correct” way is to cut it diagonally (Too many ladies to acknowledge. Ahem).
When I do the dishes, I put the cutlery in the drainer with the business end up.. My cleaning lady makes a point of replacing them handle end up. She often mutters when she does so.
Pause and reflect.
All of the above, and many other unconscious or ingrained habits, led me to consider why I do a million mundane tasks the way I do. How do you deal with a lettuce, cut or break? How do you boil an egg, put in cold water or in hot? How do you eat peas, fork up or fork down? I came quickly to the conclusion that I do the million mundane tasks the way I do because I absorbed the methodology from watching my mother long before I was able to make rational choices. You could describe these activities as “inherited characteristics”.
I derive a great deal of pleasure from thinking that they way I hang socks or drain cutlery or open a boiled egg is based on the ways of generations of Allsops and Frances and Pyes and all the other tribes whose many couplings finally resulted in me.
The other day, my friend Dick told me that after sixty plus years on the planet, he discovered that all his life he had been tying his shoelaces incorrectly. He was on a ship at the time heading for the Antarctic (Dick does that kind of thing). A man standing near, who turned out to be something impressive like the CEO of NASA, pointed out that Dick’s shoelace was undone. When Dick did it up, the NASAman said “As long as you do the knot that way, your shoelaces will keep coming undone”. Dick now does up his laces the NASA way, and no longer suffers from lace-dangle. The moral of this story is: love and honour your mother and your father, but don't put total trust in inherited characteristics.