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The Tally in the Back of a Brain

August 5th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I don’t know if this is common, semi-common or weird.

I can count while I’m thinking of something else.

But only to 100. And as long as I do not think of some other arithmetical concept.

I’m guessing that a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is handy.

I tend to count things. Steps on a flight of stairs. The number of people in front of me in a line.

Steps while I am exercising.

I pretty much always count steps while I am walking/running, and have for decades, so it may be a sort of learned behavior — this “counting to 100 in the background” thing.

Here is how it works. I set off and count one, two, three …

And then my brain can just wander.

“Tree is losing its bark …

“A silver car is coming at me …

“The cicadas are noisy today …”

And then I resume counting without my conscious brain “knowing” where I ought to be … but my subconscious picking right up for me and telling the other side what number I am at.

How do I know this? When I get to a mark I know is X number of steps … and I am right on target.

To be sure, the thoughts, while counting, are not complex. They are not deep. But they are something other than me ordering my brain to count … while my brain in fact counts.

Hence, after shrug-worthy thoughts like those above, I can pick up with my counting of steps. “and, 41, 42, 43 …”

I’m a bit surprised at this. Also surprised in that I needed this much time to notice it.

For years and years I have been counting steps. Just cuz. Sometimes my lips move a little; that could be important.

I remember a kid sitting on a fence as I walked past, maybe 20 years ago, and he apparently could hear my quiet counting and saw my lips move. He said, “Why are you counting?”

Why? Sometimes it is to see that I am at some familiar place when I hit “100”. Whether I am on pace, that is. That’s the value of it.

To walk from this tree to that tree is 350 steps when I am walking quickly. If I need more steps, I am not walking as quickly as I prefer, and I would like to know.

See? It’s for keeping track.

After I get to 100, I do not think “101, 102 …”

I go back to one and start over.

It will not work if I ask my brain to do something complicated, while counting. Or even something simple, if it also is about numbers.

For example, if I look at my watch and note a time; it will wreck my counting. I have to start over. If I think about multiplication or division, that is another way the count is broken.

But if I am free-associating, the counting to 100 goes on. I’m pretty sure of it, anyway.

Maybe that’s my (irrelevant) superpower. Or maybe lots of people can do it. Maybe I could ask around.


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