Like most people, I am a creature of habit, and on days like today, I ponder on some of the downsides of that. This morning, for example, when I went to work I found myself followed by a police officer from the city nearest to where I live and work, which is not something I tend to like. The busy stroad close to where I live tends to be very busy with police activities, as there are regularly speed traps set up and accidents and emergency vehicles rushing people to the hospital and so on and so forth, and as the intersection where I enter this particular throughway is near a very busy and complicated intersection, there are often police officers stopping vehicles there to deliver tickets and/or lectures to motorists while I try to get home or leave home for somewhere else. Admittedly, this is a small annoyance, but living in busy places tends to mean that there will be busy police activity, and if that is not my favorite thing in the world it is at least something I can understand.
Twice in the past three weeks I have run into someone who works in a different division of the company where I work. One Sunday night, he chatted me up while I was sitting and reading at the bar of the neighborhood Applebee’s, and I ended up accidentally inventing a new alcoholic drink that I named the Tiger Woods, which was an Arnold Palmer plus a whiskey, which the salesman seemed to like. During the course of the conversations I found out that he had an ex-wife and had recently started living in his RV and moved around from place to place, subject to the harassment of the local gendarmerie who misinformed him that vagrancy of his type was illegal. To be sure, there are rules about living in an RV that is not permanently attached to an RV park, such as the fact that one cannot stay in a place longer than two days (in the city of Hillsboro) or longer than three days (in unincorporated Washington County) at a time, and that there are specific rules for when these times reset. It seems like a lot of trouble, but since this person is a somewhat unsuccessful sales agent, it is probably worth saving the money for him as opposed to having expensive rent. Anyway, one can tell that he is not the most perceptive person because he views someone reading books as someone to chat up, which is not usually the right interpretation to draw.
It is not always people that have irritating habits, but companies as well. For example, today I received the first part of an annual ritual which I absolutely detest, namely the performance evaluations. I have commented on this before , and my thoughts have not changed. I view the process of evaluation reports as some sort of ritually mandated self-flagellation, to be followed by being beat up by one’s supervisor and boss, gently if one has done a good enough job at rationally discussing one’s shortcomings and showing the requisite creativity in answering questions as to how one can do one’s job better, and less gently if one is less self-aware. I do not know if others hate this process as much as I do, but it is not something I see others write down or discuss very often, perhaps largely out of a sense of self-preservation, because one must usually preserve at least the illusion of finding it a worthwhile and enjoyable part of growth and development, and that is not the sort of illusion that I have any skill or interest in keeping up.
What are the downsides of habits that we can see from this. On the one hand, habits are fairly easy to maintain because they remove at least one decision from days that often contain many. Even where one is aware that the particular habit or ritual is not particularly important, it means at least one less thing to decide. That is as true for people as it is for institutions (namely because institutions are made up of people). When people can do things without having to decide on them, life is easier for everyone, but at the same time other people can recognize and respond to those habits. We may not always like other people being aware of and response to our habits, whether that includes wandering police officers, moderately annoying salespeople, or corporate missives, but that is the way we live life and it is something that should be accepted even if it is not particularly enjoyed.
 See, for example: