Compulsion is a funny thing. Literally.
When someone is caught in the act of doing something that they are compelled to do, it’s often disconcerting, but when the story is told later, it becomes hilarious.
Perfectly normal people with no really bad personal habits or odd proclivities sometimes will, at the most inopportune times, do unusual or bizarre things.
I was working in a small medical office in a bad part of town. Break-ins were regular because junkies often thought we had drugs on premises, which we did not. Walking into an office that had been ransacked was not so unusual, so when it happened to me I just used my cell phone to call the police.
The dispatcher told me not to touch anything and that she would send an officer right out. The very moment that she told me not to touch anything, I knew that I would not be able to keep myself from touching anything.
Everything in the office suddenly looked as if it needed to be touched. Folders full of paper were crying out to me to touch them, my desk was weeping because I would not touch it. I fought the urge and made it the entire time I was waiting for an officer without touching anything. Let me tell you that it was the longest four minutes of my life.
Because it was a medical office, there had to be an employee present during clean up and processing of the crime scene, and guess who got the honor? As soon as I called the office manager, she figured that since I was already there I was the best one for the job. I know this seemed like a simple thing, and I was getting paid and all, but I knew that I was not going to make it out of that office without touching anything and I was so angry with myself for it. Why couldn’t I just walk out into the hall and wait like the cop asked me to? What the hell was wrong with me?
I was sweating profusely by the time the cop turned to talk to me. I felt like I was having a bad acid flashback. My fingers were burning and twitching to touch something, it was positively painful.
“Ma’am, have you touched anything in here this morning?”
I almost screamed, “NO!!” but I kept cool and calm and said, “Well, I touch things in here every day, I work here.” I looked as if I had run a twenty-six mile marathon. I was sweaty and shaky, I’m sure he thought I was a crackhead.
“Yes ma’am, I know that, but have you touched anything here today, since you’ve been here, like, did you use the phone?”
I swear to you that my fingers literally went up in flames at that moment. How he did not notice this was beyond me. My thumbs were jerking uncontrollably.
“Oh no, I used my cell phone, I didn’t touch the phone, I swear, I can show you the number on my cell phone readout.” I flipped my phone out. He gave me a funny look.
“Oh, that’s fine, I believe you. Are you alright? Are you just upset by the break-in?”
I knew he had seen my hands catch on fire, he was just paying Jedi mind tricks with me at this point. Well the force was strong with me, mister.
“Oh yeah, it’s just kind of weird, you know, I’m just glad I wasn’t here or something like that. I’m just glad nobody got hurt.” I have never felt so much like screaming and running from a room. He was being so nice and I WANTED TO TOUCH SOMETHING so bad.
“Well, the dusting for fingerprints and stuff will take a while, since you have to wait here, why don’t you go out into the waiting room?” Finally, a way out. I was going to make it after all.
“Oh that’ll be great. I’ll just sit out there and read our five year old magazines, ha ha.” I can be amazingly charming in times of great stress.
He turned away from me to talk to another person who had shown up to dust for fingerprints and I turned to walk out of the dreaded Touch Nothing Under Penalty of Death Room.
What happened next I cannot explain, and that is not the point of the story, but as I went through to the next room I licked the door jamb. It was just a little lick, a mere flick of the tongue. It was the most satisfying lick I have ever had in my life. I swear to you a lick off of a fruit from the Tree of Life wouldn’t have tasted better.
“Ma’am?! Ma’am, did you just lick the door jamb on the way out?! ”
Oh my God, he had turned back around and seen my harmless little lick. I was completely paralyzed with fear and immediately conjured up images of being in an insane asylum for the rest of my life. I can tell you the only reason that I am free to write about this incident this day is my gift of composure in difficult situations.
“Um, yeah, I had chocolate on my fingers from a doughnut this morning when I opened up, there was some of it on the door, I just wanted to make sure it didn’t mess anything up.” Look, given any other circumstance, I could have thought of something better but this was really the best thing I could come up with at the moment.
The cop looked at me like I was a complete lunatic. I think he even grabbed for his gun, but I was incoherent with fear at this point and may have seen things that didn’t happen.
“Ma’am, this is a crime scene. You never, never lick anything at a crime scene. Now go into the waiting room and please do not come back in here until this scene is processed.”
I really don’t remember even propelling myself to the waiting area, but apparently I did and the cop watched me and took furious notes the whole time. I’m pretty sure he put my name on the List of People Who Do Weird Things at Crime Scenes, but I haven’t received my notification in the mail yet.
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