brown wooden mouse trap with cheese bait on top
Photo by Skitterphoto on

There is a whiteboard outside Child’s bedroom. The goal was for it to contain things he needed to remember to do or things coming up, but now he has apps for that, so the whiteboard generally has nothing written on it.

A few weeks ago, text appeared in Child’s handwriting that appeared to be a few lines of lyrics from Adele’s Hello. Weird choice for him, but whatever. The next morning, the following conversation:

Dad [reading what he perceived to be a mental health crisis in progress]: What does this mean?

Child: It doesn’t mean anything. I was practicing writing on the whiteboard for my [cadet] classes.

Dad: Are you sure?

Child: Dad, it’s just a song.

Since then, I give myself the twice daily Adele ear worm and have had the unholy compulsion to write HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIIIIIIDE underneath his writing. Today, my defenses were low, and a whiteboard marker leapt out at me, so I had to do it. I *HAD* to.

Compulsion takes many forms, and it’s sworn nemesis is Willpower. But since I wrote I MUST HAVE CALLED A THOUSAND TIIIMES, I’ve been thinking about what makes you unable to stop yourself from doing a thing. I get that avoiding arena fries at a minor hockey game, or picking turkey bits (including the delicious, delicious deep fried skin) off the carcass, or, yaknow,  spontaneous Ben and Jerrys might have to do with willpower. But willpower (or lack thereof) doesn’t explain why I can’t avoid adding the next line of lyrics when I hear  opportunity to flaunt my lyrical genius*.

*ok. I’m sure if you ask my Gentleman Associate, he has a different name for my ability to find a relatable lyric in every situation. I’d wager it’s also not a compliment. But I’ve been doing this for 25 years. He knows what he signed up for.

But I digress.

So I says to myself, “Self, what else falls under this compulsion that you can rationalize outside willpower?” Sweary outbursts. Going to the beach when I feel superduperanxious. Muttering “Phenomenal!” immediately after someone says it at a Town Hall (which is reallyReallyREALLY not required that many times. Srsly). And there’s no disputing the fact that I have the most virulent strain of WhiteHotFury, and if you push me, we’re going to the Thunderdome.

I know then, why someone would set a trap for me, trying to bait me into a battle, thinking it was a sure thing to get a predictable result. Except that it didn’t work quite like that.

There are three reasons why, when you look at a trap, there’s nothing in it: There is nothing to catch, your quarry is wise to your trap and deftly avoided it, your trap wasn’t what you thought it was, and your quarry escaped. I love the line from the first Ironman movie – “The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”.  Indeed.

Dude is not as smart as I am, but he set a trap for me anyway and I didn’t take the bait. The trap actually kind of backfired in an unfortunate (for him) way, and I got to see karma in its glorious splendor. But this time, my unwitting trapper got himself caught, and I got the cheese.  And I get the unexpected delight of having random giddy moments this week thinking about how it must be driving this guy crazy that his perceived easy win didn’t happen.

So I guess Schadenfreude shoots to the top of the compulsion list then, huh? I know, this is your surprised face.

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