Janet (j4) wrote,

The old straight track

The spores of routine, accidentally inhaled, can take root in your body; and before you know it an entire tree will be growing there, ripening its unsavoury fruit.

When I worked here full-time and had a small electronic smart-key that allowed me to enter by the most convenient door, every morning I walked past a manhole cover or similar metallic aperture on which the word 'Earth' was (and still is) embossed.

I caught sight of this out of the corner of my eye, and noticed that it said 'Earth'. Some short-circuit of the brain made me read this as 'Earith', or rather, made me realise that I could have misread it as 'Earith', since they were only different by one letter, though they were not necessarily pronounced similarly. This reminded me that I did not know how to pronounce 'Earith'. By the time I had finished this musing, I was inside the building.

From then on, I always noticed the manhole cover, and the word 'Earth', with its visual whisper of 'Earith', which I still did not know how to pronounce; the resulting mental itch carried me scratching over the threshold every morning. After a while, the noticing became self-referential: I was glancing at the manhole cover and thinking "I always notice that, and see the word 'Earth', and I do not misread it as 'Earith' but it reminds me of it all the same, and I still do not know how to pronounce 'Earith'." The self-referentiality became resentful: "I do not want to notice this manhole cover every morning and have the word 'Earith' which I still do not know how to pronounce lodged in my mind all day!" Sometimes, for variety, I would defiantly look away as I walked past the offending ironwork, and would think to myself "Today I have successfully ignored the manhole cover, the words 'Earth' and 'Earith', the whole sorry routine."

I resigned from my job, and returned on a freelance basis, without the privilege of a small electronic smart-key that allows me to enter by the most convenient door. This was nothing to do with the manhole cover, or the word 'Earith', which I still do not know how to pronounce. Now I have to enter by the main door, and sign in, noting the time when I enter and the time when I leave. This deliberate, forced routine has erased the old routine, but I still know that the old routine is there, because some paths are still paths even if nobody travels them, and other paths will never be paths no matter how fervently they are signposted.

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