The Devil and His Playthings

My hands are the devils playthings. That’s what my grandmother used to say when she caught me drawing on the walls or when she discovered a vase I had knocked over or when I managed to place my dinner on the floor instead of in my mouth.

It was my idle hands that she took the most offense to. While I was the kind of kid to sit where you left him I do not remember that meaning that hours later the things around me would be sitting where you left them. Mess seemed to follow me like the punctuation at the end of a sentence (in some ways it still does). Throw pillows routinely found themselves on the floor, out of their cases, and inside. Sheets and spreads and table cloths became inexplicably bunched up. Stains mysteriously appeared on carpets, remotes were lost, or their batteries were lost or both were lost and don’t even get me started on the bathroom and what I could do with a roll of toilet paper, a tube of toothpaste and thirty seconds without supervision. Stucko walls and ceilings fascinated me to no end and I eagerly added to their textures.

As I grew older and entered elementary school my devil turned his attention to my backpack, notes and desk. Beginning with my backpack… let’s not begin with my backpack actually. Let’s begin with my notes.

I took pretty good notes throughout school except for the fact that my penmanship was barely legible. It did not improve. Today as a university student there are times where I cannot read my own handwriting. And of course whenever this happens it is invariably some crucial piece of information which is obscured by some alien language of my invention. This happened and happens more frequently than I would care to admit. There are also instances where I would find myself idly doodling in class – these doodles took the form of odd patterns, swirly lines or when I was particularly inspired even full blown characters and locations. The drawings were never good though, they were merely the product of my idle hands during a particularly boring lecture. And when I realized I should have written down something important I usually rushed the note and had trouble deciphering it later. (Hey look at that, this paragraph came full circle).

Moving onto my desk I can safely say that I cannot remember a period of more than two weeks where the contents of my desk remained arranged in an orderly manner. I think my longest record was a week and a half before whatever system I put in place simply ceased to function. I also do not remember times when I would carelessly put things into my desk once again my devil was the culprit I believe.

Let’s save the backpack story for another day shall we? That one is … special.

I like the idea that this was caused by some devil inside of me because I promise these actions were never done with malicious intent. It was not my goal to throw my environment into chaos; I did and still do prefer a clean and organized living space. I think that my natural ability to create disorder stems from my outward desire to keep my entire life orderly as if subconsciously I am compensating.

I also like to think that in some ways I have tamed him, that I can stop him from ripping apart the orderly world which I and others have put so much time into constructing. Clearly this is not always the case as anybody who has ever seen my room can attest to but as I write this I am proud to say that I have not spilled my coffee once (not even a drop!), I do not have any writing utensils scattered in front of me (so I’m writing on a laptop, it still counts), and my desk is free of idle doodles (I may have only been sitting at this desk for an hour but as I said before all I need are thirty seconds).

Another potential explanation besides me possessing a mischievous devil is that I am an agent of entropy forcing isolated systems towards disorder. That’s the more sciencey approach and it jives well with the engineering part of my personality. The writer in me prefers the approach that invokes Satan for curious reasons which I may explore later. Take your pick just don’t expect me to maintain a good clean room for more than five days.


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