I ran into a woman I know at Waitrose yesterday.  ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked. ‘I’ve never seen you here before.’

‘But I’m always here on a Monday afternoon,’ she said.

I just stared at her.  ‘What, you always do your shopping on the same day?  How is that possible?  What if you run out of things a day early? What if you have something else to do that day? What if you have people coming round on Friday and you’ve used up all the nice food?’

She stared at me and backed away a bit, probably wondering why doing her shopping on the same day each week was enough to provoke such a show of outrage.

But really. Who does the shopping on the same day every week?

Well, I’ve asked around, and it turns out lots of people do. Lots of people do the washing on Monday too.  And have pizza every Friday night.

The thing is, I’m peculiarly blind to patterns. I lived in NYC for ten years and never noticed which day of the week the garbage collectors came. It happened every week, and every week it woke me up at 6am, but I never once thought, ‘oh, tomorrow’s Wednesday, it’ll be those damned garbage collectors again.’

I’m interested in patterns at the moment, because I’m writing about a person capable of extracting more information out of ordinary life than the rest of us. My ‘seer’ led me to the phenomenon of apophenia — the experience of finding apparently meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. I’ve experienced that too — a few months during which certain combinations of numbers appeared with peculiar frequency.  After those few months, the apophenia (if that’s what it was) just went away. Poof.

Patternicity is a similar phenomenon — defined as ‘the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise’, in other words, finding patterns where none exist.

I’d settle for noticing the ones that do.


11 thoughts on “Patternicity

  1. bookwitch 8 years ago

    I understand one is meant to do the ironing on a Sunday.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Yikes. But first you have to find the iron. I guess I could try to do that on Saturday.

  2. raych 8 years ago

    Our Basement Troll imposed laundry days on us and I was like BUT WHAT IF I GO FOR A RUN ON A WEDNESDAY!?!

    It all feels very Little House On The Praire to me.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      It IS very LHOTP. But in those days it took all day to do the laundry, so you couldn’t just cram in a load before you went to bed and throw it in the dryer after breakfast. There were Patsy and Pet to feed and Jack to drown in the river, Indians to rampage, locusts to destroy your life’s work, and all sorts of other distractions on a Tuesday. (Have you read LHOTP lately? It is a veritable litany of despair.)

  3. kokorako 8 years ago

    Your post is ridiculously thought provoking. Must get back to humdrum… Nicola

  4. Kate 8 years ago

    My mother-in-law! Everything done to a schedule: not just weekly but daily (lunch at 12.30; tea at 4.30; G&T at 6.00 …) Now she is 90, her schedule is even more important to her. A scaffold to hang her empty days upon? I rang her once to suggest I dropped in for tea and she hesitated because Tuesday morning was when she washed her hair … She is mystified by how I live so randomly.
    (PS. I spent years dreaming of having long plaits and a sunbonnet to hang carelessly down my back. Never thought of the chores!)

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Living randomly. That’s it. I have theories about all that control, but will save them for another time….

  5. mik 8 years ago

    every day, without fail, I don’t do any ironing

  6. Sharon Creech 8 years ago

    Wait. You mean you don’t answer your fan mail on Sundays?

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      I’d be finished before breakfast.

  7. Bazza 8 years ago

    Noticing patterns that aren’t there has a name: superstition!
    Although it must be a wonderful gift to really see patterns in apparent randomness, I think looking for ‘meaning’ where there is none leads to dangerous things like….religion!
    Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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