One small victory before the workday's coming defeats
Crazy Morning Rites Help Some Get Primed For a Day in the Office
from "Cubicle Culture"
By Jared Sandberg for the Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2006
Ever since Ken Wall moved from one state to another 12 days ago, his morning routine just hasn't been the same. Nor has it been much different.
The technical-newsletter editor spends his mornings in a multiphased ritual, beginning with grooming in a precise top-down order. Then he enters into what he considers his "most refined phase" by putting on his right sock, then left, his shirt, then pants, right shoe, then left.
He knows it sounds screwy and superstitious. "If I don't put on my socks, right sock, left sock," he exaggerates, "I'm going to walk out of my house and get hit by a bus."
Never get between a mother bear and her cub or an office worker and his morning routine. Some adhere to rigid prework choreographies such as walking on a specific side of the street or reciting precisely a farewell to the pups. ... they're simply trying to earn one small victory before the workday's coming defeats.
"It's the one part of the day that I really feel like I can control," Scott McIntyre, a director at a hospital association, says of his morning routine. "After 8 o'clock, it's almost completely out of my hands."
Mr. McIntyre's morning druthers involve getting out of bed at 5:58 a.m. on the nose. Any later, "and it makes me feel like I've lost," he says. He chalks up another triumph by being one of the first to arrive at work, although he's had to get over the fact that someone else parks his "very Chevy-ish Monte Carlo," he says contemptuously, in the space he prefers.
"I never know what will happen at work but at home everything is super perfect," adds engineering coordinator Marika Ujvari. That includes getting her seat-belt fastened in the car with the motor running before the garage door fully opens. When the attempt fails, "I almost get physically ill," she says.
"Coaches often encourage players to create a pregame ritual to create a mantra-like sense of focus and keep out competing thoughts," says Stuart Vyse, author of "Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition." The higher the stakes, the more likely we are to engage in superstitious rituals. "If you felt like everything was smooth, chances are there'd be much less motivation to do it."
Naomi Kolstein, who runs an eponymous talent agency, guesses when the alarm will go off after three snooze intervals and sings camp songs in the shower. Once on the bus, she always sits on the nondriver side because the driver, and those behind him, are in working mode.
"The other side is the pleasure travelers' side," she says of her trip from New Jersey. "I don't really believe any of this, but if I can empower myself in any way, I'll play the game."
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