We live in a world of checks and balances. Or, at least that is our goal. We are taught from an early age the importance of “checking.” It teaches us about responsibility. For some of us, checking takes on another meaning because we take it to a completely different level.
“Mark, have you checked to make sure everything in your bedroom is straightened up and all your things are picked up off the floor?” Mother would ask me on an almost daily basis. “Have you checked to make sure you have finished all of your homework?” I heard the entire way through school followed by an, “Are you absolutely sure?”
We are “checked” from the moment school begins. Until a check mark was placed by your name, you were considered absent. I should have known something was wrong with me all the way back then because I usually asked my teacher multiple times if she had put a check by my name.
“You are here, Mark!” she would reply. “OK, I was just making sure,” I would say.
As I grew up, my tendencies to be what I refer to as a “checker” became more evident. The higher the stakes, the more I checked — and then double-checked and even triple-checked. When I looked around in our immediate family, I could see that the “checkered” apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Growing up, there were many times we would be in the car headed somewhere when my Mother would blurt out without warning, “I’m not sure I turned off the iron!” That car would be whipped around so fast the next thing we knew we were back home.
I can’t tell you how many times after our family had finished supper, cleaned the table and washed the dishes that we all loaded up in the car and drove back to the front door of the office my daddy managed.
“I’m not quite sure I locked the front door,” he would say. It made me feel so much better to know I wasn’t the only one. Checkers always love company.
With me, checking and re-checking relates to safety or potential dangerous things. Whether I’m leaving our house or getting ready to lock things up for the night, that little checker in me comes out on cue. In order for me to exit our house, I have to be absolutely sure that everything is turned off and all the doors are secured. It is definitely a process — especially when your house has a lot of doors!
I have to allot extra time before leaving the house. I start at the front door and make sure it is locked and dead-bolted. Rationally, I realize it is. But my mind begs me to check again, just to be sure. It takes me three or four checks to be able to move on to the next door. I know that sounds weird, right?
The kitchen is the worst place for a checker because there are a plethora of potential dangers that can occur in there. Stoves and ovens left on, refrigerator doors left open and faucets dripping can make a checker very nervous. “Off, off, off, off!” I say to myself as I check the oven and stove. I have to press the refrigerator doors to be sure they are closed multiple times. A dripping faucet could cause a flood, so it also has to be checked over and over. Believe me, I’m thrilled when I have finished in the kitchen!
In case you didn’t know, a laundry room can present some major dangers. If someone has used the iron, it’s almost easier to just put it in the car and take it with you! Growing up, there were many times we would be in the car headed somewhere when my Mother would blurt out without warning, “I’m not sure I turned off the iron!” That car would be whipped around so fast the next thing we knew we were back home.
I’m certainly not proud of being a checker, but I wondered if any of my readers also have this burden to carry around? The other day I was talking to my art class about my “issues.” I could tell by some of their faces that they were shocked. There are usually one or two people who can commiserate, but the others just quickly look away and, hopefully, quietly say a word of prayer!
I suppose there are worse things than being a checker. After all, you can always depend on us to be absolutely sure something is done. At least I haven’t gotten to the point where I have to get a piece of paper and actually check it off. But, who knows, that may start tomorrow.
Maybe I need to join Checkers Anonymous. I’ll have to check into that!
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email email@example.com; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.