Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: Dyed-in-the-wool

adjective

\dyde-in-thuh-WOOL\

  1. thoroughgoing, uncompromising

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. About my friends and family, how I’ve matured over the years and if all my life has actually led up to me becoming a monk in the Great Smoky Mountains and churning butter all day. Just usual things. But recently, I’ve been especially critical of some of my more fastidious tendencies. For example, having an excessive urge to clean the carpet in my room for loose hairs with a horse brush at 2 a.m. And slowly, I’ve traced a lot of these activities to my time with an exceptionally meticulous elementary school teacher I had.

You see, looking back on it, I probably should have suspected that I would be dealing with a rather eccentric character. She exclusively wore jeans and a denim jacket, always reminisced about her merchant family’s rise in Czechoslovakia and lived by herself with a three-legged cat named Moonshine. But most of all, she loved to instill order and structure within her students. We all were expected to take extremely thorough notes that strictly adhered to the Cornell method. An in-class detention was issued for anyone that lost track of his or her daily geography questions, and, worst of all, a chart of rotating class chores was to be adhered to by all — no exceptions.

The class chore chart probably isn’t anything new for most. But these were no typical, “stack up the booger-infested carpet squares” type of responsibilities. Tasks ranged from oddly large amounts of classroom cleaning to being the teacher’s personal courier, buying her lunch and running documents to and fro. None of us seemed to question the absurdity of the assigned tasks considering the circumstances. We were occasionally rewarded with praise and treats, but other times we had to skip recess in order to clean more.

Nevertheless, I realized a lot of my own cleaning habits could be traced back to many of these odd classroom tasks, one of which was washing dirty transparencies in the class sink. I didn’t realize it at the time, but having an adult make me clog up a child’s sink with brown paper towels, soap up the water with that nasty pink hand wash and scrub countless transparencies several times a week was fairly suspicious. My current stance on dishes is to never give up, no matter the grime and stain levels. I unequivocally believe such behavior came from my times as a prepubescent dishwasher.

Another time, when I had been assigned to transport dishes to the cafeteria, one of the lunch ladies decided to throw everything into the industrial steamer. So, with my little hands, I carried the scalding dishes back to class. I couldn’t write for a few days. Yet, it’s clearly why I try to persevere through everything today. A bit of a stretch? Probably. But it’s my personal form of justification/processing/outright denial.

And the list goes on. Color-coordinating my weekly agenda. Scrubbing any tile scuff I see. Trembling at the sight of overhead projectors. But still, these past experiences probably led to a lot of my cleanliness standards. And a bit of neurosis. Or a lot.


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