Creatures of habit

Whilst LT was out of the room making tea, Eloise cat went to sit in his usual place on the sofa.  At present, there’s an impasse.  Tim is holding her box of cat snacks, but she’ll have to move to get any of them.

Entertaining as this situation is, what it’s made me think about is habitual behaviour.  That’s something I try to resist on the whole.  Not entirely, of course – there are some routines that make everyday life simpler, such as having a specific place to keep keys, the locking up and switching off at night, the feeding of animals (and ourselves), obviously – but I mean things like tending to sit in the same place, eat the same things, ‘always’ doing something because you always do it, not because it’s the best or only good way.


There are various reasons for sitting in a particular place – best light for reading, chair at the right height, distance from the fire or the tv, view out of the window, for instance.  A friend told me that he and his wife each have a view of a flower bed from the side of the dining table where they sit opposite each other, so they each plant one up with bedding plants for the other to look at.  Unfortunately, he particularly dislikes the flowers she always plants for him and can’t say so, without admitting he’s been disliking the view for years.  He’s tried to gently steer her onto something else, but she isn’t particularly sensitive to suggestions and hasn’t taken the hint.  She’s very blunt and outspoken herself, you’d think she’d welcome a frank discussion…

When I go to meetings – societies, lectures, church and so on – there are always some people who always sit in the same place.  Even if there’s a reason for that (one friend pointed out that the sun streams through the church window onto her preferred pew), it’s too much of a rut for my liking.  When I was church warden, I liked to change the positions of particular kneelers and cushions on the pews, just to give people some sort of different experience.  I daresay they thought it was the whim of the cleaner, I never mentioned it.

When I was a child, my parents always had ‘their’ places, each on a sofa opposite each other.  I don’t think my sister and I did, we tended to sit wherever there wasn’t a dog, which was often on the floor.  Similarly, at mealtimes, we always sat in the same place.  I don’t know if we did that when my children were growing up, I can’t remember, though I suspect Russell sat at one end of the table.  Now, we have a round table, so there isn’t a “head of the table” place.  During the winter, we’ve sat on the side nearest the fireplace, but we haven’t lit it for the past week or two, so it doesn’t matter any more.

Eloise cat won.  She stayed at the end of the sofa nearest to Tim’s laptop.  But he didn’t mind.  The other end was the sunniest, so he rather preferred it for a change.

8 comments on “Creatures of habit

  1. Madeleine

    At our last church when perhaps inadvertently we sat in someone’s preferred place Ian became a little annoyed at being criticised for this that we suggested jokingly that the church should introduce pew rents to help with fundraising.

    At our ‘new’ church we try to move around, not upset anyone, there are some pews in which I prefer to sit more than others. Partly this is because the 1860 pews are not that comfortable, the Victorians must have been very slim and tiny people so there isn’t much leg room.

    1. Z Post author

      In our church’s weekly booklet which is handed out to allcomers, “News for the Pews,” it’s headed with a welcome that says newcomers should feel free to sit where they like. Indeed, and I thought of putting this in the post but thought it might be a bit “niche” for many readers, surely any Christian should offer the best seats to the newcomer. Because if you resent where someone sits, you may be a churchgoer but you aren’t very Christian.

      We have a wooden gallery at the West end of our church and the seats there are really very narrow, hardly enough room to sit at all. The pews are all right, though not especially comfy, but the choir stalls have heavily carved backs and they’re not good to lean against. On the organ stool, there’s no back of course, so I have to practise good posture.

  2. Liz

    Sir Bruin always sits at the same end of the sofa, next to the table where his lap-top is in permanent residence. I sit in his spot when he is at work. Shhh – don’t tell him.

    We seem to have evolved ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sides in the caravan too.

  3. Blue Witch

    I was worried about Eloise cat’s gender there…

    The main advantage of having specific places in the home is that any spills/stains etc can be attributed to the correct person, who can then be required to remove them.

    When I used to regularly visit schools, on a first visit, at break time in the staffroom, I always asked, “Will I sit on anyone if I sit here?” I usually eleicited a chuckle, and it was a great way of finding out how the school ran, and who the precious people were.

    1. Z Post author

      Yes, but it did make sense really 🙂

      That would certainly apply with Alex – you could always tell where he’d been sitting! They have a wooden floor in their present house, which makes rather more sense. Tim makes more spillage at the dinner table than I do – not that he’s messy but it’s the one place where I’m extremely tidy. And hospitality means a lot to me, I would put a guest in the best place and sit in the worst, whether at work or at home. With regular colleagues, I’d probably fight my corner rather more!

  4. 63mago

    THIS is a very interesting thing, this sitting habits. I learned from a friend to sit in other people’s chairs – sounds silly, sorry – after a discussion, or a kind of “sitting” in a professional surrounding (she’s a kind of counselor) – just to see what did the one who sat there actually see ? In some cases it was enlightening to have another view of a room, just another perspective. So this became a routine before a sitting, not to manipulate people, but for better understanding, and of course for finding “the position” for people.
    I try to move, but find meself attracted to routine, sadly enough. But at least I can see it.

    1. Z Post author

      One should also sleep in the spare bedroom once in a while – not for the same reasons, but to be sure the bed is comfortable, the reading light is good and so on. Yes, I take your friend’s point and I do try to be aware of the aspect from each chair. Your final sentence: exactly!


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