I have discovered that with every bad habit there is an equal and opposite excuse. For example, the reason you have not seen my column in a while is that I have a bad habit of allowing myself to be distracted. Not that I want to be distracted but something irresistible caught my attention and my focus shifted, it's not my fault.

You have a bad habit or two, don't you? Not that all habits are bad but, in my case, it seems they are all bad. When did you first discover you had some bad habits? I am willing to bet, you had no idea that what you were doing at the time was a bad habit until someone said to you: "Tom, where on Earth did you pick up that bad habit?" What?

Bad habits run the gamut from bad to down-right silly. You may recognize some of these habits even though you may be unwilling to admit to having done some of these things or continue them, just out of habit.

There are the common bad habits: smoking, cursing, spitting and many other habits which prove to be annoying to others, harmless ones and some habits that are down right maddening. Let's examine some of these habits.

Spitting is a habit that I learned in my junior and high school years with my buddies. I would have to admit that my friend through junior and senior high, Curt Leblanc, was the best spitter ever. You name the target and he could hit it, no problem. He could spit a stream if he wanted to and often did. I could never reach his expertise but I could spit. Did people like this habit? No! They said it was a dirty habit just like smoking. They made this observation with a cigarette dangling from their lips.


My parochial background prevented me from doing a lot of cursing but I did know some choice swear words. The only time I ever heard a cuss word uttered from my father's mouth was the first time he took me for a driving lesson on East Road. It was in February, it was snowing and we were travelling down hill when a dog way out in front of us decided to choose this moment to cross the road. I reflexively tapped the brake and did a little fishtail with my Dad's Pontiac. His immediate reaction was well, you know, a pretty good string of cuss words, and some of which I was not familiar with or ever recall hearing.

I remember when, during my teen years, I developed a habit which started out as a lark. You know, just for fun, but turned into a bad habit or at least one with unintended bad consequences. I dubbed this habit "head spinning". When I heard someone of the opposite sex talking I would spin my head in their direction. This action netted me countless laughs from my friends. Then, one morning, as I was at the kitchen table eating my cereal I heard female voices coming down the street, talking loudly on their way to school. I spun my head to the left to see who it was and ouch! I couldn't move my head. I hollered to my Mom and she sent me across the street to see the doctor that lived there. When I knocked on my neighbors door,seeking some relief, a woman answered. She was beautiful! She said hello and looked to me for a response. Suddenly, I was cured! My neck was fine and moved easily. I don't remember what I said to her, if anything at all. I think I blurted something and left. That was the first habit I can remember kicking.

Finally, there are the annoying habits. These are not good or bad. They don"t hurt anyone. They simply bother people and they wish you wouldn't continue the practice. When I was a little boy my brother Henry had already served in the military during the Korean War so, you see, he was much older than me. Unknown to him I had this, what he labeled as an "annoying" habit of clearing my throat.

One evening he decided to join us for dinner before leaving town. It was the usual Friday night fare: fish, french fries, cottage cheese some beans. During the dinner hour I cleared my throat, apparently, so many times that Henry gave me the Hairy Eyeball several times to no avail. Finally, Henry asked my Mom to tell me to stop making that annoying noise at the table and to take a drink of milk or something. Which she did and I did and I stopped making the very annoying noise, although it was a difficult thing for me to do so.

Has anyone asked you to stop an annoying or bad habit? I know. It's not always easy.

— Tom Pinsonneault a historian, storyteller in the oral tradition, folk dancer and traveler is a longtime resident of Orwell.

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.