For in truth habit is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress. She establishes in us, little by little, stealthily, the foothold of her authority; but having by this mild and humble beginning settled and planted it with the help of time, she soon uncovers to us a furious and tyrannical face against which we no long have the liberty of even raising our eyes.

— Montaigne, “Of Custom, and Not Easily Changing an Accepted Law”


I live by the clock; all my activities, my exits and entrances, my times for smoking cigarettes and reading murder-stories, are synchronized and set in harmony with the earth’s motion and the sun’s. Much more than happiness I love my habits, the timely routine and oscillation of the hours which carry me on through months and seasons. Thus my life spins silent on its axle; but at the least dislocation or jar—if the Post is late, or the Morning Paper doesn’t turn up—I am giddy, I am undone; the ground rocks beneath my feet.

— Logan Pearsall Smith, All Trivia: A Collection of Reflections & Aphorisms


Tomorrow I go in for a colonoscopy. This means I can’t eat any solid food today, something I normally do every three to four hours as part of my meal plan. It also means I can’t be at work, because even I know better than to try to do physical work on a completely empty stomach. (My stomach has reached the point, here in the early afternoon, of, “Haha, joke’s over, very funny, now give me the calories before I start devouring your pectorals.”) What am I supposed to do? Read all day? Who can concentrate through the hunger pangs and the disorientation? Later this evening, I have to drink half of that vile solution that, as Dave Barry described, will allow my bowels to time-travel into the future and start eliminating food I haven’t even eaten yet. Then I have to stay awake between two and four a.m to drink the other half. Between the sleep deprivation, explosive elimination, and general violence to my sense of established order, I might as well be marooned on an alien planet. Without my routine and rituals, do I even exist?