Notes from West London · Smart Thinking

Eggs and “just in case” behaviour

I like fried eggs. I eat them often, at least twice a week. In the summer of 1998 I heated a frying pan, put a little bit of butter in it to heat up, and when it was hot enough cracked an egg into the pan. The egg was rotten inside. It made on odd popping noise, the contents dribbled out onto the pan, and the kitchen was filled with that foul bad-egg smell. I dropped the shell onto the pan, took the pan outside, emptied the rotten egg and shell onto a flowerbed and buried it. I used a little soil to wipe the remainder of the pan’s contents and buried that too, and then I washed the pan thoroughly, many times. And I pondered, as so often before and since, how good soil is at breaking things down.

That was over 17 years ago. Ever since then I have cracked eggs into a glass or cup rather than directly into a pan. I have not encountered another rotten egg in all those years. I could, in retrospect, have cracked all those thousands of eggs directly into the pan and saved the bother of washing up an extra glass or cup every time. This is a perfect example of “just in case” behaviour. I have created extra washing-up for myself, and taken a bit longer to make fried eggs, thousands of times, just because I once cracked a rotten egg into a frying pan. And I really don’t mind. Those extra few seconds each time might have built up into several wasted hours but I don’t see it that way. I can’t think of anything that I might have done with those extra few seconds each time I was frying eggs. I don’t feel so comfortable about many other instances of my “just in case” behaviour, but that’s another story.

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