By Hannah Reich Berman

Habits are contagious. A single habit, whether good or bad, can lead to another. As an example, someone who makes wise choices about a dietary regimen is usually motivated to exercise and be active. That is an example of two perfectly good habits, but unfortunately the same holds true for bad habits. A youngster (or in some cases even an oldster) who chooses to smoke marijuana oftentimes goes on to the hard stuff. Not that I know the hard stuff from the soft–I’m just repeating what I’ve read and heard. In any case, that is an obvious example of one bad habit leading to an even worse one.

But there are an infinite number of habits, both good and bad. I live with insomnia, and while I’m not sure that can be considered a habit, what I do when I’m awake in the middle of the night definitely is a habit. In the past, I’ve tossed and turned on many nights. I was doing what the experts recommended–remaining in bed. I’ve pounded my pillow more times in my life than a head chef in a bakery has pounded dough!

I have no clue as to why I punched the poor pillow; it never did anything to me. And when I didn’t pound it, I would flip it over to the cooler side. But neither the pounding nor the flipping was of any help. So, in time, I gave up on both. No more staying in bed in the dark and pillow-punching for me. Instead, when sleep eluded me, I put on the light and picked up a book. But half the time I was too bleary-eyed to read. There had to be something better. And there was!

My next course of action was to turn on the television. That not only entertained me, it also helped me, because often I would fall asleep while the boob tube blasted away. In time, I became a human TV Guide. If anyone is interested, I can provide a list of what program is on every channel from midnight straight through until 4:00 a.m. That includes cable channels!

Despite my semi-success with watching television, in time I went on to bigger and better pursuits. Just as with the pillow-pounding and the book-reading, I also stopped the television-watching to do something I hoped would be more constructive and productive. I would leave my bed and head for the kitchen to do some midnight baking. That has got to sound strange to those who actually sleep, but some of my best creations were turned out at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m.! This went on for a long time despite the fact that I knew that baking (or cooking) is not a recommended activity to combat sleeplessness. But I didn’t care. That was what I did, and it became a habit.

If only it had stopped there! Leave it to me to take things a step further and to eventually come up with a middle-of-the-night habit that made things even worse: using the computer. It started out innocently enough. At first, I would put the time to good use and spend my sleepless hours sending e‑mails. At other times I would write a story (such as the one I am writing now). But it didn’t stop there. These things never do.

Somewhere along the way, I got the bright idea that this might be a good time to shop online. And that is when things got out of hand. I didn’t actually plan to buy anything. The idea was simply to peruse the list of items that were being offered for sale online. But the perusing didn’t last long and, once again, things got worse. Eventually I spotted things that were to my liking, things I couldn’t resist.

During normal daylight shopping hours, I have sales resistance. But when doing online shopping in the middle of the night, all bets are off. Last week alone I bought four skirts, three tunic tops, and a sweater. I didn’t do the damage all at once; it was more gradual than that. It happened on three successive nights. Luckily for my pocketbook, the fourth night was a Friday, when computer usage is prohibited. I’m sure I saved myself a nice few bucks that night.

True, the clothes that I bought in the wee hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night are nice-looking pieces–at least they appeared nice in the online pictures. And the prices are, as Hubby used to say, billig veh borscht, which was his way of saying inexpensive. However, I’m not sure I really need everything I bought. I may have gotten a little carried away. I can always return the items, but shipping-and-handling charges are high, so that isn’t a particularly appealing option.

All of the above is a perfect example of one bad habit leading to an even worse one. It’s something of a “chad gadya” moment–like the song we find in the Haggadah each Pesach. If I hadn’t turned on the light, I might not have gotten out of bed. If I hadn’t gotten out of bed, I might not have gone to my computer. If I hadn’t gone to the computer, I would not have found the shopping sites. And if I hadn’t found those sites, I would not have bought things I don’t really need. But I did it all. I did turn on the light, get out of bed, go to the computer, find the shopping sites, and buy what I don’t need. And that’s just the way it is. Ï–

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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