So, I’ve had this *thing* for watching people do their *thing* for just about as long as I’ve been able to have *things.* Not sexual things, just regular day-to-day doings. But not everyone who does their thing has it factor, as it were. Someone like Bob Ross for example: Solid IT factor. Whenever I catch a glimpse of someone like Bob doing his thing, it triggers something strange in me…a unique kind of low-order euphoria. That is to say, I get all tingly n shit.
Maybe you’ve felt something like this, too. And maybe you felt like I did — a weirdo who doesn’t need any help feeling anymore weird than you already do at your plainest, most vanilla default setting, and so you remained cautiously reticent about this nameless quirk whilst in the company of those…other people.
If so, then you can relax my fellow pariah, for you are quite normal indeed. There’s even a jazzy name for this sensation: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. Check it out.
Now, I suspect that a lot of people/losers who’ve never experienced this unique phenomenon for themselves might conflate the mechanical with the methodical, or the boring with the quiet. The two are not the same! For instance, I could not (and would not) watch someone telecommuting from their laptop in an airport gate and feel so much as a flutter of deflection on the ASMR meters; but if I were watching someone carefully polishing the screen of that same laptop — THAT’S the stuff of a good braingasm!
I was living in this apartment a few years back, staffed with a small maintenance crew who’d periodically come through to sweep out the stairwells and porch fronts. There was one elderly staffer in particular; whenever I was at home and I’d hear her coming around, I’d deftly sneak over to the peephole and spy her as she swept. Even after she’d disappear up to the second landing of the stairwell, I’d keep watching her shadow. Yeah, Creep City, I know — and if she’d ever discovered me — if the door had somehow turned transparent in that instant, I am certain she would have scrambled for the hills. Even knowing this, I still couldn’t help myself. Despite being one of the most mindless, menial chores known to man, I was (admittedly bizarrely) captivated by this woman’s approach to dust/detritus relief. Watching her in action in that sunlit stairwell enveloped me in a weird sense of tranquility, vooshing over my entire body in syrupy, tingly waves. It’s rare that anything effects what is actually one of my favorite sensations, and one which is impossible to replicate, but this sweeper-upper had the moves, man. Whenever I’d hear the scritch of her bristles — even if I was barely out of the shower with a toothbrush champed between my teeth — I’d discreetly haul my soggy carcass from the bathroom over to the door and silently ogle. I didn’t even holler when I caught her snooping around my storage closet — there’s nothing good to steal in there, goddammit! Go back to sweeping! You’re amazing at it!
Other ASMR-accelerants: watching my good pal Ray cleaning records in his record store — especially when he’d get busy with an old hair dryer and some Ronsonol while attacking price tag goo on a precious 45 label; the world outside was on fire, wide-eyed, long-legged nymphs were milling about the Pop/Rock aisles, but there’s Ray Ehmen, focused like a laser on his lighter fluid ablutions, (and me before him, all pimply-fleshed and dazed).
True Story: Years ago I went for a haircut from an over-fastidious coiffeur who was so exacting about every little nip and snip that he spent over two hours trimming my grass, slowly scanning my crown for any wayward strands like a seasoned forensics specialist at a complicated crime scene. He wound up trimming it much shorter than I’d asked him to, but I was so deep in that ASMR zone that I didn’t really want him to stop!
Watching someone polish aluminum is another good one; joinery and marquetry; cake decoration, stain removal tips on YouTube…all potential ASMR triggers. There was a chick on Youtube with about a hundred one minute videos of how to clean stuff with vinegar and baking powder; that was a mine! I’m sure I’ll think of more once I publish this…
The two key ingredients for me are OCD-level detail-orientation, and, most importantly, care. The person has to really care about what they’re doing, and it can’t be faked. I can instantly tell when someone is doing something strictly from the neck down. A certain ambiance helps, too. That’s why watching someone play the guitar doesn’t get me in that ASMR zone, while watching someone string a guitar just might. I was recently in Cuba, watching some workers in a cigar factory roll cigars, an ASMR orgy for certain — right? Unfortunately, the bustle of the workers and those damned German tourists everywhere effectively dampened the effects.
Anyway, that’s one mystery down out of a ker-zillion.
(Thanks to MindHacks and Lambert Strether via Naked Capitalism)