Obsessive-Compulsive Woman Admits Responsibility
for Tragic Traffic Accident

Failure to Complete Precise, Number-3-based Ritual
Causes Fatal Pile-up in Neighboring Town

August 20, 2003, Lakewood Colorado: Camille Rosewood, a 36-year-old claims adjuster for a Colorado insurance company, expressed shame and regret over her lapse in concentration which led to the deaths of six people on a highway outside Denver yesterday. Rosewood, who has suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for more than a decade, has a number of intricate routines she engages in on a daily basis out of a belief that failure to do so will result in bodily harm to someone she loves, or—as yesterday’s tragedy illustrates—complete strangers.

Rosewood, who’s been taking Paxil semi-regularly for the past three years, explained tearfully from her living room, that the accident on Interstate 25 early Tuesday morning—which included seven automobiles and one semi—resulted from her failure to observe one of her oldest rituals. “I was in a hurry when I got to work yesterday, because I was running late again,” she explained, wiping her eyes with a tissue, “and I got out of my car and saw [coworker] Sandy [Patton] just arriving also. She yelled at me, ‘come on, Camille,’ and was holding the door open for me.”

After blowing her nose and retrieving a fresh Kleenex, the married mother of two continued. “It was as simple as that. I ran into work so I wouldn’t be late, and I completely forgot to walk around my car three times counter-clockwise.” Shaking her head in anguish and looking at the ceiling as if for an answer, she added, “I remembered fifteen minutes later, but I couldn’t get away from my desk for another half hour.” At that time, Rosewood excused herself from her work area, telling a colleague she had to use the restroom, and ran out to circle her automobile.

“But it was too late,” she recalled bitterly. “When I got back to my desk, the radio had broken in with a news report on that accident. It’s all my fault.”

The accident isn’t the first time others have suffered from Rosewood’s laziness, forgetfulness, or lack of concentration, but it does rank as the most deadly calamity caused by the Colorado women to date. Last year, her daughter became ill after she failed to observe a key grocery-shopping compulsion, and six years ago her son broke his arm after she forgot to jiggle the toilet handle three times after flushing.

“I always buy dairy products in groups of three,” the weeping mother explained, “but last year I somehow grabbed seven cups of yogurt, rather than six. I didn’t realize it until I got home, and by then it was too late.” Exactly twelve days later, McKensey Rosewood, then six years old, got the chickenpox, which had been circulating her elementary school for a couple weeks.

“The worst thing I did…before now, I mean, was when I made my mother-in-law fall and break her hip,” Rosewood recalled dejectedly. “I was weighing myself one morning, and something distracted me, and next thing I knew I’d lost count of how many times I’d stepped on and off the scale.” Always mounting the scale three (or a multiple of three) times, she tried to repair the situation by climbing on two more times, hoping that brought the total to six. “But I obviously was wrong, because [her husband’s mother] Gayle fell later that week. When my brother-in-law called to tell us the news, I just felt horrible.”

“Now,” Rosewood continued, “…I feel even worse.”

Dr. Laura McSorely, a Denver-area psychologist, has reportedly treated Rosewood for her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder off and on for the past six years, but she declined to comment, citing doctor-patient confidentiality. She did provide some general analysis of the strange illness, which affects an estimated 2% of the adult population in the US at any given time.

In general, people suffering from the disorder exhibit two types of symptoms, Dr. McSorely explained. Obsessions, which are “thoughts or impulses that occur over and over”, are often recognized as being irrational or unjustified, yet the sufferer “feels helpless to control them.” The struggle to do so generally leads to the second symptom, the compulsions. These are “acts performed over and over, often according to certain rules that only the patient understands. Their goal is to insure that the obsessive visions or fears don’t come to fruition.”

Not bound by confidentiality, Rosewood’s husband of 15 years admitted feeling frustrated by his wife’s disease. “She stopped seeing her shrink a year or so ago, saying she was ‘all better’. And she only takes the pills every now and then when she says she ‘feels edgy’,” he told Brachiator reporter over the phone from his office. “I keep telling her she’s got to take them every day, that all her routines and rituals aren’t normal, but…eventually you just give up.”

After calling in sick to work and sending her children off to their various summer activities, Camille Rosewood was preparing to write sympathy cards to the families of those who were killed in yesterday’s traffic accident. “It’s just so hard to find the right words,” she lamented softly. “How do you tell some little girl her daddy’s never coming home again, just because I forgot to walk around my Pasat three times?”

(C) Hylo Bates, 2003
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