I have a weird habit of drinking cans of warm Diet Pepsi, which is not that noticeable unless someone touches the can.
The Orbitz gum habit is much worse, much more noticeable. It is getting out of control. I go through about a pack a day if I am out at a bar. The only time I don't chew gum is if I am at the office. And I favor the peppermint brand (because bubblemint is gross and wintermint loses its flavor after 2 minutes & makes my nostrils burn).
This made me think about character. Writers can be focused on micro or macro habits when it comes to quirks. But they never talk about simple addiction. Not a character flaw that can be cracked or has to have an intervention (such as meth which can cause tooth, hair and friend loss).
I wonder how many times characters in books or films have had an annoying habit that they just won't break. I've had people who step into my truck comment about all of the gum wrappers in the cab. That and the packs of unopened Orbitz peppermint gum (3 packs bound together for $2.13 each at the local Walmart). They kick them with their feet, my friend Andrew always mentions it, but still it never gets to a crisis situation.
The warm Diet Pepsi only rears its ugly head when I explain it to people. One or two people in the office have drank warm Diet Pepsi when I offer it, mostly because they are quirky like me. How did warm Diet Pepsi happen? It was my childhood of too many kids, and making sure no one wanted to devour what I could before I had a chance to eat it. Which is why I eat my food really fast at dinner (that is another annoying habit).
Colorful characters are considered the oddballs who inhabit these types of addictions, but is that necessarily true? I knew a woman who liked to squeeze her cell phone case but never talked on it (a nice expensive stressball with a two-year contract). Was she an oddball, or did that merely symbolize her as an individual?
If Jerry Springer has revealed anything to us, it is that not everyone looks like a supermodel. In fact, there are many more of the dysfunctional people than "normal ones." Maybe that's why Elmore Leonard is so cool in his writing of character. He happens to write who people are, rather than the idealized notion that the public wants to see them as.