Allergic to Routine

"Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead."
Aldous Huxley, Do What You Will (1929)

This person gets bored extremely easily and needs to be entertained at all times. Unpredictability isn't just preferred, it's a necessity for this guy's sanity — if too many days pass quietly, they start to lose their mind. They're the roommate who always "forgot" that it was their turn to clean up, but who dragged you along on their (mis)adventures and kept life so interesting that you ended up not minding. They're also the parent who uprooted their kids every time they felt life was getting "boring" and the spouse who signed themselves and their unknowing partner up for a mission to Jupiter — anything, anything to avoid life becoming "normal."

Your sympathy for this character may vary. On one hand, they're funny, unpredictable and keep life interesting...but on second thought, you'd probably think twice about marrying this character or having them as a parent. They often have a crippling case of No Sympathy, and assume what they want is what's best for everyone. The fact that their significant other is keen to take over the family business in his hometown, or their kid is sick and tired of having to make new friends every four months, will simply not compute with them — life's getting same-y, so let's get out of here!

However, they may not get as far as having a steady partner, much less kids, to worry about — that means commitment, and very possibly the dreaded prospect of domesticity. Many Allergic To Routine characters would rather remain free agents, never hanging around for breakfast after a passionate night or forming lasting friendships. If they do, it will be a major plot point.

They may use dubious means to make things "interesting," or disrupt the lives of those around them just to see what happens. They will enjoy being a Weirdness Magnet, would never dream of declaring "I Just Want to Be Normal" and, if faced with normality, will be spotted running into the horizon screaming "I Just Want to Be Special"...except it's not the "specialness" or Chosen One status they want, it's the ability to make life interesting.

Calvinball is essentially this trope in game form, so if the Calvinball-like game in a work is presented as one specific character's brainchild, then you can guess that character will probably exhibit this trope (as Calvin himself definitely does).

Contrast with Creature of Habit. Compare and contrast Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Eroica/Dorian is a less manic version, but still gets pretty low when life fails to live up to his romantic ideals, and sets off to cause trouble in order to keep life exciting.
  • Both Light Yagami and L of Death Note become depressed when faced with monotony. The same goes for Ryuk.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya from the anime of Haruhi Suzumiya is, exactly like her book counterpart, a person who loathes routine and constantly seeks out interesting things from mysterious transfer students, murder mysteries, and aliens, time travelers, and espers.

  • A limited form of this appears in Jumper. David Rice has no problem keeping himself entertained normally, but the one time he travels from the US to Italy without using his instant-teleportation powers (because his girlfriend is a Muggle who has no idea he could have moved them to Italy literally faster than she could blink), he's almost crawling in his seat with boredom.
    Millie: "You okay? What's the matter?"
    David: "Um... yeah, I'm fine... does it always take this long?"
    Millie: (confused) "I thought you said you'd been to Italy before?"
    David: "Well, yeah, I have... lots of times... Its just... does it always take this long?"

  • Haruhi Suzumiya, of course. Ordinary day? Heaven help you, Kyon, Haruhi will soon sort that out.
  • Sherlock Holmes: "My mind rebels at stagnation." Becomes clinically depressed when things get too quiet. For the record, the book version of Watson has a foot in both camps (domestic bliss with wife + running after Holmes on adventures = happy life), while the film version wants to be a Creature of Habit... But Holmes, in most adaptations, consistently functions on the assumption that his best friend is also naturally Allergic To Routine.
  • The obligatory Discworld example would be Moist Von Lipwig of Going Postal and Making Money. After he outwits the Corrupt Corporate Executive and gets the post office running again, he resorts to climbing walls and breaking into his own building to kill the monotony. Vetinari promptly shifts him to the bank, and already has plans for his next job after that. One wonders what will happen when the city runs out of businesses for him to renovate, although Vetinari also notes that he doesn't seem to get bored like this when his fiancée is around.
    "I wonder if it's like this for mountain climbers," he thought. "You climb bigger and bigger mountains, and you know that one day one of them is going to be just that bit too steep. But you go on doing it, because it's so-o good when you breath the air up there. And you know you'll die falling."
  • Aikawa Kagiyama in the Honor Harrington novels is this. So, one day, he's sitting watch, totally bored, and decides to run a detailed analysis on the freighter that recently entered the system, just to have something to do. He discovers that they previously encountered the same freighter in another system a few weeks ago... only it was operating under a different name, which is sufficient cause to board her. What they find blows the lid off a Mesan plot to sabotage the Talbott annexation, and ultimately provokes the biggest war in human history.
  • Perry Mason frequently talks about how he hates routine. He's often forced to endure several hours of answering correspondence by his secretary, Della Street. It's noted he is a trial lawyer because he enjoys a fight rather than practicing routine law.
  • One of Horatio Hornblower's traits. He comes up with so many daring plans partly because he considers himself a coward every time he's not risking his neck, but mostly because he has an extremely active mind. It's also a fact that navy life consists mainly of boredom interspersed with wild activity, and he really hates boredom. It also leads him to do lots of less-dangerous things to break up the monotony of blockade service, like force all the midshipmen and petty officers to calculate and recalculate the longitude of a particular point or play whist.
    "I'd rather be in trouble for having done something than for not having done anything."
  • In The Genesis Of Jenny Everywhere, we have Jenny's friend Leah "Leelee" Jones, a ditzy, borderline Cloud Cuckoo Lander teenage girl who spends half her time playing truant from school and the next day randomly turns up half an hour early because history class in first period "sounded interesting". Possibly justified given there is no law forcing her to turn up and her guardian is her neglectful uncle who couldn't care less when it comes to instilling a sense of routine in his niece. She gets bored easily and is friends with Jenny as her quirky style and tales of adventure in alternate worlds make her seem "cool".

    Live Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor is terrified of domesticity and monotony - after all, this is the guy who regularly switches bodies, never mind routines. This has caused some heartaches for his companions, who occasionally and understandably feel as if they're just replaceable amusements who get discarded when the Doctor gets bored.
    • The Eleventh Doctor in particular has problems with simply sitting still and waiting whilst nothing happens. In "The Power of Three", whilst he's waiting for one of the mysterious cubes to do something, he decides do odd chores around Amy and Rory's house, plays keepie-uppie with a football to a million, cooks dinner and paints the fence. After all that, he discovers to his horror, that the time it takes before he runs out of things to do and goes crazy with boredom... is one hour.
    • He does a similar thing in "The Bells of Saint John", while waiting for Clara to wake up. He tinkers with the spoonhead robot, alphabetises the kitchen cupboards, fixes the rattling noise in the washing machine, optimizes the shrubbery's photosynthesis, and reassembles (or invents) the disassembled quadricycle in the garage.
    • Ironically, he ends up spending centuries trapped on a single planet, defending it from all his worst enemies to prevent them from restarting the Time War, ultimately dying of old age.
  • Whether as a doctor, a friend, a roommate, Gregory House always winds up rewriting the rules to his own advantage—and sometimes breaking them even then. Not too surprising, as he's a Sherlock Holmes expy.
  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin: Reggie is being driven mad by his routine. Especially the season-spanning routine of destroying everything he's ever created.
  • The modern TV version of Sherlock Holmes has a need for intellectual stimulation that strongly brings to mind a drug addict's desire for the stimulant of their choice, and repeatedly goes to dangerous lengths in order to avoid becoming bored - a trait he shares with his arch-nemesis, Moriarty. However, possibly as a means to complement Sherlock, this particular version of John Watson is heavily hinted to be an adrenaline addict and a thrill-seeker.
  • Tom Good of The Good Life is like this. Apart from finding his desk job to be hopelessly silly (he was a draftsman who designed plastic toys to put in cereal boxes), he found it to be dull and pointless. Thus he and Barbara turned to self-sufficiency; Tom takes to all the challenges with gusto and enjoys devising solutions to a lack of vehicle or clothes wearing out (well, usually).

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Auntie Mame, who declared that "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"

    Video Games 
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Consular companion Felix Iresso has been bounced from back end outpost to back end outpost, despite a stellar service record, and his career has stalled because he had a Sith holocron forcibly downloaded into his head when a prisoner of war on Althir. It doesn't seem to bother him much, and when the Consular shows up, he's delighted to sign on for an insanely dangerous diplomatic mission. The best way to get affection points with him is by volunteering to do the dangerous, dirty, and outright crazy missions no one else is willing to do.

  • 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage goes stir crazy very, very quickly.
    Red Mage: What kind of dark wizard in league with nameless forces of primordial evil are you that you can't even make a successful sanity check versus boredom?
  • King Radical in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja appears to be this. As it turns out, he is: his goal is to make Earth more radical, or rather, more like his homeland, Radical Land, by both getting rid of bores and non-radical people, and switching them with people and creatures from Radical Land.
  • Rayne Summers is this.

    Real Life 
  • In Myers-Briggs, Intuitives and Perceivers are usually more routine-phobic.
  • This is a disproportionately common trait in people with ADHD.
  • Therapy for Asperger's, people who are normally inflexible to the extreme, can cause a minor version of this. For instance, one who insisted on the same meal every day might find himself thinking that he can't do that and have something different every day with no patterns or anything.
  • Whether you believe in astrology or not, astrology books normally assign this trait to Sagittarius and Aries. Aquarius is an odd case - most descriptions will paint them as apparently Allergic to Routine, but actually a Creature of Habit - it's just that those habits will be very strange.