The academic rigors of second-grade math were proving too difficult for a young Ronald Bonk.
The mocking numbers overwhelmed him. Bonk chewed on his pencils, hoping the method would provide prescience. The stress roiled. Eventually the habit evolved, and the Cleveland boy would soon find himself chewing at three knuckles on his right hand.
That habit would continue for the next 40 years. He tried to stop with gloves and lotions, he even quit washing his hands. In his sleep the habit would foment, and asking women to dance at swing-dancing clubs proved too embarrassing.
“It was always, ‘What are you, a leper or something?’” Bonk said.
Bonk tried hypnosis as a last resort, a technique that carries its own stigma. That decision changed everything for the former film restorer and 20-year Burbank resident – his career, his personal life and his hands which, after four years without a bite, have healed nicely.