Monday, May 10, 2010

Occupational Hazards

1) I now need to wear glasses at the computer.

This may be more or less related to my job as an online essay rater for ETS, in which I assign scores to around 140 essays in a typical eight-hour workday. And then, in my off-duty hours, I have a hard time focusing on the cursor in my Word document.

“You have 20/20 vision,” says my eye doctor. “There’s really no need to prescribe you anything.”

I protest: But the screen! The glare!

“Hmm.” He considers this for a long moment, his thumbs and index fingers carefully pressed together. “Have you tried looking away from the screen for a while?”

2) Somehow sitting at my computer is connected in my mind with snacking – raising small handfuls of food to my mouth, chewing, chewing, and reaching for another helping. This is because writing makes me nervous. Thus, the expanded waistline, the widening hips. I find myself eating things I don’t even particularly like – chips, crackers, pieces of melty chocolate intended for pastries.

“Try snacking on sunflower seeds,” my trainer says, tsk-tsking.

And so I do – one tiny crunch at a time.

3) After a steady routine of writing followed by yard work, my fingernails are shot – cuticles chewed to ragged pieces, dirt deep in the nail beds. A manicure is clearly in order. I relax and put myself in the hands of a professional – a tiny Vietnamese woman who alternates between comments in English to me and rapid-fire Vietnamese to her co-workers. It takes me a few seconds to realize when her words are directed at me. She douses my skin with oil and begins a massage, my hands huge and ungainly in her petite grasp.

“Relax,” she orders. “You’re holding too much tension in your hands.” Or maybe that’s not what she says at all, but somehow that’s what I hear.

“Well, that makes sense,” I explain. “I’m a writer.”

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