I’m thinking of the different Jobs that I’ve had over the years. Even before I was legally able to, I would mow my lawn. After an hour of pushing the mower, my hands would vibrate and be raw to the bone, red and aggravated. I’ve been working since I turned 16, and no sooner after I legally became able to do so, I had a short-term summer job at Walmart. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere. Though there have been periodic breaks in my employment because of school, I’ve pretty much always been working, or at the very least looking for work.
My hands have done some different tasks in their day. They started out managing a cash register, hitting the buttons, scanning items, and bagging whatever was purchased. It wasn’t too demanding on them. Over a period of five years I worked at Gillette Stadium as a parking flagger and then a supervisor, either for Patriots games or summer concerts, or whatever other event was going on. My hands got little use in this job, except for waving frantically as I tried to get the attention of drunk, angry drivers.
A stint or two here and there at a clothing or office supply store, my hands either folding terribly the overpriced shirts or lifting heavy printers and fax machines. Through all of this I was also lifting regularly at a gym, adding calluses to my palms. They didn’t look good but I didn’t mind too much because they made it less painful when a heavy or sharp object was in my hand.
The summer before I left for Ecuador I was working in the Reebok warehouse, making boxes and then picking boxes of shoes to send to stores. It was mindless work, but after grabbing boxes of shoes all day, your hands would start to get cut up from the cardboard and sharp things that stuck out in the shelves. And after a couple of weeks I got a terrible clicking pain in my right wrist that didn’t go away until about two months after I stopped working there.
Nowadays, I work a desk job, where the biggest concern is getting a cramp in my legs from sitting for too long. But since I write most of the day, I find myself rolling my wrists a lot, trying to stretch them out and avoid inevitable carpel tunnel syndrome. I type long documents and strain my eyes looking at a screen for too long. When I do look away, it’s usually at my hands as I rub them, trying to ease the tension in the joints. Moving your fingers all day at a quick speed isn’t all that easy.
So is this the future for me? Do I gradually keep moving up the ladder with humble beginnings (albeit mostly humble until recently) until I get a desk job, and another, and another, where my hands will mostly just float above a keyboard? That’s what a writer has to do, after all. Though I will say that one of the most rewarding things I ever did was help build a house in Uruguay, really using my hands.
It’s been too long now for me to remember which history class it was, but I remember vividly the story of during one such revolution in Europe, the townspeople all over the country were rounded up and forced into the square. Those with rough, calloused and leather-like hands were left alone. Those with manicured and clean hands were killed. If you have the kind of hands that suggest that you work in the fields, it’s less likely that you’re the one taking advantage of people while grooming yourself so well. Not that I expect that to happen again any time soon. But anyway, I digress. My hands are starting to hurt.