Does your work stab you in your back?


::..:: INTRODUCTION ::..::

Stabbing back pain?  Ouch.  Imagine being a train ticket seller in Chengdu, China where each seller sits at an office window for 8.5 hours each day selling, on average, 1,200 tickets daily, using between 40,000 to 50,000 Yuan of change each day (~ US$ 6,000-8,000). 

Multiple physical ailments and sicknesses?  Yes.  A modern occupational hazard.  Apparently, it is the office that produces the most number of illnesses nowadays.  Not just physical, I would imagine, but also mental (under or over-stimulation, stress loading), emotional (stress, alienation, colleagues and bosses) and spiritual, or philosophical (urges to connect, to make sense of, to stretch and to seek) – I guess office life does contain elements of repression, suppression and oppression. 

The better parts of office life?  Well, apparently it’s the ease of routine, the comfort of stability and the delight of predictable, achievable demands – i.e. a reassurance of the ‘easier’ ways of life.  To live the dream of a set life on a railway track that chugs along and will take you up the mountain so long as you put one foot in front of the other.  Maybe that is why the hoops to get in (barriers to entry) can be trying and tediously lengthy.

The ultimate challenge of such beneficial occupations?  A fight against the gradual onset of chronic complacency of self.  In short: rot and mould is part and parcel of the easy route.

Maneki Neko

Work really is a pain

China Daily newspaper, HK edition
Fri 30 Sept, 2011 | Nation | China Face
reported by Huang Zhiling

ChengduWhat Zhao Yuhua really wants is a shot in the back.

Make that several, like a good beating.

“There is something wrong with my back,” said Zhao, who has worked as a ticket seller at the Chengdu North Railway Station in Sichuan province since 1993.

“Beating on the back is like a good massage.”

And no time of year calls out more for a good hard massage than holiday season.

While on normal days she can sell about 1,200 tickets, that soars to as many as 3,000 as National Day approaches.

Such high demand for tickets keeps her at the booth for eight and a half hours each day (plus 40 minutes for lunch).

As a result of sitting for so many hours, all the ticket sellers have problems with their backs.

“Because of poor blood circulation, our legs are swollen when we return home,” said Zhao, 39.

Most of them also suffer from throat problems because of the endless talking with buyers.

She has had two operations to have polyps removed from her vocal cords.

After her most recent operation last year, surgeons suggested she speak less and take a rest for seven to ten days. But due to lack of people in the ticket office, she had to resume work in three days.

Because there are now many ways to buy tickets, including online, the sellers are no longer surprised if the person who is first in a long queue cannot get a ticket.

Zhao Yuhua prepares change at the ticket office of the Chengdu North Railway Station. Each window in the office needs between 40,000 and 50,000 Yuan ($6,250 and $7,800) worth of change a day.

“They may complain and curse with dirty words. In some extreme cases, they pour bottled water and spit inside the window. We always keep silent so that they can let off steam and leave. The ticket office has a rule for us – never quarrel with a ticket buyer. If we disobey, we will be criticized and ordered to apologize to them,” Zhao says.

Her husband Wang Qiang is a quality inspector for cargo transported by the railway in Chengdu. Her daughter Wang Yinnan, 16, is in high school.

As Zhao has no holidays, the family of three has never travelled together.

To make it up to her daughter, she cooks chicken soup – her daughter’s favourite – when she has time.

“My daughter has lunch outside home. I want to offer her something delicious and nutritious,” said the optimistic and always smiling Zhao.


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