I suspect that most people have something or other that turns them into a nitpicker. The nits I personally like to pick are "fact shifts" in anything I'm reading.
If John had blue eyes in Chapter One, and 200 pages later those eyes are gray, it makes me crazy. I can't just tell myself, "Well, that was sloppy." I have to go back and prove to myself that I'm correctly remembering those baby blues. So I'll start back on page 1 and skim through until I find John's eye color. If I miss it on the first pass, I'll go back again. This novel reading interruptus, of course, extracts a lot of the whatever pleasure I've been getting out of the book.
I'm am similarly nitpicky about anachronisms. If a character's driving a Mustang in 1958, I go wild. There were not Mustangs in 1958.
One novel I read last year was set during WWII. One of the characters used Magic Marker to draw seams on the back of her legs to make it look like she had found a pair of seamed stockings during the nylon shortage. Well, there were no Magic Markers in 1944. She would have used an eyebrow pencil.
Things like this make me nuts.
So I have to admit to having a bit of a nitpicker in my makeup.
Little did I know that there was actually such a thing as a professional nitpicker.
No, it's not a proof reader of any kind. It's someone who picks the nits out of the heads of kids with lice. And she makes $100 an hour to do it.
This story was in The Boston Globe the other day, and I found it fascinating.
Helen Hadley bends close over the target area, magnifying glass in hand. Repositioning her lamp, she peers carefully at a single hair.
‘‘There it is,’’ she murmurs as she deftly removes her specimen and transfers it for safekeeping. She turns back to her work, steely-eyed and determined.
A detective? A forensic scientist? No, the Needham woman is one of a rarer breed. She’s a professional nitpicker — yes, that’s nits, as in the eggs of head lice, and today’s crime scene is the head of a 9-year-old girl.
While over-the-counter products like Nix can kill the adult louse, the only way to eliminate the eggs is by manually removing them.
Even with a fine-toothed lice comb, it’s not an easy task. Often families think they have rid themselves of the tiny parasites, only to find a new generation thriving a few days later. For those people, Hadley is a godsend.
Like many of us with our careers, Hadley fell into hers. A graphic artist who chose not to make the transition to computer-based design, she got her start de-nitting her own kids. Word got out - school nurse to school nurse - and she was on her way. She makes a pretty darn good living in the Boston area, where she may be the only nit-picking pro. She does know of others in California, Florida, and Texas.
Weirdly, head lice is something that has gotten worse over the years, not better. When I was a kid, I do not recall one instance of head lice - and I wasn't in some refined, suburban, 15 kids in a class school. I was in a 50 kids in a class urban parochial school. In seventh grade, our teacher became ill. (We learned later what her illness was when another nun, agitated about something we were doing, blurted out, "No wonder poor Sister X had a nervous breakdown.") It took a while to get a substitute teacher - it's not as if the school was actually going to go out and pay someone - so while they looked around for someone, they doubled us up with the eighth grade class, 2 to a desk. Nearly 100 kids in one classroom. Ah, those were the days. But they were also the days of NO NITS. Was it good old DDT that saved us?
As a kid, I associated head lice with something that took place in yester-year. Laura in the Little House books might have had it in the late 180o's. Or Betsy, Tacy, and Tib in 1905. No one in my day and age.
Now, almost everyone I know has either dealt with it themselves or knows someone who has. A few years ago, I was supposed to meet a friend for a drink after work. She didn't show up, and I couldn't reach her by phone, so I gave up. The next day she called all apologetic. Late in the day, her husband had called to tell her that all three of their kids had lice. She'd jetted home to shampoo, de-louse, boil her kids' bedding, and in general do whatever she could do to take care of that particular piece of nasty business.
If only she'd known about her local nit-picker, I'm sure she would have given her a shout.
From a marketing perspective, you have a strong value proposition and clear message. And as professions go, I'm guessing that this one is fairly gratifying. You're doing a tremendous service. It pays well. And it may even be kind of fun since it's a little like a treasure hunt. Combing and picking is probably soothing in its own way. And when the project is over, it's over. Done deal. The nitpicker rides off into the sunset, and the family gets back to its life.
And it's one job that will never be off-shored.