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Unformatted text preview: e vernacular of
the disorder, and before I learned to fight
these urges, many a manager heard from
me. . . .
Forget the tabletop, my friend Matt S.
tells me; it’s what’s on top of the table,
and precisely where, that really matters. Mr. S. is a 39-year-old
lawyer in Fort Worth with order compulsions. To enjoy a meal
he needs to separate the salt and pepper shakers, and, ideally, place a napkin holder or other divider midway between
them. . . .
Some of our other concerns may seem familiar. I imagine
most diners, for example, have noticed and perhaps even
struggled to remove white detergent spots that can sometimes be
seen on silverware. But few, I suspect, have gone to the lengths
Jared K. has to get rid of them. Mr. K. is a 24-year-old research
assistant living outside of Boston who has obsessive fears of contamination. . . . Last year he visited a Chinese restaurant with ComFun6e_Ch04_C!.indd 124 several friends, one of whom pointed out that their silverware
was spotted and seemed dirty. Mr. K. collected all the utensils at
the table and attempted to sterilize them by holding them above
a small flame at the center of a pu-pu platter, quickly attracting
the attention of their waiter. . . .
As part of my harm obsession, one of my concerns is that
germs from my mouth will hurt others. Although I try to keep
my fingers away from my lips and their germs while I’m eating, I’m rarely successful (it’s not as easy as it sounds). By the
end of the meal I believe that my hands
are contaminated. The problem is that I
need them to scribble my signature on
the check. If I’m lucky, I will have remembered to bring my own pen; if not,
I may feel compelled to “table-wash”
my hands, a little trick I developed over
the years: I use the condensation on the
outside of a cold water glass to rinse off
the germs. . . .
Once the check is signed, I must be
sure that it is really signed. At my worst,
I have opened and closed the vinyl
check holder again and again, seeing
my signature each time, yet unable to
feel certain. I’ve left the table, only to return to check again. And again. . . .
[Postscript: After exposure and response prevention therapy]
Today I travel extensively, sharing my recovery story and
working with groups like the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation
to raise awareness. . . . I wind up eating in a lot of restaurants.
I can honestly say I’m starting to enjoy it. In fact, while I still like
ice water with my meal, I often find myself drinking from the
glass, not washing with it.
Now when I say check, please, I’m simply asking for my bill.
/Corbis n this February 2008 New York Times article, Jeff Bell, a
radio news anchor, describes the ordeal that he and other
people with similar obsessive-compulsive disorders confront
whenever they go to a restaurant for a “pleasurable” night out. Claire Artman/zefa I Jeff Bell, “When Anxiety Is at the Table,” New York Times, February 6, 2008.
Copyright © 2008 New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission
of PARS International, Inc. All rights reserved. 1...
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