Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Odyssey

Yesterday I faced my greatest challenge as a woodworker.

I wasn't even in my shop when I realized I was in this spot of bother. I was at my desk at work.

It was the space bar that got me.

As my right thumb hit the space bar the electrical grid of my body communicated that something was rotten in the state of Thumbsville. Yep....little splinter in my big right thumb.

I don't think I visited the shop yesterday morning so somehow a sliver of cherry had spent the night with me, living just under the surface of my thumb.

Normally, Gail is my splinter removal girl. However, less than 24 hours before this she had flown to San Francisco to visit her baby sister. It is interesting, because in our 12 years together this is the first time we have been apart for any reason other than my business travel. In other words, although we’ve spent weeks apart with my travels to Viet Nam, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and all over the States….July of 2008 will mark the first time I’ve spent a night alone in my own house. Of course I have Peyton.

So, staring at the splinter yesterday, and realizing Gail is gone, I considered options. Gail's middle sister is a nurse with keen eyesight, but she was leaving for San Francisco that very day to join up with her two sisters. Calling her was not an option.

I thought of calling on one of my friends in the office. Except I've been married so long I think I forgot how to "hook up" with a new woman....even for splinter removal. Am I supposed to take in the results of my most recent blood test. Even then, how does the conversation begin? "Excuse me , Gladys, I know you successfully raised children, so I know you've done this before...would you mind going after some wood I have here for you????" (Wow...that would have landed me in HR... PDQ.)

So I decided I was own my own. Naturally, the situation followed the Right Hand Rule. I remember learning about this in Calculus. It means if you are right handed, you will always have to do one handed tasks with the left hand, and vice versa. My tool of choice was a thumbtack/pushpin. As I took that pushpin between my left thumb and forefinger I thought of an interesting paradox:

I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous....

Like General Eisenhower who signaled the go ahead for Operation Overlord, fully realizing that this necessary step would still require the death and destruction of many Allied forces, I plunged the pushpin into my own Omaha right thumb. I dug, I pried, I levered, I cried. The tears served as little magnifying glasses that easily improved my vision ten fold.

At times I pushed it deeper. At one point the delivery turned breech. Still, through the agonizing pain, I continued the pushpin torture. Suddenly, like a prairie dog in the desert or a Whack-a-Mole at Chuck E Cheese....a tiny portion of the splinter popped up. Because I am a committed nail biter, I didn't have the option of pulling it out with finger nails. My choice was to scrape and pray.

I scraped the pushpin against the side of the splinter fully expecting to see it shear off like a whisker in the graphics from a Gillette commercial. Yet, to my great joy, it did indeed pull the splinter fully out of my body.

I looked at that splinter laying on my desk in its own little biohazard containment area. And I was left wondering, "How do single guys deal with splinters?" Then the flood of memories came into my head of the woodworking adventures Gail has shared with me. They all came back...the wound scrubbing...the bandaging...the drives to the Emergency Room... scrubbing the shop floor with bleach...Gail has been an integral part of my woodworking.

So until she returns I am left with the dilemma...

Time in the shop is the perfect way to pass the time while I am alone. Yet being alone subjects my tender body to injuries that may require the assistance of trained professionals.

Finally, the solution came to me.

The Life Alert system (I've fallen and I can't get up) is on its way and will arrive tomorrow. Soon I will be able to maintain my shop independence and can stave off the attempts of those who believe I should move my work to a Group Shop.

Thank you, Life Alert.


Jason "thumbs" b said...

Congratulations on your successful splinterectomy. I have had a couple of splinters that wouldn't pull out, and I ended up having to cut a path to them with a razor blade. My wife (who is a cardiac catheterization technician) wouldn't do it for me. So left handed self-surgery was my only option. Those weren't as bad as the fishhook I drove into my thumb once. The point was pushed right up to the bone and the barb was buried. Couldn't push it through or pull it back out. So I cut it off with about an 1/8" of hook sticking out, and fished for the rest of the day. I ended up going to the emergency room that night to get it removed. About a month later, I hurt my other thumb while doing something incredibly stupid on a table saw (dado stack, no throat plate. I was forced to endure the nickname "Thumbs" for some time after that.

Anonymous said...

Boys, Boys, Boys...The best way to remove splinters (and in-grown hairs) is with a blood lancet. Only diabetics and people with extreme hypoglycemia even know what those are, but they work magic. Go to the pharmacy and pick some up. They are extremely sharp and can get under the skin and pry up the splinter. nails required!!! Then again digging and picking like crazy has a calming effect for those that are obsessive compulsive. That reminds me...picking blueberries is much safer and way less distructive!!! Maybe in five weeks your thumb will be as good as new.

Circa Bellum said...

I've heard that you can put a drop of wood glue on the splinter, let it dry and peel it off with the splinter attached. I haven't had a splinter since I heard that so have not tried it, but would love to hear from someone if it works or not...

Anonymous said...

Have you guys ever heard of the moist bread and bandage trick?
If you soak some bread then take it or bandage it to your splintered parts, leave it on overnight or for a few hours and it softens up the skin and draws out the splinter.
This one I have tied and believe it or not it works!

Anonymous said...


You are the funniest and most talented writer I have ever met, but I noticed an error in this blog entry....

..."mind going after some wood I have here for you????" (Wow...that would have landed me in HR... PDQ.)

So I decided I was own my own." (sic)....

I am guessing you really wanted to say ON my own...not own my own...

I was just looking out for you and the blog.

I love the blog and keep up the good work.

your biggest fan