Friday, May 27, 2016

Don't put your finger in that!

As some of you may know, my geekery extends beyond the fantasy novels I write and goes all the way into my day job. By day I don my cape and work at NASA and try to keep things from falling apart. *Note - please call your senators and beg them to fund us. Space is cool!*

One very notable attribute of the government is that they are somewhat safety-obsessed. Every month we have to enjoy safety presentations in which frequently one of our red-faced co-workers has made an "anonymous" appearance on the safety slide - detailing embarrassingly in what sometimes humorous ways they managed to hurt themselves and how we might avoid that same fate. It's not meant to be humorous, but, well, I have kind of an evil mind.

Queue the flashback to one of the most embarrassing moments of my working career when I almost ended up on one of those slides myself....

It started, as most disasters do, with chocolate. And in this I can blame one of my office mates who for this purpose I will refer to as LAM. LAM has a habit of stocking on her desk the most wonderful dark chocolate stash known to mankind. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but when you’ve had a week as bad as mine, all chocolate develops a touch of mystical enchantment. In fact, had it not been for the ethereal glow above the bowl and the angel chorus singing Barry White, I might have walked right past her door and my day, and finger, would have ended without misery.

But I didn’t, and it did.

I grabbed that delicious piece of dark chocolate from LAM’s bowl and by the time I got back to my desk I realized that I’d smeared a big brown streak of it right across my front pant leg. And this is especially aggravating considering I only had the one pair of khakis left that fit me (also partially because of LAM’s delicious bowl of chocolate). So for the next several minutes my other officemate, we'll call her Mama J, got to hear a variety of cursing from me that I wouldn’t normally use in the office while fighting with the chocolate napalm stain. The dear heart had a plastic tub of sanitizing hand wipes which we were both hoping might work without leaving my leg a wet, soppy, chocolaty mess... which it almost did. Now my stain looked less like a chocolate smear and more like I dropped a used diaper on my leg. #improvement?
baby wipes
Yes, baby wipes are evil.

Now onto the hand wipes. *this would be a good place to cue the evil music*

This container was similar to most any tub of baby wipes that you might have seen – the cylinder with a cap and a star shaped slit in the top from which you pull the sheets individually. Well, not wanting to be unkind and leave one of the wipes half hanging out to get dried out, I did what anyone would do and what I have done probably a dozen times with baby wipes. I took my finger and shoved the sheet back into the canister.

But, as I learned, this was not your average canister and it certainly wasn’t for babies. Whereas the star slit in baby wipes is a weak, flimsy sheet of plastic, this one was an industrial strength sheet that I’m surprised my finger went through in the first place. And when I realized how insanely tight it was and tried to pull my finger back out, those star shaped wedges of thick plastic became barbs holding my finger in and giving me the choice of continue to let the circulation be cut off and endure that pain, or pull at my finger and say Adios, skin.

By now Mama J is listening to an ever more inventive string of cussing from me as the pain is getting worse and my finger is turning a not unattractive shade of purple in this lilac-scented Chinese finger trap. On one hand I’m angry because I never dreamed that something that simple could hurt so badly, but second to the pain is the thought that there is NO WAY in hell that I’m going to have to go to the medical center on site to have them cut this monster off my finger and end up on a slide in one of our safety presentations.

And this is where my own personal safety lesson comes into play. As I sat there trying to wedge pens, bottle caps, paper clips, ANYTHING that would get the teeth of that star slit to let go of my poor tormented finger, I was struck with the thought of how I wished that I hadn’t left my pocket knife at home. It wasn’t until later that I realized how LUCKY I was that I’d left my knife at home because, in my blinded-by-pain state, I actually thought that it would have been a GOOD idea to take a knife to wedge between my finger and the plastic using I don’t know what as leverage. A vein, maybe?

Since all stories should have a happy ending, yes, I did finally get the evil hand wipe lid off my finger before the actual rot set in but yes, it did still actually hurt for days. So my safety lesson to share for this day is a combination lesson. On the high road, be aware of how pain clouds your judgment – you might be in trouble, but getting out of it quickly can get you into MORE trouble. On the low road, your mother was right. If you stick your finger into puckered holes, you really might not get it back...


  1. HA! Not to undermine the amount of pain you were suffering, but you've gotta admit, this was a funny story... and well told. Reminds a little bit of a summer job I had at a steel company many years ago. They were VERY proud of their safety record, and each day, with much fanfare, the "number of days without an accident" poster would be increased by one. As I learned when a small piece of steel had to be removed from my eye, the reason they kept their record going so long is because supervisors didn't REPORT incidents.

  2. Best post ever!!! Thanks for the laughs and wipes warning!!

  3. I did that once. I was 6 years old and instead of doing the rational thing (AKA cursing and squealing at work), I ran around the house screaming and crying with the lid attached to my finger. My dad had to chase me down and use pliers to rip it off.

    Those things are worse than bear traps! sort of.


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