Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Big Toe

I hate power tools.

Ever since I was young I had a mortal fear of them. This seems odd because Dad loved his power tools. He was always using a jigsaw, power drill, or the ever-so-frightening circular saw. I hated the circular saw. I mean there you are holding a loud tool ready to rip off any body part that even looked at it.

With this fear already entrenched in my psyche, I have no idea why I took metal shop and wood shop in Junior high. Here they had tools like a the band saw, lathe, and worse yet, the table saw. My theory is that the table saw harkens back to the Middle Ages when they would use the rack to torture people and then a saw to vivisect them.

The table saw, in my mind, was the perfect hybrid of these ancient devices of torture. Why expose young teen-agers to such horror, I will never understand. Then, to add insult to injury, they showed us a movie of what can happen in shop for those who were not careful. Ah, those were horrible years.

Power tools, no thank you.

If the use of power tools was the sign of true manliness then I will be glad to admit that I am not that type of man.

Well, then I married Karen.

She was raised in a house where her Dad could build anything. In fact, during the summer months, when he was on break from being a school teacher, he would work construction. Poor Karen thought all guys were enamored with loud, dangerous, and deadly power tools.

I was not.

This meant that whenever we needed to do anything around the home, if a tool of any kind was needed, more specifically a power tool, she was the one to use it. I stayed a healthy distance away.

Well, one autumn day, we had to get some doors sanded. Karen had to run some errands so she put me in charge of sanding the doors. She told me I would have to use a powered hand sander but not to worry. There were no blades and it wasn't too loud. She assured me that even I could use a hand sander.

My manhood was at stake. Did I have what it takes to man up and use a hand sander? I mustered all the courage I had and assured her that I could do it. Yes, I had my doubts. I could still remember the movie in shop class. Karen gave me one of those “you are so pitiful” looks masked by the “you are such a great husband” smirk. (I get those a lot.) So, off she goes on her errands and I was mano-y-mano with the power sander.

My first task was to stand the four cinder block on their ends. Then I put the door on top of the cinder blocks creating a convenient flat surface upon which to sand. When I completed this, I noticed it was a bit chilly outside. So I went inside to get my bathrobe because that is what real men wear when they work with power tools.

I did, however, neglect putting on my shoes. Besides, it takes too much effort to put on shoes. First you have to find clean socks, then you have to remember where you put your shoes and, worse yet, you had to tie them. Everyone knows that walking around with your shoes untied is very dangerous. I did not want to introduce more danger to this already risky project.

No, I had my bathrobe, real men don’t need shoes.

After I donned my bathrobe and eschewed my shoes, I was ready to tackle the big sanding project. I plugged in the sander and turned in on. It vibrated wildly in the palm of my hand. I noticed if I waved it in the air with my wrist, the sander would feel like it had a life of its own. This was so cool!

The experience got even better when I placed the sander on the door. It vibrated violently and a huge cloud of sawdust sprung up from the door I as sanding. My face was covered in sawdust. I could taste the wood in my mouth. I was having the time of my life. Me, with a power tool. Why was I so resistant to this for so many years? This was fun!

As I proceeded to sand, the cord of the sander got stuck under the door. The smart thing to do would have been to walk back to where the cord had snagged and use my hands to place the cord on top of the table. But I had a better way. I whipped the cord and pulled it at the same time in and attempt to dislodge the cord from the cinder block and get the cord on top of the door without having to walk to where it was caught.

Come on, do real men walk back and loosen cords? Not this real man.

Well, I couldn't seem to get the whipping motion and the pulling part of the process properly coordinated. I tried several times but the cord seemed to drop back under the table and cling to the cinder block. I was about to cave in and walk back to dislodge the cord manually when I decided that my whipping motion was fine, it was my pulling motion that needed to be sharper. I decided to give my theory one last try and this time give the cord a forceful tug.

Did I mention the door was resting on four cinder blocks standing on end?

Well, as strong a cinder blocks are, when they are standing on end they are not that stable. Something as simple as someone pulling on a cord could easily make a heavy cinder block fall over. I know that now. But I didn't know that back then. Okay, I knew that back then, but I was sure my theory would work.

Did I mention I was bare foot?

You guessed it. When I gave that cord a forceful tug, the cinder block snagging the cord fell over. Then, as if in slow motion, the table lunged forward towards me causing the remaining three blocks to topple as well. The last one to fall over was the one that happened to be over my big toe.

Before I could get out of the way, the gnarly old cinder block aimed its jagged corner right at the middle of my big toe. Its aim was true. The full weight of the brick, plus the force of the falling door, filmy planted the corner of the cinder block right in my toenail.

It didn't hurt at first. In fact, I had about 10 seconds to look down at what had happened and to think to myself: “This is really going to hurt very soon.” I was right. The nerves in my toe finally made their connection to my brain and my toe really, really hurt.

In an instant, my toenail filled with blood and the pain went from shocking to excruciating. The only thing I could think of was cold water. So I limped as fast as I could to the bathtub, leaving a trial of blood behind me. I tuned on the cold water and put by injured to under the stream. It stung at first but the cold water quickly numbed my toe and I had some relief from the pain.

Just when I felt better, I heard the kitchen door open. Karen was home. I think she was a bit perplexed at the weird trail of random items all leading to me. I mean she saw the half-sanded door resting on four collapsed cinder blocks with the hand sander on the floor or the garage still running. Then there was the trail of blood, and me with a sheepish grin wearing a bathrobe and running cold water on my toe.

I had some explaining to do.

Now how does one explain to one’s wife that one was too lazy to 1) put on shoes, 2) put on a light jacket instead of wearing a bathrobe, and 3) carefully dislodge a cord that is snagged on a teetering cinder block? There are not too many good alternate explanations except the truth.

I don’t recall much of what she said that day. My toe really, really hurt. But I assume Karen banned me from using any more power tools. If I could get hurt using a hand sander, image what damage I could do with a drill press.

My toe hurt for a couple of days and soon the toenail tuned black. I expected this. I had hit my thumb on more than one occasions with a hammer. So I knew my entire big toenail would turn black. But soon the toenail began to separate from my big toe. This caused my whole toe be very sensitive and sore. It got so bad that it hurt to put on socks and wearing shoes was pure torture.

Karen finally persuaded me to go to the doctor. I reluctantly, but wisely agreed. Our family doctor took one look at my toe and sent me directly to a podiatrist. What had happened was that at the point of contact, where the cinder block jammed into my nail, a tumor had grown. As the tumor increased in size, it was slowly ripping my toenail from my toe.

The doctor said the best thing to do would be to simply remove the nail as well as the nail matrix which is where new toe nails grow. He said the matrix was severely damage by that cruel cinder block and that all future nails would become ingrown.

I didn't really like that idea. Karen was all for it. But it was, after all, my toe. I negotiated with the doctor and he simply removed part the nail and cut out the tumor. I was, of course, scared to death. I knew the surgery would hurt and the recovery would be painful. But I was wrong. The surgery was painless, and the recovery quick.

But numbing the toe, oh my goodness. It took 27 injections for a huge hypo. Several of those injections we under my toenail where my nerves were still hyper-sensitive from the trauma.  I felt each and every injection. I know because I counted them. After about 10 minutes the anesthetic took effect and my toe was numb.

Unfortunately, the doctor and Karen were right. I have suffered multiple ingrown toenails and many problems with that toe.

I hate power tools. 

1 comment:

  1. Can I just say it one more time? - "I told you so!"