There are a number of ways that a man can hurt himself remodeling. Some of them sound kind of macho: “Yep, probably shouldn’t have tried to carry that antique refrigerator up to the attic by myself but I really wanted to surprise my wife. Come to think of it, guess I did when I crashed through the ceiling while she was watching TV.” Others, not so much: “I didn’t know you were supposed to point that finish nailer away from your face when you were doing crown molding.”
Over the years, I’ve gained a few scars, lost a tiny little slice off the side of one finger and had what would have been called “carpenter’s elbow” if some folks spent more time driving nails than playing tennis. And there was the time when a neighbor was helping me slide a cast iron bathtub onto a raised platform. I was gripping the three-hundred pound tub under the edge when I asked him if he was ready. Apparently, he was; he gave it a shove and sheared the bone in the end of the longest finger on my left hand. It wasn’t a total loss though; every time I looked at the two metal pins sticking out the end of my splinted middle finger, I thought of him.
My most recent installment involved nothing more than a drill driver with a Phillips bit and a single cement backer board. In reflection, I have to say that I had eased out a bit beyond tempting fate: I invited karma, providence and righteous indignation in one fell swoop.
While Randa was in agony with a migraine, curled in fetal position underneath the covers on a bed in a dark room, I was fastening down the cement board at the entry in the living room, not more than twenty-five feet away. As every screw reached snugging point, the bit would ratchet in the head of the screw. On a healthy, gee what a nice day we’re having kind of a day, it sounds like an impact wrench at the tire shop. With a migraine, it probably sounded like a machine gun firing close enough to give bystanders powder burn. I have not yet confirmed this with Randa; I need to remove all the knives from the house before asking that question.
As if that were not sufficient instigation for divine retaliation, it was also a Sunday. Talk about courting disaster!
About a dozen screws into the project, with me bearing down really hard to try to keep the bit from ratcheting, the Phillips point slipped off the screw and jabbed into the fleshy side of my left forefinger just above the second joint. In order to assure maximum penetration in the event of such an incident, I had my hand braced against the floor. It worked.
Bruise, blood blister and puncture all in one quick operation. A little soap for sanitation, a teaspoon of salt rubbed in for sterilization and ten or fifteen minutes of direct pressure to stop the bleeding. After I got the Band-Aid tightly wrapped in place, I decided to check the bit. Sure enough, it was worn off on the point and slightly smaller than what I needed. I found a larger bit in good shape and put it into the drill.
As further penance, I finished up the project with almost no more ratcheting.
Why is it that guys like me so often wait until after the damage is done before stopping to think if there might be a better way to do things? It’s one thing when all that happens is you get a bruised cut and an embarrassing story. Quite another thing when our mishandling something hurts others: a spouse, a friend, a family, a company, a church…
Taking a little time to make sure we’re using the best tool for the job in the best way is a good practice. Kind of fits into that “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
And sometimes, maybe the day we chose just isn’t the best day.