Duckwalking through emergency rooms

The other day, I sliced my finger while opening a jar of pickles. You might have trouble picturing anything less sharp than a jar of pickles, but this one had some little rough spot and it snagged my middle finger as it twisted past and gave me a bright inch-long gash.

No big deal, right? Didn't even hurt much, though it bled as if I'd run it through a jigsaw. It was, however, a reminder of the dangers of working around the house.

They don't tell you this when you sign on to do the housework. You think, sure, there'll be a lot more to do if I work at home -- carpools and cooking and cleaning and laundry -- but "bleeding" isn't part of the job description. You don't expect that your new fashion accessory will be the Band-Aid.

Homes, our cozy nests, are dangerous places. They're full of knives and power tools and wet tiles and electric wires. Plus, they're designed for people of a certain size. I'm about 20 percent larger than that size in every direction, so I bump into all the sharp corners.

Working around the house, it's possible for a klutz to get hurt most every day. The day after I started sporting a Band-Aid for the pickle slice, I pinched my pinkie in a TV antenna, peeling back a sweet little butterfly of epidermis. Another Band-Aid, same hand. I was starting to look like an offensive lineman -- tape on every finger.

The wrist of the same hand is nearly healed from an incident a few days earlier. I was teaching our giant puppy to play fetch and he forgot the whole "throwing the ball" portion of the program and tried to snatch it out of my hand with his teeth. Maybe he didn't want to be the only one in the family without an opposable thumb.

So that's the story on one hand up to the wrist. Usually, the rest of the body bears a similar spattering of cuts and scrapes and bruises, proving that life is perilous, even for house hermits.

I should've known it would be this way. My past performance in any sort of household labor has shown a predilection toward injury.

Years ago, when I was a bachelor, I was cleaning up the aftermath of a party, my hand down a garbage disposal to fish out a beer bottle cap, when my then-girlfriend flipped on the "light" to help me see. The disposal didn't actually cut off any of my fingers, but it sure made them wish they'd been elsewhere. The relationship with the girlfriend went south soon after. And I've been flinchy about garbage disposals ever since.

Every plumbing job I've ever attempted has resulted in barked knuckles or worse. I can't handle a hot skillet without touching it somewhere. "Some assembly required" should be the slogan scrolled on the door of the emergency room.

Even something as fluffy as laundry can hurt. Inside the door of the dryer? There's that sharp little latch . . .

And these are just the external injuries. Inside the body, all those muscles and tendons and ligaments are just begging to be stretched, strained, severed, spindled and mutilated. I once walked like Quasimodo for a week because I bent over awkwardly to pick up a book off the floor. Recently, I squatted over a broken sprinkler head so long that my legs seized up. I thought for a moment I'd have to do the Chuck Berry duckwalk everywhere I went.

OK, now you're thinking: Quit your quacking, you big Baby Huey. Most working stiffs would gladly risk the injuries to stay home all day. You're right, of course. Working at home -- without several layers of bosses lining up to breathe down my neck -- is worth the hazards. I wear my Band-Aids with pride.

At least now that my kids are older, the Band-Aids are the "flesh-tone" variety. It was hard to impress the fellas down at the hardware store, to show them I'm a man's man who troubleshoots his own household repairs, when I wore Barney the Dinosaur on every finger.

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