A Theorist on Vacation

If you ever wanted to profile the stereotypical theoretical physicist/applied mathematician – absent-minded, a bit cluttered, and perhaps a bit accident-prone – I’m your man. Add to that the fact that, though being a native of Buffalo I embody many aspects of a stereotypical Mainer, and you have the following story of how I spent last Monday afternoon.

11:00-1:00 Assist with solar observing session sponsored by my local astronomy club. Mentally unstable girl spent entire time attempting to kiss me. Apparently mentally unstable people find me attractive.

1:00 Return home to find out our four-year-old, not-so-cheap Amana washing machine flooded the basement, nearly bursting into flames in the process. Indian tech-support insists we should have hired separate electricians to install the washer and dryer – yes, Mr. Washer Electrician and Mr. Dryer Electrician who shall in no way be acquainted. I guess Ed Whats-his-name wasn’t good enough for them. Perhaps if he had multiple personalities.

3:00-4:00 Relaxing hour spent fly fishing in which I lose four flies, tangle my line badly enough that I need to respool my reel, and watch fish eat bubbles two inches from flies I have left. Note: I am not new to fishing.

4:00 While attaching the fifth fly of the afternoon to my line – a rather nice looking mosquito – I manage to get the hook firmly embedded in my finger. Subsequent attempts to remove said hook are unsuccessful. Hook is in all the way up to the fake mosquito’s ass-end.

4:10ish Hike the half mile back to my car through tick-infested woods as painlessly as possible while still carrying my gear. Realize to my chagrine that I own a stick-shift. Am forced to drive with my finger – my middle finger – pointed skyward most of the time. Too bad I’m not in Boston.

4:15ish Despite only being about a mile from an urgent care facility, decide I might try to save a little money and get my wife to help me remove it. I hatch a plan in my head.

4:20ish Arrive home and have my kids fetch my wife along with a pair of wire cutters. Plan is too graphic to describe here. Wife nearly passes out at sight of finger. Plan goes unrealized, solidifying my role as a theorist.

4:25ish Wife runs next door to see if neighbors – an EMT and a firefighter – are home. They are not. Fire station is two miles up the street, so I grab the minivan since it’s an automatic and go hunting for my neighbors – or any moderately trained person, for that matter. I insist on driving myself, leaving my wife and kids at home with my car that my wife doesn’t know how to drive. I’m a freakin’ genius.

4:30ish Central fire station – the main station in a town of 10,000 people – is empty and the door is locked. Hope cops across the street don’t think I’m trying to break in as I yank violently at the door. Decide cops probably can’t help – with door or wound. Genius.

4:35ish Decide to try urgent care again but am now more like 6-7 miles from it. Am about equidistant from a real hospital, but wishing to observe tourists making idiots of themselves, I choose the urgent care facility and the more heavily trafficked road.

4:40ish Main Street is backed up due to tourist traffic. Hatch a plan to take side streets around the worst part of the traffic. Plan once again demonstrates why I am not allowed in laboratories to test my theories.

4:50ish Come to a dead (is that a prudent metaphor?) standstill half a mile from the urgent care facility. Apparently driving in Maine is different than driving elsewhere as demonstrated by the tourists that have collided in the center of the road. As I finally inch past I notice that the license plate of one of the cars is from Maine’s former occupying power. Am not surprised.

5:00 Vacuous-looking admit nurse at urgent care facility “like so totally mispells my name, fer sher.” She is obviously not from Maine. Interior design looks like a convalescent home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

5:20 No one else in waiting room looks terribly ill or infirmed. I seem to clearly be the worst case. Upon inquiring how much longer I will have to wait, am told it will be another hour. Insist the only reason I am not spurting blood all over the waiting room is because I have wrapped fishing line so tightly around the end of my finger it is almost numb – almost. Nurse gives me a vacuous stare.

5:25ish Despite scripted apology, I storm out not really sure where I’m going. Attempt to exit parking lot while talking to wife on cell phone at same time. Thus discover finger is not entirely numb. Genius has its price.

5:25ish-5:45 Speed 14 miles up Turnpike to another facility – the real hospital that was as far from my house as the urgent care facility in the first place.

5:45 Am greeted in ER by the sound of woman in wheelchair vomiting. At a minimum, three other patients appear on the verge of collapse. I feel better. Admit nurse is utterly grossed out by my finger but not the vomit.

6:00 Triage nurse is utterly grossed out by my finger but not the vomit. Says my finger speaks for itself. Convinces me the fishing line biting into my skin for the past two hours is only doing more harm. I think to myself: “I’m a theorist. It made sense at the time.”

6:05ish See doctor for first time and realize I would still be rocking in a chair, albeit a stylish one, my finger happily turning blue, back at urgent care facility had I simply been more patient. Doctor asks if I wish finger to be numbed. Sure, why not. Doctor and nurses request I lie down for the procedure with my feet raised in case I pass out. I pull hat over my face and suggest they place a sign that says “Gone fishing” on my chest. Apparently genius doesn’t necessarily come with the ability to tell a joke.

6:20ish 15 minutes after first two shots of Novacaine, finger is not numb.

6:35ish 15 minutes after second two shots of Novacaine, finger is still not numb. Overhear nurse tell doctor this and doctor nearly chokes. Says she’s never seen anyone take that much Novacaine before without going completely numb. Not only am I a genius, I am a freak.

6:36ish I insist she start working on my finger anyway since part of it is getting numb (not the part with the hook in it, though). I ask politely that she do all she can to save the fly since I already lost four that afternoon. Looks at me like I’m nuts. One man’s nut is another man’s genius.

7:00ish After working on finger for awhile, doctor announces a change in plan (her exact words). I wonder if she is a theorist. New plan involves a scalpal which I know, since I am a genius, is a very sharp knife. I relay the plan I originally hatched (more than two hours ago) that nearly caused my wife to faint but that does not include sharp instruments. Doctor agrees to give it a try. Wow! Someone is actually testing one of my theories! Apparently test involves wire clippers and needle-nose pliers, though I don’t realize this at the time.

7:00ish-7:20ish Since hook is embedded to ass-end of fly, fly is cut from hook. Oh the humanity. Hook must be clipped to be removed. With that (the fifth lost fly of the afternoon) I bid a fond farewell to $12. Procedure not done yet: fibers from fly are removed from wound, requiring use of microscope. No stitches are required thanks to my genius of a plan, but nurses pour entire bottle of antiseptic on finger. Not sure if this was because of slime-covered hook or rusty-looking instruments used to remove it (and my daughter was born in this hospital?).

7:25ish Finger finally completely numb. Am assured numbness will wear off in four hours or so. Wears off in about two days.

7:35ish Am bandaged in unfortunate position (see picture below). Prescribed antibiotic cephalexin at 500 mg 4 times a day – that’s 2 grams a day. Drug and dosage potent enough to kill almost anything. When ask about Lyme disease from possible tick bites incurred during mad dash through tick-infested woods to my car, am told it is useless for treating Lyme disease.

8:00ish Arrive home after stop at pharmacy. Enjoy late dinner and first dose of antibiotic. The latter smells like rotten eggs. Do not experience major side effects, but do begin to emanate the smell of rotten eggs. Perhaps a new line of cologne is in my future.

Next day: Recall that I am on duty for morning tours of my church. First customer: a journalist with a local newspaper who has brought along a photographer. Valiantly attempt not to give the wrong impression of our church in any photograph. Perhaps they’ll do a profile on the life of a theorist…

15 thoughts on “A Theorist on Vacation

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  1. Sorry you had to go through all of that, but your description of the ordeal is hilarious. Keep up the snarky outlook on life and heal up soon.


  2. I have to say I am very impressed by your sober, matter-of-fact account of the events as they occur. You’re the guy I want next to me in a fox hole [not that I’m looking to get in a situation like that anytime soon, but should it ever occur, and you never know how things work out in life, you’re the guy I want next to me].

    Hack into some other bodypart, preferably with a powertool. Not because I enjoy the fact of you suffering or that you’ll blog about it later. Not at all, I just want your wife to be desensitized to gross wounds so that she may be useful in helping you should something ever -really- drastic happen to you.

    Just trying to help.

    You also killed my appetite for fly-fishing.

  3. I have to say that my wife now swears that she was not about to faint, simply that she thought it more prudent that I get proper medical treatment in case of infection. Of course, the look on her face was priceless, but perhaps she might have held it together. She did give birth to two kids which I have been assured is infinitely more difficult.

  4. I deleted it in my haste (and I should have left it since I think it speaks for itself), but someone commented that I was “in love with myself” since I used the word “genius” 8 times in the article. But that was the point. It was a joke. I thought it was obvious. And repeating it 8 times was intentional. Again, it’s a common style of writing and the whole thing was supposed to be self-deprecating.

  5. Those metal hooks should be banned. I’ve seen kids with these things caught in everything from ears, nose and (prepare to pass out) even the eye lid.

    It’s fairly common. They are barbaric (get it?).

    So who already invented the blow gun launched fishing lure and why can’t we get them? No more casting accidents. Haha.

    How about a barbless hook that catches the fish by releasing barbs inside of the fishes mouth?

    Personally, I’d just like to use a net. I guess I’m impatient though.

  6. Awesome post. You had me busting a gut here. Keep up the good work and try not to injure yourself 😉

  7. Sorry about the hook. However, I am curious to know what kind of car you drive that has the stick shifter on the left hand side, in Maine.

  8. My car is just a plain-old VW Jetta (I could write a book about my love for this car, by the way), but regardless of which side the stick is on you need two hands (or at least I need two hands) to drive a stick, especially around town. I will admit I did take my hands completely off the wheel once or twice when I just couldn’t use my left hand, but I generally felt safer with one on the wheel.

  9. maybe if Maine were still under the control of the Commonwealth you wouldn’t have had such a horrific experience. I do believe it was you yourself who wished you were in Boston…

    Maybe I should wait until our new ‘progressive’ health insurance laws have been in effect for awhile before I say any more…

  10. We’ve got one word for you: Barbless.

    Well, make that two words, and we’ll follow it with “Hooks.”

    “Barbless Hooks.”

    For a majority of fly fishers, they’re what separates the men from the men sitting in the emergency room.

    That’s all we’re saying here.

  11. And, from the latest addition to my personal blog roll, sage advice from trout underground on barbless hooks.

    I will be completely honest here and say that, though I have been a lifelong fisherman, I am only a recent convert to fly fishing and I’m slowly teaching myself. Since I don’t have the dough to invest in tying my own flies at the moment, I purchase them locally and, alas, have not found any barbless ones. But I suspect I will look harder in the future.

    However, as a note, I have “invented” (someone else likely has done this already, I’m sure) a little thing to at least prevent an exact recurrance of such a situation. It’s a little “mount” that I can put a bunch of flies on and tie on the line while they’re mounted. Then I pull it off and voila, no hook in finger.

  12. Alas, few flys come already de-barbed.
    However, experienced fly flingers have learned (slowly, after repeated prearcings of various body parts) that a pair of needle-nosed pliers applied to the side of the hook where the barb is will effectively remove it.
    And yes, you can still catch fish with a barbless hook, just don’t let them have any slack.
    Note also that the String-pull technique (google it) will often remove even a barbed hook fairly easily. Only caveat on the technique is that you must be sure to align the hook so that it will come out in the exact opposite direction that it went in, thus the hook will follow the path it made on the way in. It also helps to have someone else to pull the string. It is optional for them to be sadistic.
    Got to your blog from the Trout Underground.

  13. String pull method works.

    See http://www.aafp.org/afp/20010601/2231.html about halfway down for more information.

    It seems barbaric to use this method, but I had a friend take a #1 streamer hook from the end of my finger in the backcountry in Alaska that way. This particular fly had about a 1/2″ after the bend, and was deep enough to hit my finger bone. Three shots of bourbon, and the string pull method didn’t even hurt. Made the grossest sound I’ve ever heard, though. I cut a dry fly out of my hand last weekend.

    If you’re going to fly fish, either use barbless, or sack up and deal with some jewelry.

  14. Yeah, this one was pretty near my bone. I was perfectly willing to just yank it out but my wife talked me out of it by convincing me I should get antibiotics seeing as how I was still in civilization. The bourbon sounds like a good plan-B, however…

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