Two years ago I posted a description of a day in the life of a theorist. Perhaps more appropriately, it described a day in the life of a theorist who thinks it might be a good idea to do things that could potentially land him in the ER. A few days ago I openly mused on this blog about the fact that the theorist image might just be a guise. Worried that my cover might be blown I decided it was time for my biennial visit to my friends in the ER. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Round about Father’s Day, inspired by my friend and handyman (and former licensed arborist) Ernie, I purchased a professional grade Fiskars (yes, the scissors people) splitting axe. Stop laughing. I’m not done yet. I love chopping wood. So I hired myself out and my first client was my friend Dick who lives about a mile down the street.
So after lunch today – the muggiest day of the year – I stuffed my axe and my hatchet in a backpack along with my iPod, portable speakers, and some iced tea, and bicycled down to Dick’s place. After getting a general ‘tour’ of the wood that needed chopping, I put on some Keith Jarrett (Tokyo from the Sun Bear Concerts followed by Solo Concerts: Bremen) and got to work. My safety preautions included a wide stance and … um, a wide stance (note: I had already split a cord of wood without incident at my own home and was thus lulled into a false sense of security).
After about two hours I came to a particularly knotty piece of wood, grain going every which way. I was dripping with sweat despite having recently taken a short break for a swig of iced tea (which was, surprisingly, still cold). The hit wasn’t dead center, but it wasn’t that far off either. Nonetheless, it bounced a bit (after successfully splitting the piece in one hit, by the way) and swung down, gashing my lower left leg about three inches above my ankle. What was my first reaction? Grab it with my dirt, bug, and worm-covered glove. Not quite sure what to do next, I grabbed my cell phone and called my wife to have her come ferry me to the ER. Notice I did not immediately go fetch Dick whose wood I was chopping. It was after I called my wife that I then hobbled over to the door to ask Dick to watch my stuff. He gave me a glass of water and a dish towel which I then used to staunch the flow of blood (remember this towel – you’ll hear about it again later). My wife arrived a few minutes later and off we headed to the ER.
Of course, when one is in a hurry the general rule is that everyone else will drive slow. We were especially lucky to find ourselves behind a tour bus that was going slow enough that I was tempted to hop out and start charging the tourists for pictures of my ‘genuine Maine log splitting injury.’ After all, Bangor, Maine is one of the many towns in America that claims Paul Bunyan as a native son, even if he wasn’t a real person.
Upon arrival at the hospital I was lucky enough to experience my first-ever ride in a wheelchair. Woohoo! Since I am a regular customer all my information was in the computer which made the admit process much more seemless. The nurses put a temporary bandage on the wound but kept attempting to throw Dick’s dish towel away despite the fact that there was very little blood on it, surprisingly (I had tied it pretty tight). I kept the perfectly good dish towel.
After sharing a waiting room for while with two guys that the receptionist warned my wife and children away from, all the while watching a rerun of Little House on the Prairie with guest star Ernest Borgnine (why were even the daytime shots dark?), I made it onto an actual ER gurney. The gurney next to me was occupied by a young woman wearing a surgical mask and some other guy came in barfing into a blue bag, his pregnant wife in tow (sympathy morning sickness?). Luckily, the gurneys were separated by an actual wall and not just a curtain.
Of course, I hit the gurney just as the shift changed, and thus was lucky enough to have gotten two doctors! The first injected me with novacaine which hurt like hell. Mind you, until then I had felt absolutely no pain whatsoever from the moment I sliced myself and the novacaine was supposed to numb me (see part one for a description of what novacaine does – or doesn’t do – to me). Noting the regularity with which I frequent the ER, he mentioned their ‘frequent flyer’ program. Ha ha. Of course, he also mentioned there were no restrictions on what I could do (meaning I can play softball on Monday) except to keep dirty water off of it (meaning I’m not going fishing for awhile).
Doctor number two sutured me up while making a mental note to himself (outloud) to wear chaps when he took out his chainsaw in a few days to remove the tree growing completely inside a hole in his yard. Hmmm. I spared myself the usual complaints (“I hated that class!”) by not telling anyone I was a physicist. As I was preparing to leave the gurney, the doctor rushed back in to count the stitches (of which there are seven). It seemed to provide him with some sort of bragging rights.
At checkout (yes, it’s almost like a grocery store these days) I was handed a sheet of paper that, among other things, indicated that I should keep the wound elevated above my heart for 24 hours. I guess it’s a good thing I went to Yoga this morning. Also at checkout I discovered that the co-pay for my visit was exactly the same amount of money I was getting paid to chop the wood in the first place. So, in an effort to at least break even on this deal, I had my wife drop me back off at Dick’s house where I recommenced chopping. Being a male of our species, Dick’s only comment on my return – and the fact that I continued chopping and later cycled home with seven stitches in my lower leg- was that the new axe had now been properly christened. Dick’s not a theorist.