I’m afraid to talk back to Siri, the iPhone’s intelligent personal assistant, for fear she’ll give my phone a virus. I play it safe, follow the rules, never putting weird things like pineapple on my pizza.
So the other afternoon before going to work, I applied that monthly flea and tick treatment to my pet beagle. I followed the rules vigilantly, step by step, because, after all, that stuff’s intended to go into the dog’s bloodstream and I didn’t need it accidentally going into mine. (If you use a flea and tick treatment on your animal, don’t be alarmed when I write that it goes into the bloodstream. It doesn’t. Only I didn’t know it at the time.)
The cap exploded in my hand. Flea and tick treatment all over my skin. Into my pores. Very little on the dog. And I knew for a fact it had entered my bloodstream.
I panicked, dropped the tube of treatment on the ground and reached for the package to read the first aid part. I stopped my dog before he could lick any of the treatment off the garage floor.
Persons applying this product must wear household latex gloves.
Now where was that step in the steps?
If on skin or clothing: Take off contaminated clothing. (I interpreted that as a direction to burn my clothes.) Wash skin immediately with plenty of water for 20 minutes. (Twenty minutes!) Call poison control or doctor for treatment advice. (Biohazard containment?)
Not knowing what else to do, I worried. I considered my 40-minute commute to work -- I had 41 minutes until I needed to be on the clock. I worried more.
Five minutes of hand washing with plenty of hot water (the faucet at full power) felt like two hours. Have you ever washed your hands for five real minutes? My son turned 11 years old in less time.
My fingers tingled. I knew then the contagion was in my veins and on its way to my heart.
“If this is a medical emergency, please hang up and dial 911.”
I thought about it, but an intense woman from Poison Control answered and ordered me to give her my name, age, weight -- she practically conducted a physical over the phone. Cough!
“Excuse me, not to interrupt,” I interrupted, “but I’m gonna be six minutes late for work, which is actually a big deal, and I just need to know if I’m blowing this thing out of proportion.”
“This is a very serious matter, sir,” the lady shot back. “We haven’t seen this treatment on people, so we don’t know what to expect. You know, you’re supposed to wear gloves when using this stuff.”
By the time I hung up the phone with No-Help-At-All, I was on my way to being 15 minutes late to work and I’d only accomplished half of the 20-minute hand washing I was supposed to be doing.
I got back to scrubbing my fingerprints clean off anyway. I had my boss on speakerphone.
“Of all days, this is the worst day to be late,” he said.
“Twenty minutes tops,” I promised, even though I really needed 40 to do the hand washing right.
Ten minutes wasn’t going to work at all.
“Perfect,” I said. “See you then.” And I continued melting my hands down to glue.
My son got home from school, wondered why I was still there. I told him the story. He asked how long I’d been washing my hands. I told him 18 minutes straight. He said I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise to my boss about only being 10 minutes late. So, after 19 minutes of washing my hands, I stopped. My son feared that the skipped minute could be the difference between life or death. He’s such a worrier.
Let’s see, death or being late to work?
I’d just have to die later. I couldn’t waste another minute washing -- I had to get to work.
While on the road, I called my wife and told her my hands fell off in the car.
“Your hands didn’t fall off,” she said.
“Not yet, but they better before I get to work so I can have a decent excuse for being so late.”
My hands never fell off. I showed up 51 minutes after my shift began and my boss was fine with it. But my fingers were still tingling, so at lunch I researched the treatment to see what might be going on. I discovered that it doesn’t go into the bloodstream. It goes into the sweat glands. Magically my fingers stopped tingling.
Even after rubbing shoulders with death, I’m still the same nervous guy I was in the beginning. I’ve never had fleas or ticks before, but I’ll be applying that treatment to my body again in a month’s time. Just to play it safe.
WARNING: Please do not apply animal flea-and-tick treatment to your own human skin. The final statement of this story was the author's shameful attempt at humor.