I don’t know why I’m such a sucker for the “handy tips” routine. I should know better by now. These insidious tips always appear to come from innocent appearing sources: a cute e-mail from an old friend, a slightly damaged book on the discount rack at Barnes and Noble, an offhand comment by a trusted co-worker, a suggestion key-scratched into the paint job of my double-parked vehicle. Whatever it’s origin, the handy tip invariably sneaks up on me in such an earthy, homespun disguise, that I never realize what has happened until I have ended up as its tragic victim—again!
For example, I was told that Super Glue works for closing wounds. My source even related how that when they had gone to the Emergency Room, the doctor on call used Super Glue instead of sutures. I thought that was the neatest idea I’d ever heard, and couldn’t wait to try it. Wouldn’t you know, the very next week I was lucky enough to be able to do just that. While cutting up some firewood with my chainsaw, I accidentally cut the toe off my boot. When I removed my boot, I discovered that my big toe had decided to stay behind and keep the boot company. Eager to try out my handy tip, I hopped into the house on one leg to break out the Super Glue.
Disappointingly, the stuff didn’t work at all. In retrospect, I think the copious nature of my bleeding kept hosing the glue away before it could set properly. Worse than that, I must have been a little careless with the Super Glue at some point, because next thing I knew, my toe was stuck fast to three of my fingers. My wife had to drive me into the clinic to have my severed toe surgically amputated from my hand. That wasted a lot of time that could have been spent re-attaching my toe. Now my left big toe looks kind of like a baby carrot that’s been in the fridge for six months.
Then there was the time I read somewhere that pet fish grow bigger if they are put in a bigger aquarium. That spawned a brilliant plan in my mind. On my next trip to Fairbanks, I bought a whole bag full of those cheap little feeder goldfish. I could hardly suppress my glee. So much for grocery shopping. In fact, so much for Chitina. Never again would I have to climb up and down that treacherous bank wrestling with a cooler loaded with two hundred pounds of slimy, stinking salmon. Never again would I have to tie myself off to the rocks and dangle my dip net into the savage current of the Copper River in a gamble that I could catch my winter’s meat before the river tore my arms out of their sockets.
As soon as I got home, I filled my bathtub with water and dumped the feeder fish in it. Pulling up a chair, I shepherded my little school of future fillets for several hours. Partly because I wanted to witness their first growth spurt, and partly because I had to fend off my wife who was vowing to flush them all down the toilet so she could take a bath. The women they are married to appreciate geniuses least, I’ve discovered.
Alas, my fish farm dreams never reached fruition. The next morning, I rushed down to tend my investment only to find most of my livestock floating belly up. I was deeply chagrinned to observe that their tragic little corpses hadn’t grown at all, even though my bathtub was significantly bigger than the cramped tank at the pet store where I had found them.
I just wish I knew why they died. Of course, my wife did little to comfort me during my season of mourning. On the contrary, she goaded me with the baseless accusation that if I had wiped my soap ring out of the tub before I plopped them in there, they might have stayed alive long enough for her to whip me up at least get one good meal out of them. I think she mentioned something about force-feeding me a minnow stir fry, or a pot of goldfish chowder!
Another handy tip suggested that kitty litter could be used to provide traction on your icy sidewalks and steps. Boy was that a mistake! It turns out that those frozen little cat turds stick to your boots, and then when you come inside they fall off, thaw, and get ground into the carpet. My wife threatened to make them into a chowder for me too!
A while back, the zipper on my jacket was stuck. As I wrestled with it, I remembered a handy tip I had read somewhere: “To make a zipper slide up and down more smoothly, rub a bar of soap over the teeth.” Whoever said that should be dragged in front of a national press conference and shot. That soap tasted awful, and I was blowing bubbles for a week! It made my teeth squeak, too, and it didn’t do anything for my zipper!
Speaking of soap, never follow this tip: “When pins become difficult to push through a diaper or fabric, push the pin into a bar of soap.” It was my wife who had tried this one. Evidently the phone rang before she had finished, and then she forgot about it until she was vividly reminded of it the next morning by my blood-curdling scream from the shower. Rushing into the bathroom, she found me dancing about in agony with a bar of soap skewered to my underarm!
A well-intentioned family friend dropped the handy tip that feeding your dog Brewer’s Yeast and garlic will keep the fleas away. This turned out to be one tip that actually worked. What my misguided friend failed to mention is that it will keep you away from your pet too! If you’ve ever been licked in the face by a dog that has been feasting on Brewer’s Yeast and garlic, you will never forget the experience. I had to rinse my face off with raw sewer, just to get rid of the smell!
Some handy tips are downright dangerous! I had a neighbor suggest that when a light bulb breaks, it can be easily removed by pushing a raw potato into the base and twisting the broken light bulb out. I guess my neighbor never did that experiment in high school where you stick a couple of galvanized nails into a pair of potatoes and use them for a battery to power a clock. Couple that conductive capability with the household current flowing into the broken stub of the light bulb, and you have enough potential “OOMPH” there to knock you off of your step ladder and fling you across the room.
It only seems to affect certain people that way, though. My wife was able to step over my smoldering body, flick the light switch off, and use the potato to unscrew the broken bulb with absolutely no ill effects. She must have some sort of natural genetic immunity, although she claims I’m the one with the immunity. Only she calls it congenital buffoonity. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Another dangerous tip goes like this: “Frozen water pipes can safely and easily be thawed out by using an ordinary hair dryer nozzle directed at the frozen pipe.” Seems pretty harmless, doesn’t it? Easy too. So when my sewer line froze up, I thought I’d give it a shot. Now the situation was complicated slightly by the fact that this was a buried sewer line. I couldn’t just go down in the basement and apply the hair drier to the area of the pipe in question. However, using my Alaskan ingenuity, I improvised a solution to the problem.
My wife had one of those nifty little hair roller/hair drier combos. I securely duct taped a long extension cord onto the curler’s plug, waded into the water pool that had overflowed onto the bathroom floor, turned it on and flushed it down the toilet. At least I started to. Unexpectedly, as soon as the contraption hit the water, I found myself enveloped in a crackling blue cage of lightning. The hair curler and I sort of convulsed around the bathroom together–locked in the embrace of a macabre pulsing dance–gyrating to the bass buzz of electrically energized commode water until my wife unplugged the extension cord.
Other handy tips, though not as dangerous, can sure be a nuisance. Like the one that claims placing cucumber peels on the kitchen will keep ants out of your house. Maybe so, but I think I would prefer ants to the snowshoe hares that were attracted to the cucumber peelings. Since the infestation, every day at my house is a bad hare day.
Now when I come downstairs for a drink of water in the middle of the night and switch on the light, instead of seeing cockroaches scurrying for cover, I see a receding hare line. Every time I turn on the radio the dial has been changed to a hip-hop station. The other day I opened my refrigerator and there was a hare sitting in there. The following conversation ensued:
Hare: Eh, what’s up, doc?
Me: I was about to ask you the same question. What are you doing in my refrigerator?
Hare: This is a Westinghouse isn’t it?
Me: Yes, so what?
Hare: Well, I’m westing!
Frankly, I’m tired of being on the receiving end of handy tips. I think I’ll go on the offensive. I’m going to close by dedicating a few handy tips of my own to all those folks who have dropped me tips through the years:
Handy Tip #1: Old telephone directories make ideal personal address books. Simply cross out the names and address of people you don’t know.
Handy Tip #2: Avoid parking tickets by leaving your wipers set to ‘fast wipe’ whenever you leave your car parked illegally.
Handy Tip #3: No time for a bath? Wrap yourself in masking tape and remove the dirt by simply peeling it off.