Human Skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s soft, pliable, strong, waterproof, self-repairing and provides a flexible, protective shield between us and the outside world – extremes in temperatures, damaging sunlight and most importantly, all of the dangerous chemicals and other substances that we regularly spill on ourselves – gasoline, superglue, ink, paint, tobacco, oil and common dirt.
Most adults have about 22 square ft of skin with about 1 1/2 square feet covering our hands. The skin on our two extremities is probably the most important, since we wantonly abuse our fingers and palms daily. Most of us take the skin on our hands for granted. We regularly dip our paws into a variety of things we shouldn’t. Skin is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world, letting us know when we have done something incredibly stupid.
As I looked up at the 30 foot Ceiling Joists in my newly constructed garage addition, I was aghast to see that there were a bunch of gaps where the joists ran into plates and blocking. Much of this, of course, due to my own ineptness. But I was determined to make sure I had no spaces in my new edifice, mainly to keep out insects and dirt. Normal caulking wouldn’t cover these large openings.
Suddenly to my mind came a glorious vision. An expandable liquid foam product that eventually turns into a solid insulation barrier. I could remember seeing it used somewhere – easy to apply – just squirt it into a cavity, then watch it expand and harden. The product is called “Great Filler” although as time went on I came up with other more descriptive names.
Hustling down to Home Depot (where else does a guy need to go, but to HD, Costco and the 99 Cent Store for all of the necessities of Life) I purchased five cans and immediately started to use them once I got back. Immediately I noticed two problems – one, the foam didn’t squirt out very far and two, the liquid kept coming for a couple of seconds after releasing the push button. The main result (other than putting foam on the ladder, walls, the cement floor, and my shoes and clothes) was that within a few minutes I had the yellow foam all over my hands and wrists. I didn’t want to stop and rinse my hands because I had a lot of space to cover, so I just kept on pumping and dripping the yellow goo all over, but mainly on my hands. I thought to myself, it’s probably is biodegradable, but if not, there is always the tried and true universal cleaner – gasoline.
The five cans lasted about a half hour and by that time my hands looked like those of the Creature From the Black Lagoon, only an iridescent yellow. It was time to quit and clean up. I noticed that the foam (now expanded and hardened) that had spilled on the ladder and floor was extremely difficult to remove and required scraping with a sharpened tool. I finally went to wash up even though the foam had now dried on my hands to the consistency of an Armadillo hide. I started with just water, then went to soap, then a Lava Bar, on to Simple Green and Orange Aggregate – nothing phased the crust. I thought to myself, okay, its time for the old Universal Solvent – Gasoline. I poured a liberal amount over a cloth and started to rub. Nothing.
Next I went to a scrubbing brush saturated in gas – same result, nothing, not even the slightest discoloration – my hands remained encased in yellow lizard-like crusty foam. Okay, I thought to myself, might as well read the directions and find what they recommend to remove this scale.
GUYS HATE DIRECTIONS. Whether it is inquiring about where to go, putting a bike together, or programming a DVD player, guys really, really hate to look at or ask for directions – its somewhat unmanly not to instinctively know what to do without reading someone’s technical explanation – usually translated from Chinese. It takes time, is frustrating and goes against all our caveman origins.
But, based on my hideous yellow toxic reptilian hooks, I decided that the directions might have helpful removal instructions. I gasped as I read the first directive on the label – DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT UNLESS WEARING GLOVES. COVER ALL EXPOSED SKIN. Second Warning – ALWAYS USE THE SIX-INCH NOZZLE EXTENDER. Hmmm, I had forgotten to use the nozzle that was attached to each can – maybe that is why had such a problem in getting more into the cracks than on myself and everywhere else. Then I got to the really good part. CONTACT WITH SKIN CREATES A VERY TIGHT CHEMICAL BOND THAT CAN ONLY BE REMOVED BY MECHANICAL MEANS.
MECHANICAL MEANS, what in the hell did that mean? I had visions of lying on an operating table while a dermatologist used some sort of portable grinder on me. Reading further, the directions did state that if the contents were spilled on a flat surface, acetone would help in the removal. Ah Ha, I thought, the manufacturer is just being coy to protect himself. Herein lies the solution. So back down to Home Depot – One Quart of Acetone at $8.95 and the cure was in sight. I did try a little bit right outside the store, (okay it was inside the store, but I had made the purchase decision already) but with little result. But I reasoned it will probably take some time and a scrub brush.
Back over my work sink, I filled a container with the acetone, dipped my hands in and fully expected the solvent to dissolve the crusted yellow mess. NOTHING! Not even the faintest discoloration of the acetone. I used a scrub brush. NOTHING! I thought, well, certainly my wife will have some suggestions, so I went in the house. Her first and last reaction was to yell: ”Don’t even think about coming near me with those Amphibious Hands”. Apparently no help here. She did suggest a visit to the emergency room upon my second request.
With my hands soaking in another chemical (Lye Based), I decided it was time for quiet introspection and meditation on what to do next. I often use that those terms when I find myself in another hopeless position. Doesn’t ever help, but sounds good. Prayer wasn’t an option in this case because I’m quite sure that God helped the inventor of this miracle crack filler just to get a good laugh out of fools like myself.
I’m a semi-intelligent person; surely there was a way to get the “stuff” off. Admittedly there was some concern at this point about whether my skin could breath, and if I had permanently damaged my hands. In ascending order I tried: Paint Thinner, Fingernail Polish Remover, alcohol, sand mixed with gasoline applied with a scrub brush, and Drano. You got it. NOTHING – AGAIN. Well, I thought - Removal By Mechanical Means. What could I use – Sand Paper – just bounced off. Wire Brush – mainly penetrated the skin with individual wires and brought intense pain, minor blood loss and world class cursing. Rubbing the phalanges on a cinder block just left a slight yellow streak.
Okay, mechanical must mean something really sharp to scrap down to the skin. The Xacto knife did slice through nicely, but unfortunately a layer of skin had to be cut off also and soon I had three pretty good cuts on my hands with blood dripping in the sink. This was getting serious; maybe another read of the directions would give some further inspiration. About the only phrase that gave me any hope on the reread was the statement – PRODUCT WILL WEAR OFF OVER TIME. That gave me little comfort since I was scheduled to speak in church in three days – I could see children running from the chapel and “Its the Devil” yells from the congregation. What could I do, paint my hands a flesh tone? I briefly considered using Sulfuric Acid, a stone grinder, and a wire wheel attached to my drill. I reasoned that all of these would lead to an emergency room trip; and the resultant embarrassing explanation to the staff about yet another stupid trick.
Mechanical Means, there had to be something that would work. After an unsuccessful attempt with a razor blade tipped scraper, I finally decided to try large tweezers. At first nothing, but after repeated sharpening, I was able to pick off very small pieces; painfully, usually with some skin attached. Over the next three weeks with constant work, my hands had pretty much returned to normal, albeit there were abrasions, scabbing and minor scaring where I had gotten too aggressive. But I still had to figure out what to do about appearing before the church congregation. I got a shirt with 40-inch sleeves, which covered most of my hands – mummy like gauze covered the balance – I gripped the underside of the pulpit and wore a greenish colored suit and an outlandish bright gold tie to misdirect the congregation. Only somewhat successful, since a few people came up to me with interested in how I had apparently burned myself. I won’t even go into the stories I spun to downplay my stupidity. But eventually I had my hands back and ready for the next adventure.
So all in all, should a guy read directions? Hot Wheels, No, DVD Player, No, Stop and ask Road directions, No. But caustic, corrosive chemicals products, that might permanently disfigure that Twenty-Two square feet of very valuable skin – I’d say MAYBE.