Erik is traveling this week, and is out of the office. We are reprinting an old column about his old house.
Ever since we moved into our house 11 years ago, I've enjoyed working on it. Building and insulating the walls, putting up drywall, and watching my wife paint.
We finished off the upstairs and the basement with her parents' help, and I learned the manly art of bashing my own thumb with a hammer. In fact, I got so good at it that I find I enjoy working with my hands, beyond just typing on the computer with eight useful fingers.
Some days, I even fancy myself capable of doing this on a daily basis. I can imagine trying to earn a living, doing what I do on the weekends: drinking beer, puttering around in the garage, drinking more beer, and watching football on TV.
Sadly, there is more to being a contractor than that. It's not as much football watching, which is bad, but a lot more beer drinking, which is good, unless you're using a power nailer.
The problem with doing this kind of work is that it really can damage a Guy's hands. Whenever I think, "wouldn't this be fun to do everyday?" I remember what my hands looked like when I was finishing the upstairs of my house six years ago.
Every week brought a new scratch, scrape, scar, or bandage. I began to look like a walking triage unit, and personal injury attorneys followed me in the grocery store.
A hand's scars are a historical road map. They show us where we've been, what we've done, and how poorly we handled sharp objects. There's the scar where I cut myself with my dad's hunting knife, the scar where I cut myself with a kitchen knife, and the scar where I cut myself with a utility knife while cutting some drywall. I have serious problems with knives.
For the past few weeks, my wife and I have been tackling major projects around the house, and my hands look like I've been wrestling a sack of nettles. I have cuts on my fingers from an errant hacksaw, a few poison ivy blisters, and a couple of scratches from God only knows what. And this was a good week.
But Guys wear their scars like badges of honor. Stupid, I-wasn't-paying-attention-and-sliced-my-hand-with-my-utility-knife scars. Big hey-want-to-see-what-a-hot-drill-bit-can-do-to-human-flesh scars. And we parade them around for others to see.
When most non-Guys injure themselves, they will carefully clean the wound with Bactine, put some antibiotic ointment on it, and put a clean bandage on it every day. They also get their wives to "kiss it and make it all better."
Guys, on the other hand, will only put a small Band-Aid on the wound to make sure they don't get blood in their nachos. Afterward, they take it off so people will ask them about it at work the next day.
Concerned co-worker: Eww, gross! What did you do to your hand?
Guy: Oh that? That's just a scratch. I was building a new storage shed out of some pine logs and plywood. I guess one of the pieces got away from me, because it slipped and gashed my hand up pretty good. I just wrapped a little duct tape around it and kept working.
Other Guy: What are you talking about? I was over at your house, and you were cutting little rosettes into some baby redskin potatoes, and you sliced your hand on that little bitty paring knife. You cried like a baby and insisted I take you to the emergency room.
Guy: Yeah? Well, now you can forget about me making that lobster bisque and pasta bolognese for your birthday!
Guys take pride in their scars, because they earned them. They performed the labor, put themselves at risk, and made the gross error that nearly lopped off a finger or severed an artery. These aren't self-inflicted little scratches that we made to look cool. That would be like buying pre-torn jeans.
We'd never intentionally drop lumber on our foot. We'd never try to injure ourselves with a sharp chisel. And we'd never overdramatize a groin injury and then purposely get suspended from training camp as a way to try to leverage a better contract than the 7-year-$49-million contract we signed the year before. (Looking at you, Terrell Owens!)
Not that I'm pointing a finger or anything. It's still too painful to move after I whacked it with a hammer.
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