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The Night I Learned to Follow Directions - Scott Adams' Blog

The Night I Learned to Follow Directions

The other day, my friend Steve and I had a “Husbands Cook for Their Wives” night in which we hoped to accomplish several things. First, we thought it would be a good way to add to the Husband Bank of good deeds. Second, it was an excuse to drink beer on a Tuesday afternoon. And third, Steve would transfer his vast knowledge of cooking methods to my ignorant self. It was this third objective that went terribly wrong.

Among my duties that night was chopping the jalapeño peppers. I had never prepared a meal with jalapeño peppers, and I didn’t know much about them. The conversation went something like this.

Steve: You should wear rubber gloves to cut the jalapeño peppers.

Me: Really? Is that necessary?

Steve: Yes. Do you have any rubber gloves?

I knew we had some rubber gloves somewhere in the house, but finding them would require the help of my wife, Shelly, and I didn’t want to bother her on Husbands Cook for Their Wives Night. So I pressed the point.

Me: I could just wash my hands after I cut the jalapeño peppers.

Steve: You really should wear gloves. And don’t touch your eyes, or any mucous membranes. And whatever you do, don’t take a piss until sometime next week.

Me: I’ll just wash my hands when I’m done cutting the peppers. That should be fine.

At this point, an obscure statute in the Guy Code came into play and Steve realized that nagging me wasn’t the way to play this. Instead, he decided to let me take a run at the jalapeño peppers bareback. If he was laughing on the inside, he did a good job of not showing it.

I sliced up the jalapeño peppers, and removed the seeds. Then I washed my hands thoroughly, successfully avoiding contact with my eyes, mucous membranes, and genitalia. It was no problem at all. Apparently this whole jalapeño peppers scare was overblown, I thought.

A few minutes passed, and I felt a tingle in my left hand – the one that directly handled the peppers. The tingle turned into a warm sensation, and the warmth turned into…well, this will take some explaining.

Imagine turning a broom upside down, so the pointy bristles are facing up. You take your hand, palm facing down, and bounce it on the pointy bristles. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that feels on your hand? Okay, good.

Now imagine that a giant troll sees you playing with the broom. He snatches it out of your hand, chews the handle into a point and shoves it so far up your ass that you can taste it. Then he uses you like a huge flyswatter to kill a nest of porcupines that are living in his salt mine. My hand hurt like that.

It felt as if my hand was literally on fire. It was one of the most intense pains of my life. With my good hand, I groped for the iPad and searched for home remedies. For every report of a treatment that worked, three people reported that it didn’t. I tried ice. I tried milk. I tried alcohol (internal and external). I tried sour cream. I tried ketchup. Each of those things worked for as long as it kept my hand cold, but as soon as my hand reached room temperature, the burn returned.  And according to my fellow idiots on the Internet who had made the same mistake, the burn could last most of the night.

I made it through dinner with my hand submerged in a bowl of milk.  By now, two hours had passed and the level of pain hadn’t subsided one iota.  Our dinner conversation turned to new potential remedies. Steve suggested an emery board to file down the top layer of skin and remove the irritant. I tried, but no luck. Shelly hypothesized that the remedies themselves might be slowing the recovery, and I should just “man up” and live with the pain to make it subside sooner. This advice felt suspiciously like revenge for every mistake I have ever made in the entire course of our marriage.

Steve explained how products like Ben Gay can make you feel better by creating a sensation that distracts your mind from the original pain. What I needed, he theorized, was a competing sort of pain to take my mind off of my hand. I suddenly realized that all of Steve’s medical suggestions sounded suspiciously like cruel practical jokes. The Guy Code allows for that sort of behavior because I didn’t follow his original advice to wear gloves.  But Steve has a PhD, and he’s a retired college professor of biology, so he knows things. It was a totally ambiguous situation, and I wasn’t thinking clearly because of my pain.

While I weighed my options, I needed to get some beer out of my system, and this posed another problem. Although I had washed my throbbing hand a dozen times since handling the peppers, I worried that the jalapeño juice had become integrated with my skin. I couldn’t rule out the possibility that using the restroom would make things much, much worse. I would have to do the deed with my opposite hand.

For the benefit of my female readers, allow me to explain something. We men are creatures of habit. After a lifetime of using my left hand for, let’s say, handling the fire hose, switching to my right hand made it feel as if a total stranger was helping out. It was creepy. To get past the awkwardness, I named my right hand Sergio and pretended I was in prison. That’s called making the best of a bad situation.

Anyway, back to the dining room, Steve’s wife, Sandy, was nice enough to get some Lanacane from their house. After I applied the Lanacane, the pain stopped.  I can’t say for sure that the Lanacane was the reason the pain stopped. Shelly’s theory is that it was time for the pain to stop on its own, because I had “manned up” long enough.  This is not a good precedent for the next time I am injured at home.