When is it OK to give someone the bird?

By David Hampshire

This story gets a little complicated. Among other things, it involves a couple of box cutters, San Juan Healthcare, the Friday Walkers group, Glassworks of Winthrop and a tube of Krazy Glue. But stick with me on this.

When I’m not in Friday Harbor, chances are you’ll find me in Utah, where I’ve lived since the 1970s. And there, three days a week, I work at a local food-bank pantry, unloading trucks, stocking shelves and taking care of the recycling.

That’s where the first box cutter comes in. Most of the pantry’s recycling is in the form of cardboard, which must be cut down to fit in the blue plastic containers that Salt Lake City crews empty once a week. One day, while at the pantry, I lost track of my left hand, only to discover, too late, that it was under the cardboard I was cutting.

It took a trip to the emergency room and six stitches to put me back together. The doctor told me to come back in two weeks to have the stitches removed. I said I’d be in Friday Harbor by then, so he gave me a do-it-yourself kit made up of a pair of tweezers and a special pair of scissors. He also gave me a sheet of instructions that, of course, I didn’t read.

Two weeks later, everything looked good, so I got ready to remove the stitches. Had I read the instructions, I probably would have known to use “sterile technique,” soaking the stitches in something like rubbing alcohol to kill the germs. But I didn’t. I snipped the stitches with scissors and pulled the germy thread back through the wound.

You can probably guess what happened next. It got infected. A few days later my partner, Lynne Giuffre, was on the phone setting up an appointment with Caroline Hansen, a physician assistant at San Juan Healthcare.

Caroline was a delight. It turns out that she is a skier and has visited Salt Lake City en route to the nearby Wasatch Mountains. So we chatted about skiing the greatest snow on earth while she squeezed the pus out of my finger.

Oh, I forgot to tell you one thing. The wound was in my middle finger. You know the one.

Anyway, everything was fine until it came time to bandage the finger. Not wanting to give her the ultimate insult, I presented her with my whole hand, palm up, fingers splayed.

But, as everyone knows, the only real way to separate that finger from its companions is to make a fist and then flip it out. I squirmed. Sensing my discomfort, Caroline finally had to tell me to give her “the bird” so she could apply the bandage.

Caroline would be the first to admit that it wasn’t the prettiest bandage in the world, but it did the job. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find any trace of the wound. Just don’t ask me to show you.

The other part of this story begins with a three-day off-island trip that Lynne and I took with the Friday Walkers last September to the Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop. We had a great time driving through the mountains, hiking the nearby trails and sharing meals with the group, and gawking at a collection of classic cars belonging to some auto aficionados who happened to be staying at the lodge.

Lynne and I also found time to explore the Methow Valley, driving along the river and visiting the towns of Twisp and Winthrop en route. In Winthrop, we were enchanted by Glassworks, a little glass-blowing shop on the main drag, and bought some small glass hummingbirds designed to be used as ornaments. We gave a couple of people the birds as gifts but kept a couple for ourselves.

We’re not sure how it happened, but somehow one of our hummingbirds recently broke a wing. We thought about taking the wounded bird to Wolf Hollow but decided on Krazy Glue instead.

Lynne and I worked out a plan. I would hold the hummingbird in one hand and the wing in the other hand while she applied the glue. Then I would reattach the wing and hold it in place until the glue set.

It worked beautifully. I held the wing in the proper position and it seemed to be securely attached.

There was only one problem. The hummingbird was also glued to the tip of my finger. The birdie finger. We had a good laugh about that and even took a few photos.

So now what? Would I have to walk around town for a few days with a glass hummingbird attached to my middle finger? I decided that wasn’t a great option and set out to pry it loose … using a box cutter.

Can you see where this is going?

Actually, this is where Lynne saved me from another trip to the emergency room. After watching me with the box cutter, she went online and found out that nail-polish remover – acetone – will also remove Krazy Glue. Hovering over the bathroom sink, we managed to separate my finger from the bird without further damage.

So is there a moral to this convoluted story? Not really. But let me give it a shot anyway.

How about: A bird on the hand isn’t worth a trip to the emergency room.

Or maybe it’s: Sometimes a one-finger salute is just what the doctor ordered.