A fair idea gone slightly awry…


This was posted yesterday on Maestronet...

This past weekend I set out to do some rough arching with my Dupli-router when I realized that I was out of earplugs. For anyone who has used one of these things, you know that it’s not something that can be done without hearing protection. People in the ocean side park just outside my house complain when I fire it up and I’m guessing some of my dental work will need some premature repair because I use it. It is extremely loud. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had another obstacle - it was Sunday and the local hardware store was closed. Not ready to give up too easily, I looked around the house for a creative alternative and noticed a can of leftover expanding foam insulation (Great Stuff) from last falls home insulating project. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s the polyurethane insulation that expands about 10x its original size. The expansion takes about 15 minutes after spraying it into a hole or gap.

Now, I’m sure that you see where this is going and before you think I’m nuts, know that I worked for a short while in a hearing-aid clinic and we used the surgical grade equivalent of the stuff for taking molds of patients ear canals. I’ve assisted with hundreds of these procedures and they are actually very simple. The only difference between the clinical grade and the industrial grade is that the clinical variety is tested to be hypoallergenic (a minor difference right?). When I left that job, I kept some of the release agent and wax dam used to keep the foam out of the inner ear canal. I knew it would come in handy for violin making someday/somehow. And my foresight was about to come to fruition.

Armed with the can of foaming goo, the release agent and the wax dam material, I headed upstairs to the bathroom to work in front of the mirror. Just the left ear first, to make sure it goes all right. Remembering the whole procedure like I left that job only yesterday, I applied the release agent into my left ear followed by a pea size plug of the wax. Very carefully, I sprayed a small dab of the expanding foam insulation in. If for some unlikely reason you would try this yourself, remember that the stuff slowly expands 10 times its original volume over 15 minutes, so use a very, very small amount.

Everything went perfectly. A small peanut shaped blob formed and just protruded from my ear canal. Damn did it block out sound. It was the best hearing protection I had ever used. All I had to do was repeat the procedure on the right ear.

Same order - release agent, wax plug, spray insulation. Here is where a slight problem arose. I guess repeatable, pinpoint precision is not what the manufacturers of the industrial cans have in mind. As I pulled the trigger, I heard what can only be described as an erupting reminder of a lifetime of half-baked ideas - a loud and disheartening explosion. The can released almost all of its contents in a great, gurgling blast. Insulation came out of the nozzle at a volume that one would use to fill an obsolete stovepipe. Needless to say, it filled my ear canal, my outer ear and the whole right side of my head. Miraculously, nothing got into my eyes. I couldn’t afford to lose another one of my senses if I was going to clean myself up.

I quickly put the can down on the edge of the sink and set out trying to pull off what I could. That was a bad idea. The insulation is the same basic stuff as Gorilla Glue. I quickly had a very sticky mess on my hands (and my ear, hair and face). As if that wasn’t enough, I felt something hitting my foot. The darned can was still oozing out Great Stuff at quite a clip and it was getting all over the floor and my right shoe. I couldn’t make this kind of scenario up if I wanted to…sigh.

I figured at this point that I needed some kind of solvent to undo my predicament. I had to go back downstairs but my shoe was covered in a sticky mess and my wife would kill me if I tracked it all over the house. Taking off my shoe was not an option since my hands were also all sticky and starting to expand. At that moment, I felt an itchy burning sensation in my left ear (the one that I thought went so well). I knew that I better get this junk off of me quick or I’d be in some kind of poison ivy like hell.

I saw my escape route. On the floor next to the toilet was my wife’s latest issue of a supermarket magazine. With more than a little sense of amusement, I squashed my goo covered shoe down on some smiling celebrity’s face and watched as it oozed out over a caption about how to get rid of that unwanted bulge and another on how to listen to your partner. Irony.

With a foam peanut coming out of my left ear, an orange blob growing out of the right side of my head, hands that are starting to look like boxing gloves, and a magazine stuck to my right foot, I made my way to the top of the stairs. What I didn’t realize was that the expanding foam started putting pressure on my inner ear and was disrupting my sense of balance. This combined with a slippery magazine stuck to my shoe made the first step a nearly fatal mistake. I plunged down the stairs and slammed my head on a table at the bottom. Luck was consistent. I didn’t hit the table with the side of my head that was covered in an impromptu protective foam cushion. No! Of course not! It had to be straight on. The last thing I remembered before blacking out was reaching up with my left hand to assess the injury to my forehead.

When I came to (probably because of the searing pain from the terrible allergic reaction that was setting in) it became obvious that my last action was not a good one. Now, on top of all the other misfortune, my left hand was stuck to my head. I must have been out for at least 10 minutes since the blob of expanding foam on the side of my head had grown into a second head. I could also tell that my skin was breaking out into hives and my eyes were swelling shut.

It was time to get some professional help. Calling 911 on my cell phone was out of the question. It was in my left pocket - the side opposite my free hand. Although, it wouldn’t have mattered which pocket since that hand was in a hardening cocoon. We had disconnected the house phone since we weren’t using it much anymore, so that wasn’t an option anymore either. I had to go out to park to get help (remember, it’s just outside my house).

I made my way out of the house and into the park. Not being able to see, or hear anything, I walked towards the sun with a zombie like gate until I heard screaming children. At least something went right. I found out later that one of the parents called 911 as I passed out for the second time (this time from the itching pain). Apparently her concern wasn’t for me. Rather, it was because she thought that there was some kind of biological attack. I got more than enough assistance as police crews, homeland security and a fleet of media helicopters all descended on my slumped body. I woke up in the hospital with only a bad rash and a splitting headache. My hands have recovered enough for me to write this little April Fools Story. I hope you found it amusing.

Joe Christian

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e-mail: albertus@bekkerviolins.com