I am now two weeks into my office job, and it’s already a pain in the neck. This can be attributed to a combination not having set up my workspace correctly and chronic neck pain. Although they are fine now, my wrists are also prone to tendinitis flare-ups. Strangely, these flare-ups are more likely to be triggered by the gentle motions of typing on a keyboard rather than by the brute force sometimes required in removing stuck bike components at my regular job.
Yes, I am excellent at injuring myself doing the most delicate tasks.
The bike shop, however, does specialize in surprise injuries.
A month ago, Yann smashed his thumb with a hammer trying to remove a sealed bearing from a hub. This happened right after I uttered the obligatory, pointless warning, “CAREFUL!”
Typically, you’re supposed to use the slide hammer which screws into the bearing puller, but you do risk pinching the outside of your fist if you don’t grip the handle carefully before yanking on the tool.
I have never struck any of my fingertips black nor have I nipped the meaty outside part of my grip. But here’s a list of my more fun injuries:
- Stabbed the palm of my right hand with a reamer.
I was using the reamer to hold a spoke nipple in place while wheel building. When the reamer slipped out of my hand, it landed upright on the table right as I instinctively grabbed for it. It didn’t pierce through my hand, but I had to be thankful for my up-to-date tetanus shot. That reamer is one of the grimiest tools we have in the shop as one of its primary use is to poke greasy crud out of bike parts. Ick.
2. Pinched my belly fat with the cable and housing cutter.
Lesson learned: Do not hold the tool close to your body when cutting cable or housing. Except I did it again on another day which resulted in an out-of-place welt on my abdomen that took a long time to disappear.
3. Punched myself in the mouth.
No tools were involved in this injury, just my fist and a ribbon of foam; I was wrapping bar tape when my grip slipped. Pow, right in the kisser.
To my relief, nobody in the shop witnessed this. It was only last week when I admitted to Yann that this had happened to me and he laughed himself to tears.
4. Punched myself in the nose.
Same deal as #3, but in a different location on the face. I thought counting it as a separate injury might seem less shameful. When I mentioned having repeated this injury, Yann started convulsing with laughter.
To my credit, I do a beautiful bar tape wrapping job. I am willing to suffer for my art.
5. Caught OzzyJuice®-infused shit in my mouth.
This counts because it’s an internal injury. If you thought stabbing myself with a dirty reamer was gross, there was a time when I was washing a grubby derailleur hanger at the parts washer station and caught some backsplash in my mouth.
Yann’s response to this was, “Why didn’t you wear the face shield?” Well, I half-assed the safety precautions with goggles as it was supposed to take just a second to do!
Ideally, we’d all wear face shields at all times while in the bike shop to intimidate customers and to preserve our beauty. This solution would be worth considering if it weren’t so cumbersome and unsanitary; the foam in the adjustable headband has been sponging up the sebum from various coworkers’ foreheads for years.
As disgusted as I was, muck landing in my mouth didn’t appear to have had any ill effects. What’s the worst that could have happened?
Just in case it does happen again, here is what I would like on my tombstone:
6. Smashed my knuckles against the chainstay trying to remove a seized pedal.
Most of the shop’s pedal removal tools have a slight bend in the handle to prevent this from happening, yet it happens anyway. It’s how we are initiated into the world of bike mechanics. I remember grabbing my throbbing knuckles and thinking, “At last, I am a real bike mechanic!”
7. Sliced my hand open on a plastic chain guard attached to a kid’s bike.
I was moving the inside guard which sits in-between the frame and drive side bottom bracket so that it would line up with the outer guard, which was supposed to slide and lock in place, not cut through my flesh.
If you cannot visualize this based on the jargon, just picture me with a tiny pink kid’s bike and a bloody hand.
We’re supposed to fill out an injury report after every accident we have at work. The report asks questions such as, “How did it happen?”, “How was it handled?”, “What preventative measures could be taken to keep this from happening again?”
Preventative measures for not popping myself in the face? I suppose I could quit.
All this is still preferable to chronic pain brought on by white-collar work. At least with the trauma caused by mechanic bloopers, I’m still able to get a good night’s sleep.