Not too long ago, I was explaining Murphy’s law to my student Tanita. We had just had a singularly horrible day together, so it was an appropriate time to reconcile our misery with the humorous theory than anything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong. While Murphy’s law holds true for a number of my experiences in Rwanda, today was about another rather unfortunate law: Naomi’s law of things that sting.
As I was closing the library this afternoon, a student requested a bag. I keep a stash of bags in the inch of space between my wooden shelving unit and the wall, so I stuck my hand in to grab him one. Um. OW.
As the side of my hand filled with pinpricks of white-hot pain, I ran over to the window to investigate what I was sure was a splinter. Much to my surprise, I discovered several dozen tiny brown shards of something sticking out of my hand. This is an odd set of splinters, I thought, maybe I’ll ask maintenance to sand the side of my shelf so this doesn’t happen again. As I started to pull the barbs out of my hand, I realized they were not coming out as easily as they should be. Tanita happened to be in the Library along with another student and the two girls rushed over to see what was causing my yelps of pain.
“It’s ok, it’s just a splinter,” I said.
“Nope,” Tanita said. “Not a splinter.”
“Well then what is it?!”
“A caterpillar!” Diane said.
Just then a third student, David, who had heard my shouting from the dining hall, took one look at my hand and confirmed – “Naomi, this is definitely a caterpillar.”
David went back to the source to find the little nasty. Three inches long, with hair that would make Rapunzel jealous, the beasty looked like some kind of porquipine – tumbleweed lovechild. Not cute.
Ok great, multiple experts consulted, diagnosis confirmed. Treatment?
“You’re not going to like this,” Tanita said, as she picked up the large rock I use to keep my door open. Tanita majors in physics, chemistry, and biology, and has medical aspirations, so naturally she was prepared to perform my surgery. Diane held my hand out and twisted it toward the light, while Tanita took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and screamed as Tanita took her rock and ran it up and down my hand, essentially ripping the barbs out along with the top layer or two of skin. A few moments later, my hand was a bit raw and a bit dirty, but totally free of caterpillar barbs.
Which brings us to Naomi’s law of things that sting: If it has fangs, spikes, or venom of any kind, it will find me and it will bite me. From ants, to spiders, mosquitoes, to bed bugs, and now caterpillars, no centimeter of my skin is safe from the things that inexplicably always seem to want to eat me. Ugh.