Is it possible to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from just a couple hours of feverish jack-o-lantern carving? I aim to find out. A study of one. Neither double-blind, nor peer-reviewed. Well, I suppose I could make the argument that this here blog post meets the “peer reviewed” requirement. So we are in this together, you and I.
Although, at the moment, I don’t see any pumpkin-carving implements in your hand. I wish I could say the same about myself. The dull throbbing in the forearm, near the elbow. The gnarled and clawed right hand akin to Dracula’s when casting a hypnotic spell. Telltale signs of Jack-o-Lantern-itus, a malady with which I alone, apparently, must contend.
Because my child is lazy. And so is yours.
In advance of my annual Haunted Halloween Backyard Party, I mean, my son Everett’s annual Haunted Halloween Backyard Party, I capitalized on a too-good-to-be-true pumpkin sale at my neighborhood Safeway. First there was the sorting out of the math with the cashier (you can’t really carry 10 pumpkins into the checkout aisle; just one and ring up its sticker 10 times). Then I moved on to the dripping of sweat in the parking lot, marking the path from the enormous cardboard bin to my Prius’ cargo bay. Fortunately, no one recognized me during this portion of my arduous endeavor. What with all the sweating, the grunting, the duck-walking, and some grumbled curse words–all while shuffling in front of a steady stream of motor vehicles–I probably will need to patronize a different Safeway for awhile.
But I got my pumpkins, didn’t I.
I then repeated the sweaty grunting duck walk from my garage to the backyard. Placed the oversized gourds on sturdy benches, surrounded by a motley (but sharp) collection of cutting and poking and sawing tools that were specifically designed in China for this very purpose: Carving pumpkins for Halloween. I allowed myself a momentary proud smile after all 10 pumpkins were set out on display. Then I shuffled into the bathroom to eat a half-dozen Advils–no easy task getting that childproof lock untwisted with hands spent from schlepping a couple hundred pounds of pumpkins around the neighborhood.
But this is a small price to pay. Because I knew that in a few short hours, I would be basking in the adulation of all the grateful 12 and 13 year-olds gleefully partaking in an age-old Halloween tradition. The boys would likely hoist me on their shoulders, parade around the neighborhood half-singing half-chanting some catchy little ditty from Fortnite but with words about me and my pumpkins. Magic.
But there was no magic. No basking in adulation. No gleeful partaking. No hoisting or parading or little ditty or words about me or about pumpkins. In the space of just one year, somehow the boys had effectively aged out of all of this. My wife wisely advised that I stay the hell away from the backyard. Other than grabbing a piece of pizza or two and being called upon to plug back in whatever plug the dog had tripped whilst being hazed by the boys mid-movie, I took her advice.
Because it was terrifying down there.
They blistered the air with swear words, trying (successfully) to impress each other with their robust vocabularies, gleaned from hours upon hours of watching older video gamers play video games on Twitch, I guess. Or maybe on Youtube, I don’t know. I thought I had blocked anything like that on my kid’s phone so that he could never be exposed to these words. Every content-restricting toggle is toggled. I am happy to explain to him years down the road, when he comes home during his Spring Break from college, the meaning of words like “shit” and “ass.” Sure, he’ll be little behind the curve. But I am a perfect parent; I can’t have my son’s mind polluted with that stuff at this tender age.
I must have missed a toggle somewhere, because Everett (the titular host of this Haunted Halloween Backyard Party) strung together a string of profanities for his buddies unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Standing in the dark near the pizza boxes, I froze. Then, I did what any right-thinking parent would do in this type of situation: I grabbed another piece of pizza–without making a sound–and snuck back upstairs–also without making a sound. I did not want to be discovered, interloping in the dark, and find myself the subject of the next string of profanities.
In light of what was going on back there, I had absolutely no business entertaining even a sliver of hope that my ten pumpkins would survive the night. I fully expected them to be smashed to bits all over the place. I had already constructed in my mind the heartfelt apology texts I would for sure need to deliver to my neighbors the next morning. They would be unhappy when they awoke to find catapulted and splintered gourds littering their own yards. Worse yet, as I sat on the couch upstairs with the other adults watching the World Series, I privately wondered whether the pumpkin-carving tools made in China would be (foreseeably) misused (on each other) by these boys made in America. I topped off my wine glass, hoping to bring to a halt the parade of horribles marching toward its logical conclusion in my head.
Eventually, the party wound down, the kids were picked up, and the pumpkins–miracle of miracles–were unharmed. Untouched, for the most part. It’s way easier to cartwheel around the yard screaming “bastard!” at the top of one’s lungs than it is to cut the top off of one’s pumpkin, apparently. I suspect I do indeed owe a neighbor or two a contrite email or two about a salty word overheard or two, but other than that, I suppose the party was a success. And now that the throbbing in my elbow has subsided, I see that I still have 6 more jack-o-lanterns that need slicing and dicing. After all, these pumpkins aren’t gonna carve themselves.
Thanks for reading.