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Stupid Trick of the Week

The performer of this stupid trick, alas, was me, and I did it a week ago, so I’m a little late in reporting.

Where to begin? Well, first you need to know about sharps containers. If you don’t have one at home (and why would you?), you will at least have seen them at your doctor’s office. They’re those plastic colored containers attached to the wall that used needles get dropped into.

It turns out you can buy them at pharmacies for home use. Unlike the ones at the doctor’s office, the home-use ones are free standing. No need to attach them to the wall. You can see one in the photo above. Over time, you drop needles in, and eventually the needle pile reaches the line that says the container is full. At this point, you put the handy container lid on and bring the container to a place that accepts it for disposal. The crucial point here is that the containers are not meant to be re-used. Rather, you dispose of a full one properly, buy a new one, and repeat. As for disposing, it seems that some pharmacies will accept the full containers. Failing that, hereabouts, one can bring them to the county transfer station.

Okay, so, that’s that. Now to my story.

Until twelve days ago, I didn’t know about home sharps containers, or care. But then, for reasons I won’t go into in this post, I found myself in a class in which we were given blood glucose meters (free!) and the associated paraphernalia with which one can measure one’s own blood glucose level. I had no idea what I was missing all these years. It’s the coolest thing, getting this instant feedback about what’s going on in your blood. But you can’t get that feedback without sticking the tiniest little needle into your finger first and coaxing out a little drop of blood.

That little needle, or lancet, comes under the heading of sharps. You can’t just toss it in the garbage. You need to put it in a sharps container. The odd thing is, at the class, we were given those blood glucose meters but not sharps containers. We were told that we can’t throw the used lancets in the garbage, that we should get a sharps container, and that we should eventually bring it to the county transfer station. I can’t imagine the first thing every student does after class is buy his or her own container. I imagine, more precisely, that some students never buy a container. There must be a lot of those lancets in the garbage stream.

Not my lancets. Gail bought a sharps container. She brought it home, I examined it, and I wondered what to do about the fact that the container lid was attached by a thin strip of plastic that was sufficiently stiff that the open lid kind of hung out at an awkward angle. It was in the way. I figured it was supposed to stay attached for some reason, like maybe to remind you to cover the container between uses. But it really was going to be a nuisance. So I got the scissors out and cut it off.

Now what? Well, if the lid was meant to cover the container, I may as well cover it. Which I did. That was the moment when I realized the lid, now firmly shut on the container top, had no grasping point, no place to get your finger under in order to flip it off. Yup, that sucker was on for good. I had just put the permanently locking lid on an empty sharps container.

Good job, Ron.

It all made sense after the fact. Once you’ve filled the container and need to dispose of it, you put the lid on. There’s no reason ever to take it off again, and good reason to make sure it doesn’t come off, so once it’s on, it’s on. A permanently locked lid goes hand-in-hand with safe transport and disposal of the sharps. I then saw, too late, that there was a label glued on the side of the container with instructions, and sure enough it explained that you put the unremovable lid on when you’re done.

There you have it, my stupid trick of the week.

Except that I really couldn’t bear the thought of wasting the four dollars it cost to buy the container. I decided to experiment, and discovered that you can get the lid off after all, with a little prodding. I won’t say how. I’ve said enough.

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Categories: Medicine, Stupidity
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