Saturday, May 19, 2007

Living common sayings literally

This weekend we had more than a large dose of nit-picking in our household. We had to get down to the nitty gritty and go over everything with a fine tooth comb. It was a lousy situation and involved lots of activity that made us feel like nitwits.

Basically, we were at an event horizon where common sayings became literal. The previous paragraph was awash with 5 of these (can you pick them?), all referring to our war on lice, as they were originally intended. I noticed this connection as we dealt with the situation. It turns out it is no accident. From this authoritative site:
A number of common sayings actually refer to lice. Calling someone a "nitwit" is the same as saying they have the intelligence of a louse egg (nit). "Getting down to the nitty gritty" and "nit-picking" refer to the detailed work involved in removing nits. Describing someone as "lousy" implies that they have lice.
I can only suggest that, from our experience, these sayings deserve their common origin.

Now it is easy to blame someone -- in this case our 2 year old whose share of lice and lice eggs in our household was 99 percent -- and we did (!), but the problem for us is that it wasn't 100 percent. Her mother held the next highest position. That thought led to chaos because she was going to have to trust someone else -- namely, me -- to deal with that one. Head shaving was apparently a more viable option.

Now lice is one of those things that happen when children interact with other children. All the websites say it is just part of growing up and social interaction. Suffice it to say, it occurred to us more than once this weekend that social interaction was over-rated.

Lice can be treated within a day. It takes time and patience which, as you know, are in abundance in households with small children! You need first to kill the lice with some insecticide hair foam (two of us got that). Then you need to -- and this is the fine tooth comb bit -- carefully brush each hair individually -- applying liberal amounts of conditioner.

That led to conversations like this:
"Ow, you're pulling."

"I am just trying to get through these knots to the scalp. And if you would stop moving your head and look down that would help."

"But I can't see the TV."

"Well, I need to be able to see. Now just sit tight and behave yourself."

"I want to do something else. How much longer will it be?"

"It will be over when its over. Look we have to do this. Don't you want to go to work tomorrow? If I don't do it properly, we will be back here again. Do you really want that?"

"No, I guess not."
And what is true is that we have to do this again in a week's time just to be sure.

One good part of this is that we got to break out the kid's microscope. That proved surprisingly useful. For starters, lice and eggs can be small. This allowed us to identify them, their age, whether they hatched and whether they had not taken. The latter allowed us to rule out more aggressive treatment on one of us. It also meant we could date the treatment. I highly recommend your own lab work if you every encounter this. Turned the whole exercise into a scientific activity. And we needed it, this took most of the day but everyone is now clear.

Of course, all this made me wonder why there isn't some squad who can come in and take care of this for you. Let's face it, there are surely gains to be made from becoming expert here. I guess it probably has something to do with cross-contamination. But then again the same can be said of any medical service.