Stupid Tuesday questions, deviated phalanges edition

Behold a collection of toes.

At first glance, perhaps they appear entirely normal to you.  Indeed, they are normal in almost all respects.  There is the standard number, and they all point more or less in the correct direction.  None are discolored or markedly misshapen.  Each is blessed with a nail of its own, and they seem to go from big to small as one works from the inside outward.

But note the subtle finding.  There is a wee bit more floor visible between the second and third toes on the right than on the left.  The third toe on the right tends ever so very slightly more to starboard than it ought.  A difference that is easy to miss, but nonetheless present.  Yea, if a patient were to present with pain in the area of that toe, a vigilant examiner might note the finding as significant.

This particular set of toes belongs to an idiot.  More specifically, they belong to me.

Several months ago, I was walking down our stairs wearing thick, fuzzy woolen socks.  I have several pairs of this kind of winter sock, which I purchased at the Army surplus store because they are not only incredibly inexpensive, but also better than any other thick, woolen sock that I’ve found for cold weather.  They are by no means fashionable, but they are very, very warm.  What they are not good for, however, is traction on wooden stairs.

And so, out from under me went my feet and straight down onto my ass I fell.  After a short period of swearing and walking off the pain, I recovered.  Over the next few days, the expected soreness in my backside developed and resolved without incident.

What I had not appreciated at the time of the slip and fall, however, was that I had also struck my right foot against some lateral structure of the staircase.  While not initially painful, as the soreness in my rump waned, the pain in my foot waxed.  “Hmmmm,” thought I, “I wonder if I damaged something in my foot.  Perhaps I even sustained a small fracture.”

And then I proceeded to run on it.  Several times.  Exactly like I would if there were no injury whatsoever.  And entirely contrary to the advice I would give any patient who came in with a similar complaint and history.

Indeed, following any period of time when I went without running, the pain would improve.  And then I would run again, and it would worsen.  But run again I would, regardless.  Every so often I would poke at the base of my intermittently painful toe and ponder my own foolishness, at no time actually modifying my behavior.

And then I noted that the toe was no longer pointing in quite the correct direction.  Of late I have been buddy taping it to the properly-aligned toe to its left.  It doesn’t hurt as much when I do that, and no longer throbs at its base when I run.  (But of course I’m still running on it.)  But as soon as the tape comes off at bedtime, off to starboard it drifts again.

Because I am an idiot who ignores the advice I would charge other people to dispense.

So that is, of course, this week’s Question — what stupid thing have you done that was not merely idiotic, but also contrary to what you would have advised others to do?  Super bonus points for behavior that contradicts advice you would dole out in your professional capacity and/or that you knew better than to do but did anyway.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I once did kind of the same stupid thing you did. Except it was a metatarsal — inside the foot — so a more serious injury. The doctor looked at my X-ray and said, “I’ll tell you exactly what happened. You got a stress fracture while running, and you ignored it, and ran on it anyway, and you broke it clean through.”

    He was entirely correct. I had. And that was the end of track season for me.

  2. Heh. My right pinky is permanently crooked with limited flex/mobility because in HS I caught a weird bounce off the basketball.

    I thought it was “jammed” (what does that even MEAN, anyway? Is it just something high-schoolers say instead of “sprained”?) so for the next TWO WEEKS I would periodically pull/twist it, trying to “pop it back in place” (I didn’t say I was a SMART student, just one with an exceptionally high tolerance for pain).

    When I finally went to the doctor, they informed me that had I just come in immediately, a simple splint would have done the trick for my (obviously, duh) broken finger, but my fiddling with it had caused one of the bones (it was broken right at the knuckle) to be rotated 180 degrees from where it should be (flipped upside-down, basically), so it was surgery for me (however, while it was open to put things back together and pin the joint, they discovered the tendon was also torn, so surgery would likely have been required anyway).

    Here’s hoping your injury is less-permanent and visible than my stupid one. Thank god it’s just my pinky, since unless you’re a pianist you don’t really need it, and its crook/curve is still suited well enough for gripping.

  3. How about this for ignoring my own professional advice?

    Here’s me, talking to a client in court at 10:00 a.m.:

    I know the documents are complex, but there’s just no substitute for reading them yourself. Someone with a financial interest in the transaction might get you to sign something that isn’t true and will come back to haunt you years later. So you just have to read them before you sign them.

    Then here’s me, talking to a mortgage broker at 6:00 p.m. the same day:

    Wow, I can refinance at under 4%? Sure, I’ll sign! Fifty-eight different loan documents, you say? No problem, I trust you!

  4. As a professional interested in strategic behavior, I warn people to not fly off the handle and settle for the cheap satisfaction of giving someone a piece of your mind, but to think several steps down the road–how will they react if you fly off the handle? will it really get you the outcome you desire? What action could you take instead that would be more likely to achieve your real goal vis a vis this other person?

    I don’t follow this advice nearly as often as I should.

  5. I did something similar with my right foot. I was chasing after the dog and I slammed – SLAMMED – my foot into the leg of our couch. Darlene was out, and I was finishing up our move and we had to get everything out of our old place that night. So after collapsing in pain for about 15 minutes, I went back to moving, even though I could barely walk.

    Darlene later suggested I should have gone to the hospital, but as I pointed out, there was no choice but to keep going with the move, and by the next day, I figured any damage I had done was done.

    I had a hard time walking for a couple of weeks. There were some shoes that I just couldn’t wear (and once I got a pair on, I didn’t dare take it off while at work, because my foot would swell up and I wouldn’t be able to get it back on for the walk home).

    Having broken many bones, I am absolutely certain I broke a bone (probably multiple) in my foot. The toe beside my pinky toe got the worst of it. It’s now pointing slightly more outward, but that’s not the really messed up part. The joint closest to the foot now sticks up. The toe just won’t lie flat. It is significant enough that now that toe appears shorter than the pinky toe, and I can notice that it presses against the top of a shoe.

  6. “Super bonus points for behavior that contradicts advice you would dole out in your professional capacity and/or that you knew better than to do but did anyway.”

    It hasn’t happened quite yet but in a few years… oh boy!

    I used to routinely play basketball on a sprained ankle… as in I’d injure it, sit a few plays out, and then get back in. Several ongoing and nagging ankle injuries later and two separate stints in physical therapy, I’ve learned to stop doing such silliness. Though I don’t know that I necessarily ever advised against it.

    I do actively encourage people to self-advocate, sometimes giving very specific advice about how to phrase complaints to loved ones or grievances with colleagues and bosses. But… I’m not so good at it myself. And I do push this heavy with my students… so I guess super bonus points are in order!

  7. “It’s not worth it.”

    (and, yup, in my professional capacity, I have often given that advice. I do TRY to remember it. but sometimes I forget.)

  8. What stupid thing have you done that was not merely idiotic, but also contrary to what you would have advised others to do?

    There’s a crack in the shower stall. I know that water is getting behind it. I haven’t fixed it yet.

    I don’t have a generator yet. Next to a pair of 55 gallon drums of drinking water, a generator is probably the second most useful piece of equipment to have after a major disaster. Oh, I don’t have the drums yet, either.

    I stay up too late, I eat too many carbs.

    Just about everything else, though, I’m depressingly old and uber pragmatic.

    • Maybe where you live. Where I live, the most useful thing to have in case of a major disaster is the ability to hotwire a car.

        • Los Angeles basin.

          Next to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which has the added bonus of being offshore and thus possibly making tsunamis to go with it, we’re on track for a big quake before I retire.

        • Not me. Pittsburgh. Nearly the least likely place to have a natural disaster (and I live 400 ft above the rivers).

  9. Oh — ingrown toenails. (The ones that ingrow at the base, not the tip). I’ve suffered them for years — they’ve all been fixed (basically they kill a bit of the nail bed on that side to keep them from reoccuring), except for one stubborn one that wont die and I fighting.

    When my mother got one, I told her flat out “Go to the podiatrist right away. Do not fuss with pedicures, do not hope it gets better. Shove your foot into warm water and epsom salts twice a day until you can. Get it done.”

    That is advice I don’t really follow. I generally come in only once I can’t walk without limping. Or I try to fix it myself, which never works and is a horrible idea, and yet I keep trying.

    (Although, on the funny side, my mom went mostly because I told her the procedure didn’t hurt at all and the aftermath, when the local wears off, is no worse than a moderate headache. Which is true. You can’t feel a thing and the aftermath is pretty mild. The shots, on the other hand, are ridiculously painful. Somehow, I failed to warn her of that. Mostly so she’d go).

    And I also have a crack in my shower, right on the floor. Which I haven’t fixed. I tell myself that because it passes right through the drain, it can’t be that bad.

  10. Doctors are known to be the worst patients. Trust me, I live with three doctors (My parents and my sister in law) and one medical student (my sister).

  11. “I don’t need to set-up automatic system backups. I’ll just do it manually on a regular basis.” -Will Truman, liar.

    (Fortunately, the scare of my life has set me right on this.)

    • Mozy@home has made me a happy man. Not terribly cheap, sadly, but depends on your storage needs.

    • This is mine, too, along with a dose of “I don’t need to double-check that I backed everything up before this system rebuild…I _know_ I did it!”


      • Equivalent to, “I’m sure I turned off this circuit” before replacing an electrical outlet. The shock won’t do you real damage, but you will sincerely regret your complaisance.

  12. “Always write unit tests, especially when you’re very busy. In the long run, they save far more time than it took to create them.”

  13. About ten years ago, I was up on a rooftop at an industrial site doing some work.
    There was a crew of roofers up there, and so I wanted to warn them away from my work area. I had some chemicals and a torch out.
    “Be careful if you’re going to be over here. It’s hot,” I told them.
    They assured me they were not going to work in that area.
    Not five seconds after, there was a stream of yelling on my part. Some flesh-vaporizing heat there, the type where you see a puff of steam.
    “You just got done telling us not to touch that,” their foreman said.
    I told him, “I just wanted to make sure it was still hot enough to keep you away from it.”

  14. Do the correct citation for your footnotes as you write. I’m approaching some very frustrating revisions now for my dissertation.

  15. Since I’m pretty public about my incessent running, I tend to be the go-to for relatively beginning runners I know approaching races.My standard advice for a new distance is always to “Set your goal at finishing without a time in mind. Then you can be proud of that, and know where your capability lies – 2nd time we’ll worry about time.”

    so EVERY time before a new type of race, I’m obsessing over split times and setting impossible timegoals, and end up pissed that I dont make them.

    And then there’s my “you HAVE to do hills and speedwork”, from someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a track since the leaves were turning.

  16. Sprained my knee (had a torn ACL) and then continued to catch 2 more games that day on it during a softball tournament in 90+ degree heat with 90+ % humidity.

    I never knew you could actually drain that much fluid off a joint before…

  17. I tell students they should be organized and follow a calendar and work steadily and regularly. HA!

  18. You should always update your resume when you get a new job (so it’s ready when you start your next job search).

    I do not do that.

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