Saturday, April 5, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Google Unglued

Superglue (Omegatron via Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

I was attempting to glue back a broken handle when it happened: The Superglue erupted out of the squeeze-tube and instead of a single drop settling on the handle as intended, a cascade splashed over my fingertips, and before I knew what had happened, two of my fingers, formerly separate and functioning as independent digits on my left hand, were welded together. Tight -- the tightest, most secure Superglue bond I have ever seen out of all the attempts in my life to Superglue separate items together. I must have stared at my hand good 20 seconds in astonishment, giving the bond time to strengthen further, before galloping off to the sink to try to wash the stuff off with soap and water. Which, to my complete surprise, accomplished absolutely nothing. What a hold that stuff has…when it actually works, which it seldom does, in my experience, when the two separate parts are made of china.

Still, I wasn’t dismayed. This must happen to people all the time. I’ll just Google the answer…if I can type with one hand, that is. The very first thing that came up was this: The Wikihow answer -- make a thick paste out of table salt and water, rub gently, and repeat as needed. Simple enough. But not good enough. Despite multiple salt-paste wash and rinse attempts, my fingers remained stuck together as one unit.

Back to Google, and this time I knew better than to pick a solution based on search ranking The “wiki” method of relying on popular response to identify the best answer to a question may be fine when you need to know which boy band is the cutest, but there’s no reason to expect it offer you the right way to break down a chemical bond. For that you need an expert. And what better expert than the manufacturer of the substance that produced the bond? Let the makers of Superglue tell me how to unglue myself. I went back to the search results to find the hit from the Superglue Corporation and came up with this: -- the fourth one down on the list of search results.

The Superglue Corporation says to use acetone, the main ingredient in nail polish remover. Easy enough, I figured, until I looked at my bottle of nail polish remover and with a sinking feeling realized it was one of those environmentally-friendly/kind-to-your-sensitive-skin types, entirely ACETONE FREE! Was there any of the old-fashioned hard stuff in the house? After (one-handedly) combing through some basement shelves and cabinets, I discovered the three-quarters-evaporated remnants of a bottle sitting in a box of decades-old dried-out children’s art supplies. It still had that pungent smell. And when applied to Superglued skin, it worked in an instant. My fingers were free!

And the take-away lesson learned from this incident? It could be any of the following choices:

A. Superglue is best used when your goal is to weld your fingers together; it’s not much use for any other kind of bonding.
B. There’s a value in keeping things like old nail polish remover; you never know when it may come in handy.
C. Never assume the number one result of a Google search will yield the right answer.
D. Never try to fix anything; just get new stuff.

An argument may be made for each, but personally, I’m going with D.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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