All about duct tape, warts and all

Friday, March 7, 2003

If you live long enough, something's bound to happen.

After all these years of being the No. 1 spokesman for the duct-tape industry, I am finally getting to see the gray, sticky stuff get the recognition it has always deserved.

Duct tape, as you all know by now, is the Official U.S. Tape of the war on terrorism.

Over the years, I've probably shared nearly a thousand uses for duct tape. There are, without a doubt, thousands more to come. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to have to put "duct tape" and "terrorism" in the same sentence.

But there you are.

A lot of folks have been asking a fairly reasonable question: What do I do with duct tape to keep me safe in these perilous times?

Good question, and I will attempt to give you an equally good answer.

I could rattle on at length about technical specifications in an effort to demonstrate why duct tape -- not masking tape, not cellophane tape, not electrical tape, not surgical tape, not measuring tape, not ticker tape, not videotape -- is really the only tape that can stand up to the rigorous anti-terrorist standards of a nation on alert.

But technical specifications are a tad boring.

Besides, the whole point of purchasing a fresh, big roll of duct tape isn't so much that you will actually use it. The comfort factor comes from knowing you have plenty of duct tape on hand -- if you ever need it.

And you never know what you'll need it for.

I've gone well over half a century without ever having a wart, for example. I never planned to have a wart. I didn't want a wart. I don't play with toads. In spite of my no-wart outlook on life, I got a wart on my hand late last year.

(Folks, I'll have you know my wife is choking on her morning bagel right about now. Civilized people -- and you know who they are -- don't go around telling other civilized people they have warts. Or head lice. Or a ringworm rash. But I'm a journalist who believes the truth will set you free -- or get you that stare that only a wife can give, the kind of look that says Beware of Burnt Food for a Few Days.)

At Christmastime, while older son was home for a visit, I started wearing a Compound W patch on my hand. MIT-educated older son observed that studies have proven than putting duct tape on a wart is more effective than Compound W -- news that, I'm sure, sent shivers down the spine of the Compound W marketing department in particular and the entire salicylic acid industry in general.

But I said I wanted to give Compound W a chance to do its stuff. What happened, though, was not part of the Compound W program. I'm pretty sure about that.

The patch, according to the directions, is supposed to last two days. It does. It also bonds to your skin. Ripping off the patch means (A) you lose a not-too-insignificant amount of skin or (B) large clumps of glue mark the outline of where the patch was. Removing the glue by rubbing vigorously, I soon learned, also removes skin.

So, at the end of a few weeks, I not only had a wart on my hand, but also several festering areas that looked like candidates for skin grafts. That's the bad news.

The good news is that when I stopped wearing the patch, it appeared the wart was gone. But who could tell? My hand was such a pulpy mess I could have had a tattoo of a nekkid lady and no one would have noticed.

(I just realized something: This isn't a pretty column for your Cheerios time of day, is it? Sorry.)

Now that my hand is pretty much healed, I can attest to the following:

Compound W doesn't work for me. Warts aren't all that bad. And I have a lifetime supply of duct tape.

I am a good American.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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