Monday, May 08, 2006

Clothes Hanger Thumb

The report of Micheal Rix's discovery of the first housefly of spring has prompted some questions abouth Mr. Rix's physical malady called clothes hanger thumb. This is an occupational hazard commonly found in the laundry trade.

Medical doctors and physical therapists can easily spot this condition. Its main symptoms are excessive callouses and dry, scaly skin in the crook of the thumb where it conjoins with the other phalangeal bones and ligaments. This condition, over time, is often accompanied by hypertrophy of the proximal thumb muscles, localized digital neuritis, and an atrophy of the natural webbing that normally cushions the thumb joint from trauma.

Clothes hanger thumb is caused by repeated minor insults to the afflicted area when the patient uses the thumb joint to support wire clothes hangers weighted down with starched shirts and pressed pants. Laboratory coats, hospital exam room johnnies, curtains, suit jackets, and ironed table cloths also add stress to the pressure points used to transport finished products to the customer. Many laundry professionals carry more than one clothes hanger at a time in the crook of their thumb as a matter of efficiency. This only exacerbates the condition.

Mr. Rix is a jack of many trades. He has learned and used many skills over the course of his life. Over the past serveral years he has had a rewarding career as a laundry quartermaster. Every morning, he loads his van with finished cloth goods prepared at an extensive dry cleaning depot located in central New London. He then drives to locations across eastern Connecticut to make deliveries. At each destination, he carries hangers full of clean textiles from his van to various receiveing ports.

Among delivery truck drivers, Mr. Michael Rix is a living legend. Man and machine are perfectly matched as Mr. Rix deftly navigates Connecticut's highways and twisty backroads. Mr Rix steers his van with a nonchalant, practiced bravado. His radio is permanently tuned to a national news station and his job takes him all over the Nutmeg State's landscape. His is attuned to the events and the issues on the international stage as well as at the smallest, local level.

Among laundry men, Mr. Rix is a standard to which apprentices aspire. While he favors his left hand for light deliveries, at larger clients he has used both hands, each supporting two dozen hooks heavy with laundry. During a blizzard in 2003, Mr. Rix carried an entire university dormatory shipment in one trip from his van to the building's back door. He used his driving hand and his clothes hanger hand, and when he ran out of room, he hung the remainder from the back band of this baseball cap. When Mr. Rix waded through knee deep snow to successfully make this delivery, the staff at the loading dock gave him an extended standing ovation. One gentleman tried to provide musical accompaniment by playing The Battle Hymn of the Republic while Mr. Rix made his way through the snow. Unfortunately, he was using a paper towel wrapped around a comb so he didn't have the range of notes he needed. All he could manage wat Taps, but it was a stirring feat to witness nonetheless.

Mr. Rix comes by his clothes hanger thumb honestly. It is a badge he has earned. Sometimes it troubles him when he lies in bed and feels it throb after a long day. Most of the time he is happy to hurt in the service of a job well done.

Mr. Rix, all of us who wear clean clothes salute you with gratitude. Ole!

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