A recent home handyman job turned nearly tragic for yours truly. I figure the lesson learned may help others too.

I was mounting curtains / curtain-rods on some house windows, with the little ones gawking nearby and my dear lady wife periodically helping hold something large and bulky up to the ceiling. I was to drill six puny holes into the drywall/wood for screw anchors, and later drive screws in there. Because of the poor design of this particular curtain rod mechanism, one has to assemble the entire curtain kit on the ground (panels, rods, brackets, everything), before one can nail them to the wall. So, this last part is clumsy, having to lift the whole assembly up, while maneuvering with screwdrivers and screws on top of a ladder.

Doesn’t sound too bad. The six little holes into the drywall were easy and shallow enough that, in my infinite (indefinite) wisdom, I did not require safety goggles. I just concentrated on squinting and leaning far away from the drilling-in-progress that no flying goop hit my face. Smug in success, this precaution proved unnecessary by my specific focus on this danger.

On the other hand, the job was not quite done. After the drilling, came the assembly, lifting, and screwing-in. I was all relaxed by this time, having finished with the scary power tool. However, my hands were full, with a less scary power tool (screw driver), screws, and here I was climbing, maneuvering, leveling, as if it were all routine, lulling me into carelessness. Sure enough, about a minute into this process, I turned, moved my tool-filled hands too fast and too close, and ended up … lightly STABBING MY OWN LOWER EYELID with a sharp tool. Skin wasn’t broken, and I am OK, but still, unbelievable. I was within millimeters of a possibly life-altering injury.

My smugness dissipated along with my confidence. I thought about it a bit, and realized something. Safety measures are not just for the single most obvious, largest hazard, which one may prevent by conscious focus anyway. They are for other hazards too, like the ones people don’t consider, and the ones deemed minor enough that one doesn’t concentrate on avoiding.