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How to remove a ring from your finger without a firearm

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[An astute reader brought the sad tale of Alfredo Malspini III to my attention, and lest any of you shoot off a finger to spite a ring, I thought I’d share some practical advice about ring-removal that I wrote up a few years back.]

There you are on a Saturday night, futzing with your wedding ring because your wife thinks your trichotillomania makes you look mangy: off your left ring finger, onto your right pinkie; off your right pinkie, onto your left pinkie; off your left pinkie, onto your right ring finger; off your right ring finger, off your right ring finger, OFF YOUR RIGHT RING FINGER, non et cetera. You pull and you twist; you pull while twisting and you twist while pulling all to no avail.

You look at your wife and you tell her, “I’ve misplaced my wedding band.”  She will look at you, j’accuse burning in her eyes, until you hold up your right hand. She will then enter the kitchen and return with the ingredients required to perform Step One:

1. Apply cold water and a little soap.  Gently work the soap under the ring and twist. If the ring still does not come off, massage the area of the finger below the knuckle to remove some of the fluid from the finger. Wait a few minutes, then repeat. Continue until the finger is good and chafed.

After fifteen minutes of repeated failure, your wife will walk back into the kitchen and return with the materials needed for Step Two:

2. Dry the chafed finger with hand towel, then apply the following in any order: water-based lubricants, oil-based lubricants, semi-solid fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, as well as any lard, suet, ghee, tallow, or schmaltz you find lying around. As with the soap and water, work the slippery substance under the ring and twist and turn. Carefully slip a knife under the ring and try to slide it over the knuckle. If the ring-bearer cries in pain, ascertain whether its source is the ring jamming on the knuckle or the knife slicing into it.

This too will fail. Your wife will walk back into the kitchen yet again. Take this opportunity to try to wash your hilariously lubed finger. The water-based lubricants will dissolve quickly, but the oil-based lubricants, semi-solid fats, suet, schmaltz, &c. will take some time. Expect to find an oily residue scumming the top of the bucket used in Step Three:

3. Thrust your hand into the bucket of ice water which your wife has brought in from the kitchen. Leave it in there until the ring-bearer screams. When he does, shoot him a look of unconcealed embarrassment with a hint of disappointment, then allow him to “tough” it out for another three minutes. Once he passes out, remove his hand from the bucket and check to see that the desired amount of vasoconstriction has occurred, then repeat steps one and two.

You may notice that despite the intense cold and vigorous oily massaging, the area above the ring becomes increasingly swollen. This is normal. God designed the human body intelligently: when you unsuccessfully attempt to remove a ring from a swollen finger, your body responds by further swelling the finger. It may also turn begin to turn dark as more and more blood rushes to into the injured finger. Now would be a good time to consult the Internet. Find the Ask MetaFilter thread on “ring removal” and proceed to Step Four:

4. Do what the jewelers do: spray Windex on the finger and twist and pull. Do it again. Then again. The trick is to do this repeatedly so as to unlock the magical lubricative power of Windex. Then consider the probable reason jewelers use Windex: a jewelery shop consists almost entirely of display cases and Windex is sort of wet. At this point it will be past midnight. There is nothing more you can do. Put away the Windex and have the ring-bearer proceed to Step Five.

5. What you need to do now, ring-bearer, is drink enough vodka to catch a few hours of restless sleep in which you alternate between dreams in which you are Hans Brinker, son of a sluicer, and Hans Brinker, son of a space station captain. Alcohol is a diuretic, which should help with the swelling. Eat some pistachio nuts too, since salt absorbs water. There is also the chance that your finger may mysteriously unswell during the night.

6. You will awake to discover that your finger has not mysteriously unswollen during the night. That it has, in fact, swelled larger and darkened ominously. You should consult the Internet to learn that 1) fingers are naturally more swollen in the morning, 2) your body responds to a) alcohol-induced dehydration and b) the massive amount of sodium found in pistachio nuts by swelling. Now panic.

You may want to panic for a good long while. Remember, this is your right ring finger, and although you are ambidextrous, relearning how to do everything with your left hand will still be unthinkably inconvenient. Once you can breathe again, go online and learn what you need to do for Step Seven:

7. Elevate the hand above your heart for 15-20 minutes, then repeat steps one and two. When that fails to work, place a bucket of ice water on a chair, sit on the floor, then elevate it into the bucket and repeat steps three, one and two in that order. Pine for the mangy days of yore, then consult the internet again and proceed to Step Eight.

Step Eight will require string or dental floss, but have no fear, for it is endorsed by The Harvard School of Medicine.

Step Eight, Part the First:

“Pass an end of fine string or dental floss under the ring. With the other end, begin tightly wrapping the string around the finger. Ensure that the string is wrapped evenly and smoothly past the lower knuckle.”

Step Eight, Part the Second:

“With the end that was passed under the ring, begin unwrapping the string in the same direction. The ring should move over the string as the string is unwrapped.”

It should, but it will not. In fact, the act of wrapping the fluid-engorged finger will cause pain the likes of which reasonable people compare to birth-pangs. This will make your move to Step Eight, Part the Third particularly daring.

Step Eight, Part the Third:

Repeat variations of Step Eight, Parts the First and Second with packing tape, then Saran Wrap. When you regain consciousness, consider picking up the telephone and calling your local jeweler or emergency room. Exhausted interns and jewelers both keep one of these handy for just such an occasion.

Now pony up the $35 it costs for the jeweler to repair it, and resume plucking the hairs from your beard one at a time. If your wife complains, remind her of what happened the last time. If she insists on reminding you about your mother’s favorite story—about the time you got your head stuck in a toilet seat and the rescue squad had to be called in, and since your father drove an ambulance with that very squad, all the paramedics knew you and teased you  as they used the jaws of life to extricate your head,[*] and did your mother mention she has a picture of you bawling, the toilet seat around your head, which she took while she waited for the paramedics to arrive, because she does and it is around here somewhere—if she insists on reminding you of that, turn up the television and pretend you can’t hear her, because you can’t win this one.

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