Thursday, September 25, 2014

the mystery of the itchy left elbows

Back at work from California, I absently scratched my left elbow.  "I think I got poison oak when I was out there," I said.  "But just on my elbow."

My assistant looked at me incredulously.  "ME TOO!" he yelled, displaying a rash in the same spot.  I had taken over the California assignment from him.  We approached the employee who had been managing the helicopter before both of us and asked the question.

"Yes, but I just thought I had dry skin," he said, distracted by the prescribed burn we were supporting.

We looked at each other.  It had to be something on the armrest of the vehicle that we had all driven.  We eyed K., our usual carrier monkey, but this time he was blameless; he hadn't been anywhere near the car.

I sent a voice message over the Voxer app to the person who currently had the car.  "Do you have an itchy left elbow?" I asked.

"What? NO!" he answered, sounding apprehensive.

"Well, it's probably in the mail," I said.  "You might want to clean off the armrest."

We are at a loss.  Was it poison oak, and if so, how did it get in the car, and only on the armrest?  Managing the helicopter, you typically do not encounter poisonous plants like you do on the fireline. Here is where our CSI skills fail us.  What else could it be?

Any ideas?


  1. Somebody had it on the nomex shirt they wore.

  2. There was only enough poison oak to infect three people.

  3. The phrase "carrier monkey" made me laugh. Since my stepkids usually pass along every cold or virus or germ that they have to me, I started calling them carrier monkeys.

    Could it be a chemical of some sort that got onto the arm rest and irritated your skin, instead of poison oak?

  4. All really good theories! Yes, possibly it was poison oak and wore off, or some sort of chemical...hopefully nothing to do with tarantulas!


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