Carvel Tunnel

(written with D. M. Burke)

Cookie Puss Crowd” Putting Wrists at Risk of Devastating Disorder

You scream, I scream!

That next “Fudgy” could give you a handful of trouble, experts say

Last fall, Millicent L., a Mary Kay sales consultant from Dayton, Ohio, could not figure out what was happening to her. Every time she picked up the phone, brushed her hair, typed an e-mail, or cut a pork chop, she had an attack of stabbing pain in her right wrist, followed by frenetic, involuntary finger movements. Then one day she woke up and found that her right hand had rotated a full 180 degrees and was essentially on backwards, with the palms facing out instead of in. Devastated and ashamed to shake hands with her clients, she sought medical help.

“The doctor was mystified. . .he’d never seen anything like this before. But he didn’t think it was too serious. . . . He suggested I wear gloves and try to ignore it. Just before I left his office though, I picked up my bag and I had one of the worst attacks yet. I noticed the doctor staring in surprise at my fingers as they moved.

” ‘Do you realize that you just spelled you’re a whale of a dad in sign language?’

“When I told him I didn’t even know how to wave hello in sign language, the doctor grew even more perplexed. I was sent home with a prescription for Thorazine, but basically, all it did was make me stutter and drool. I thought maybe I could do what the doctor suggested and ignore it, but finally, when I was accosted by a deaf woman on the bus who witnessed an attack and thought I was calling her a fudgy whale, I got fed up and contacted a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. He took one look at my backwards hand and asked if I happened to be fond of ice cream cake. He knew right away what I had. When he broke the news, I was devastated. . . . I’d never felt so alone in my life.”

Millicent is hardly alone, though. Today, it is estimated that as many as 1.2 million people may be suffering from a devastating disorder: Carvel Tunnel Syndrome.

What Is Carvel Tunnel Syndrome?

Carvel Tunnel syndrome is a recently recognized disorder that is afflicting an ever-growing number of US citizens. It is caused by repetitive motion, and typically occurs when a person attempts to saw his way through an under-thawed Carvel theme cake, such as Fudgy the Whale, Cookie Puss, or Freezy the Clown.

The initial symptoms of Carvel tunnel syndrome—episodes of numbness, tingling or aching in the fingers, wrist, and/or forearm—are vague and mimic another wrist ailment called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which may lead to misdiagnosis. Eventually, though, the wrist pain is accompanied by episodes of involuntary “signing,” usually spelling out one or more of Tom Carvel’s widely recognized ad slogans. Among slogans reported by sufferers, “Have a Whale of a Father’s Day” and “Gotta get a Cookie Puss” are the most frequently quoted.

SloganIncidence of signing
Have a Whale of a Father’s Day
Gotta get a Cookie Puss
Isn’t that a beau-tee-ful item?
Come on down to your local Cah-vel store
Cah-vel, the freshest ice cream in the woild

Advanced symptoms included outward rotation of the hand, with the wrist assuming the tumid shape of a soft-serve cone.

All Carvel Cakes are not created equal

Growing awareness of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome has sparked efforts to understand more about the dynamics of the disease, and which cakes in particular are associated with a high risk of causing it. The following are the results of a recent bio-kinetic study in which chimpanzees were trained to repeatedly cut samples of specific frozen Carvel ice cream cakes and then assessed for injury to the wrist. Unfortunately, crowd favorites, such as Fudgy the Whale, Cookie Puss, and Freezy the Clown caused the highest rate of injury, whereas the less popular low-fat, low-calorie items were associated with a low rate of injury.

Risk of Injury with Carvel Ice Cream Cakes

Product Name% Injury
Witchy Witch57%
Cookie Puss68%
Fudgy the Whale75%
Flying Saucer51%
Tom the Turkey59%

Currently existing options for managing Carvel Tunnel Syndrome underscore the need for new alternatives

Currently, there are only two ways to alleviate the devastating effects of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome: Abstain from eating Carvel Cakes or allow the cake to soften before cutting it. Neither option is acceptable to most sufferers.

“Give up Carvel cakes? They have been at the core of our family celebrations for years. . . . I can’t imagine a birthday, Thanksgiving, or bris, without one! This would be a devastatingly devastating loss for me and my family” Millicent laments. Still, she knows she may have to wave goodbye to Witchy Witches and Fudgy Whales if she ever wants her hand to rotate back to its normal position. “Do you know how hard it is to apply mascara and eyeliner when your hand is on backwards? It ends up all over my face. As a makeup consultant, this is devastating!”

The other option, allowing the cake to thaw to a point where it can be cut with little or no pressure on the wrist, is not a reliable solution either. When Millicent tried this, the results were devastating: As she pressed a knife into a half-thawed Fudgy cake, melted chocolate leaked all over the table and stained the family’s prized heirloom—a doily that her grandmother had been commissioned to tat as a head piece for Queen Victoria, but that had been deemed too risqué by the royal mother herself after she tried it on and noticed too much of her naked scalp remained exposed through the fine lace.

“This doily meant so much to us. . . . Not only did it once grace the head of Queen Victoria, we have taken great pains to preserve a strand of royal hair that her highness shed onto it when she tried it on! Can you imagine the money we could have gotten for this on e-bay? We had a new yacht picked out!” Millicent explains with obvious devastation. “No point in trying to sell it now, though. . . with this stupid sh*t brown stain right in the middle of it, everyone’s going to think she used it to wipe her a**!”

Unfortunately, avoiding similarly disastrous consequences when trying to cut a partially thawed cake depends on split second timing that few can achieve. As Rupert Fructose, an expert in bio-mechanics explains: “Thermodynamic studies show that there is only about a two minute window when Carvel cakes are soft enough to cut through without the aid of a jackhammer and hacksaw, yet still firm enough not to fall apart and spew melted goop all over the place. You miss that window, and you’ve got a formless mess on your hands.”

Hope for better treatment is on the horizon

Recognizing the gravity of this disorder, the Carvel Corporation has recently joined Pharmacobiomed, Inc. in a collaborative effort to research drugs and devices that may help patients manage this devastating disease.

One promising drug under development interferes with the nerve impulses that generate finger movements and shows promise in reducing involuntary signing. So far, the product appears to be safe; side effects are limited to temporary paralysis of the feet and face that is completely reversible upon discontinuation.

Bio-engineers are also hard at work developing an implantable rod that will stabilize the wrist, thereby reducing the risk of injury during the cake-cutting process. This, combined with a new line of self-heating electronic cutting utensils called “Carvel Cutlery,” may prevent Carvel Tunnel Syndrome in a majority of ice cream cake fans.

Finally, Carvel is funding research on the effects of SSRI antidepressants combined with high-dose diazepam on patients’ s ability to cope with with over-thawed cakes. Initial studies have shown that patients put on these combined medications are more relaxed and exhibit less anger than patients on placebo when an over-thawed cake collapses during cutting and squirts melted chocolate ice cream all over a brand new linen table cloth. If these findings prove statistically significant, SSRIs could be approved for treatment of Post-Traumatic Carvel Tunnel Syndrome within the next year.

For those at risk, Carvel Tunnel can be prevented

Until newer, more acceptable treatments are available, the best way to deal with Carvel Tunnel Syndrome is to prevent it from developing in the first place. The first step is to assess your risk for developing the disease.

Are you at risk of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome?

1. Do you frequently imagine you hear the voice of Tom Carvel saying, “You gotta get a Cookie Puss?” and then drive 30 miles out of your way to purchase one?

3. Do you have a tendency to mark every occasion with a frozen novelty, including the death of a relative and National Eructation Disorder Awareness Day?

4. Do you still fantasize about earning the title of “Little Miss Half Pint?”


If you responded “yes” to one or more question, you could be at risk!

Besides these risk factors, other traits common to most sufferers that may herald a predisposition to developing Carvel Tunnel Syndrome include:

  • 50 pounds overweight
  • Frequently attend/host Amway or Dutchmaid parties
  • Own one or more Barca-loungers
  • History of dental problems
  • Ability to do near-perfect imitations of Tom Carvel
  • Often skip dinner and double up on desserts
  • Live within one mile of a Carvel franchise store

If you think you may be at risk, it is important to see your doctor. He or she can prescribe one of many medications that may or may not help. In addition, the steps below can help you avoid the devastating effects of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome.

  1. Serve no more than one Carvel Ice cream cake per month. If the urge for a Carvel treat is overwhelming, stick to soft serve items.
  2. Choose the cakes least likely to cause injury (sorry, Dad, but you may have to settle for the more pliable Kitty Cat Cake instead of the wrist pulverizing Fudgy the Whale).
  3. Cut only softened cakes. . .to keep the mess at bay, Carvel suggests buying plastic painting tarps to protect tables, rugs, and furnishings when cutting an over-thawed cake. You can also ask your local beautician to purchase a few of those bibs they use for you. . .they are great at keeping molten cake sludge off your clothes!
  4. If you find you absolutely must cut an under-thawed cake, always use a table saw or chain saw (be careful not to cut off any digits)

Although these steps may seem extreme, they have been shown to reduce the risk of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome. And when it comes to this devastating disorder, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of Carvel.

Need help?

If you are suffering from Carvel Tunnel Syndrome, log on to www.light at the end of There, you can join thousands of others like you who are struggling to find ways to cope and overcome the devastating effects of Carvel Tunnel Syndrome. You can also get information about locating a CREAM (Coping Realistically with Ergonomically Abnormal Mitts) support group in your area.

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