Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not The Best Way to Lose Weight

I am terrible with dates. I'd barely remember my own birthday if folks didn't bring it up first. But there is one date that is forever burned into my brain. Thursday, May 5, 1994. That was the day that I tried, unsuccessfully, to hold hands with a running table saw. Rosebuckle and C.L., please feel free to correct me if I get any of this tale wrong. I was working for a now-defunct theatre in Jupiter, Florida. It was the first day of the build for The Music Man, and I had the unfortunate task of ripping 1x3s. To do this required the use of the table saw. This is a largeish saw that is used to make long, wide boards into long narrow boards. It is a ferocious and unforgiving device, but quite necessary, and safe when used properly. It is also very loud, so I tend to wear ear plugs when using it. On this day I had been ripping for at least an hour when my one of my coworkers brought me a whole new stack to cut. Here is where I made my first mistake. Rather than turn the saw off, walk away, and get my bearings back, I just started in on the new stack. Unfortunately I didn't realize that I was in the grip of a form of white-line fever. The job was so repetitive, and the ear plugs so isolating, that I began paying more attention to my inner voice than to the spinning blade in front of my. This did not last long, however. As I finished a cut, and was absent-mindedly reaching for the next board I heard a loud 'thwump!', and a short, sharp shock ran up my arm to my elbow. 'Dammit!' I thought. 'I've cut myself.' Then it dawned on me just what tool I was working with, and I realized that I had done quite more than 'just cut myself'. I unclenched my right fist from around my left thumb and witnessed the havoc wrought there. It looked like the end of my thumb had been exploded from within. Mental shock mixed with disbelief flooded my mind and I began to slowly walk away from the saw. Part of my mind worried about leaving the saw running, since that is a big safety no-no, but the rest of my mind shouted that I had a bigger worry. By this time Deb, who was in command of the shop, had noticed that something was wrong and came over to me. I told her that I had just cut my thumb off, and then the dizziness inspired me to sink to my knees, since that seemed a better choice than falling down. She asked if I wanted and ambulance, and later teased me for my politeness in the face of dismemberment because I responded that no, I didn't think I needed an ambulance, but if someone wouldn't mind driving me to a hospital I'd be grateful. I think Chris asked if he should look for the thumb, but there really wouldn't have been anything to look for, or so I thought(more on that later) so I told him no. I remember being remarkably calm through the whole affair, although the ride from the shop to the hospital is a blurred jumble of nausea and self-recrimination. There was an intern working in the shop then, whose name I cannot recall, who was a lovely, sweet and very hard working young woman. In my somewhat distracted state I gave her the unpleasant job of calling my mom, with whom I was living at the time, to tell her that I was going to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital and the two ladies helped me out of the car, we realized I was still wearing my tool belt. The intern immediately knelt in front of my and removed it. Just to show you that the male pig-brain is indefatigable, I actually thought to myself 'of all the times for this fantasy to come true...' The following week was spent in the hospital with my hand hanging from an IV stand. I got very lucky that the on-call doctor that day was also a very skilled hand surgeon who spent two hours rebuilding the end of my thumb whereas most doctors would have just cut it off at the knuckle and been done with it. As it is I lost 3/4", but the nail grew back and most people don't notice it unless I point it out. It was three weeks before I was strong enough to go back to the shop to visit, and at that time they presented me with a gift. Chris had taken the boards that had been on the saw at the time of the accident, and had been sprayed with blood, and stapled them together to preserve the pattern. He gave them to me telling me that they saved my thumb for me. Most people thought that was pretty gross, but I thought it was hilarious, and saved those board for more than a decade. My brother also came down to visit, bringing with him a thimble with a hook sticking out of it for me to wear.
All in all I was out of work for three months, and cost Workman's Comp untold thousands of dollars. You never know how much you use your thumbs until you can't any more. Thing like tying your shoes, or buttoning a shirt, or driving a stick shift all become infinitely more difficult with only one hand, and let me tell you that the elastic waistbands of underwear are not your friend when you only have one hand. So appreciate the parts you've got, gentle readers, for unlike the lizard's tail, our bits don't grow back.



Stinkypaw said...

Intersting tale, thanks for sharing and despite everything you WERE very lucky. Your friends & brother have a wrap sense of humour btw, but I do think it was funny.

rosebuckle said...

I only have one correction to make.
You didn't ask if some one could drive you to the hospial, you said you thought you could make it there yourself! That's why I teased you. I'm amazed you can remember so much. As white as you are, you were even whiter on the drive over. I was sure you were going to pass out in the car.
I can't remember which apprentice it was either, but I do recall that you still had on your tool belt.

C.L. Jahn said...

It might have been Nicole with the belt. She's the one who would have been steady enough to send out with an emergency like that.

But you were remarkably calm. I remember only one epletive, and as I crossed the shop to find out what happened, I heard you very calmly state "I just cut my thumb off" in a very matter-of-fact manner.

Marius said...

Yes, it was Nicole! I hope that she has gone on to great things. She was one of the few tech apprentices that was worth a shit. Erica was the other.

C.L. Jahn said...

She was one of the few tech apprentices that was worth a shit. Erica was the other.

Erica was working in San Francisco last I heard. I heard it through Tim Jung of all people; the OTHER tech I know who ran his hand through a table saw.