Just the Tip
Table saws cause about 30,000 injuries per year in the U.S. alone. Last summer I got to be one of them.
Admittedly, I was doing something that I shouldn’t. And you should never do something that you shouldn’t when operating a table saw. I know that now. I recognize it to be true. I’ve accepted it as fact. But alas. I have a weakness for doing things that I shouldn’t.
The saw I was using was underpowered for what I was trying to accomplish. So technically, not completely my fault. I need more power. I was trying to cut through a thick piece of hardwood and the blade was getting bogged down. I was trying to jam it through anyway. Which is something you should never do. As a rule of thumb, the saw should always do the work. Not you. If you’re working with a table saw and you’re doing more work than the saw, then you are heading down my path. You want to stop what you’re doing immediately and rethink your strategy.
I’m not good at stopping and rethinking. I’m a plow ahead type of guy. I like to muscle through. It’s good for certain things but a blunt force mentality is sometimes not ideally suited for working with sharp objects. I need to get better at stopping and rethinking. I need to work on that. Stopping and rethinking is a tactic that is undeniably smart, useful and potentially relaxing.
When you cut yourself on a table saw it happens so quickly that it doesn’t really hurt. You hear a little thunk and then you immediately pull your hand away. Then for the next few milli-seconds you try to convince yourself that what just happened didn’t really happen. You didn’t really just come into contact with a moving table saw blade. That didn’t really occur. You’re smarter than that.
The trickle of blood tells you otherwise.
But still, you might try to just plow forward anyways. You’re not a quitter are ya?
I grabbed the roll of paper towels from the work bench and wrapped a few around my finger. I tore a piece of duct tape off to secure the bandage and started up the saw again. I wanted to finish what I was doing. I wanted to keep plowing ahead.
But despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish because every time I tried to hold the board, I kept bleeding all over it. This is when I started to entertain the idea of seeking medical attention.
There’s an urgent care right up the block. They’re great. I love urgent care. I don’t get sick a lot but I do injure myself fairly seriously from time to time and they’re just a lot more mellow than the emergency room. I take the kids there every time someone’s sprained something, needs a Covid test or thinks they have something that’s potentially going to get them out of a day of school.
I got in the car and started driving their way. As I’m about half-way there, I decide to give them a call. I wanted to give them a heads up.
“Beaumont Urgent Care. How can I help you?”
“Um, yeah. I’m on my way to you guys right now and I was just wondering what the wait is like?”
“There’s no wait right now. What are you coming in for?”
“Well, I cut my finger just a little. It’s tiny. Just the tip, really. I thought maybe I should come up and have you guys check it out. I can’t seem to stop the bleeding so it might need a stitch.”
“What did you cut your finger with?”
“Well, um… Gosh. I’d really rather not say.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I know it sounds weird. I just don’t want you to freak out or anything because if I tell you what happened it might sound worse than it really is.”
There’s a pause. And it’s possible that I’ve now been put on speaker.
“Sir. I need you to tell me what you cut your finger on so I can prepare the doctor to see you.”
“Okay. Well. It was a table saw. But it’s not that bad. I think it's just a nick.”
“You nicked yourself with a table saw?”
“Sir, that sounds like something you’d be better off going to the emergency room for.”
At that point, I’m walking into the urgent care and as I come through the door, I can see the person who’s talking to me. She sees the paper towel/duct tape bandage completely soaked in blood bandage and her eyebrows arch a bit as I approach the counter and we both put away our phones.
She and the doctor take me right back to the examination room. You’d be surprised how quickly a doctor will see you when you walk in with a table saw injury and a steady stream of blood running down your arm.
They sit me down in the chair and they have a little cart that my right hand is rested on. She and the doctor remove the duct tape bandage. The doctor is very kind and she has an Indian accent that I find very pleasing to listen to. I love doctors with Indian accents. They tend to have the best bedside manner in my opinion. For me the accent is very calming, conveys wisdom and always seems to make me feel better. However, as she continues to talk to me I begin to find it more and more difficult to follow what she’s saying. The reason for this, is that I’m passing out.
This happens to me in these kinds of situations. I have a panic attack thing that I deal with sometimes. I have different triggers. Hurting myself is one of them. I’m incredibly calm when it first happens and am always able to get myself out of danger. But then once I reach safety or am receiving actual medical attention is when the panic attack starts up and I begin to go in and out of consciousness. It’s actually kind of pleasant. But not pleasant enough to make up for what happened next.
I hear a few phrases though that cut through the fog.
“Just the tip.”
“Nothing left to stitch.”
I am brought back to consciousness by searing pain. Throbbing pain isn’t really that bad. Dull pain is merely annoying. Chronic pain is vague but most likely pretty bad. However, searing pain is where the real action is. Searing pain causes you to scream out. Searing pain is the Nicolas Cage of pain— so bad and nothing makes it go away. Searing pain invented the word: motherfucker. I don’t just believe that. I know it to be true. Motherfucker is a really bad word. Maybe the worst one there is. Nobody could have come up with motherfucker unless they were in searing pain. And I distinctly remember shouting, "Motherfucker!"
Now that it’s healed, if you looked at my finger you’d never guess anything happened. However, if you had my finger, you’d know it. It’s the pointer finger on the right hand. The tip doesn’t really work anymore. Or at least I can’t feel anything with it. There are certain things I can't seem to do. I can't pick up a dry piece of spaghetti off the floor with it. And the trackpad on my computer no longer recognizes it as a human finger. Too much scar tissue, I guess. I’ve become very adept at using the bottom of my damaged finger along with the tip of my middle finger. With those two acting in unison, my trackpad obeys their orders.
As a writer, naturally I was concerned. But I can type just fine now. However, I can’t feel it when I hit the: h, j, m, n, u or y keys.
Someday, when I leave this world, I’ve always intended to return my body in as close to its original condition as possible. Minus normal wear and tear of course. But for this reason, I’ve never pierced anything intentionally nor gotten any tattoos. No major modifications have been made. Everything is basically still stock. But I do have a few dents and dings.
A few years ago, I had to hand in a car that I had leased. I had scraped the side rather nicely in a parking garage and never got it fixed. I scheduled the return in the middle of February, right after a snowstorm. The car was filthy and covered in road salt and the frozen slop left over from the storm. The guy never saw the scratches and I never heard anything more about it. Maybe I’ll employ a similar strategy when the big day comes. The last thing I want to incur are any penalty fees.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again real soon.