I should’ve quit when I cut through the power cord
“I’ve harnessed my disability.”
At least that’s what I told my neighbors Saturday night at a cookout.
I was explaining how I — one who makes his living with a computer keyboard — never really got the whole “home row” concept back in middle school during typing class.
I found that hunting and pecking, as they call it, with my two index fingers worked just as well.
All these years later, I’m now arguably the fastest pecker in the West.
(Should I rephrase that? I should probably rephrase that.)
“You know those disabled people without legs who learn to move around really fast using just their arms?” I asked my neighbors. “It’s like that.”
My wife could no longer keep quiet.
“No,” she piped in, disgusted. “It’s nothing like that.”
What prompted the story in the first place was my heavily bandaged right index finger.
The second the electric hedge trimmer caught it Saturday morning in my backyard, I knew I was in trouble.
“No! That’s my typing finger!” I thought as I pulled my finger out of the metal teeth and instantly wrapped it in my shirt, afraid to look.
Actually, that was the second thing I thought.
My first thought was, “I knew I should’ve quit for the day when I cut through the power cord.”
I dropped the trimmer and made a beeline for the house.
“I think I cut my finger off,” I yelled to my wife.
Having been married for 15 years now, her initial reply wasn’t completely unexpected.
The sight of me turning pale, however, convinced her that we should probably pay a visit to the emergency room.
Maybe it was the fact that all I’d eaten up to that point was a piece of chocolate cake and two Diet Cokes — no other breakfast quite says, “I’ll be dead by 40” — but I no longer felt like I was in control of my body.
“You’re in shock,” my wife instructed me.
Frankly, I still didn’t know the extent of my injury.
There was a lot of blood, naturally, but I still couldn’t say for sure whether the top half of my finger was still out there in the yard on my neighbor’s side of the bushes.
I didn’t much care to find out.
“I just have to accept that I’ll be typing with a stump,” I thought as we climbed into the car.
I’d seen this episode play out before.
Back when I was in middle school, my dad added an upstairs bedroom to our house over on South Olive Street.
One day, he came down the ladder and walked into the house.
“I just cut off my thumb,” he announced.
“Andy,” he added, “go up there and get my thumb.”
“Whaaaaa?!” I squealed. “You want me to do what?!”
“Here!” he barked, rifling through a kitchen cupboard. “Put it in this!”
He handed me an empty glass jar that had once contained chicken bouillon cubes.
Up the ladder I went.
But I have to admit — when you’re in eighth grade and your dad wants you to go find a severed thumb, you don’t look very hard.
Within a matter of seconds, he came back up the ladder himself, one-handing the rungs like King Kong.
Presumably running on adrenaline, he found his own thumb — still stuck in the circular saw — and back down he went.
At the hospital, Dr. Burke took one look at the severed thumb and threw it in the garbage.
So I knew it was better to just go straight to the hospital and not bother my own son to go look for a stray body part in the yard.
“Don’t pass out on me,” I could hear my wife imploring on the drive to the Greene County Medical Center.
In 37 years of life, I’ve never broken a single bone. Never needed stitches.
I did, however, once sprain an ankle when I sledded into a tree one winter at the golf course.
All in all, though, I have relatively little experience with trauma.
At the ER, I learned that I did not, in fact, cut off my index finger — naturally dashing any hopes of getting a robotic finger.
I was given four stitches and told to take some ibuprofen if needed — naturally dashing any hopes of getting some OxyContin.
Looking at my finger today, four stitches just seems so underwhelming given my reaction to the whole incident on Saturday.
I think back to my dad, who pulled himself back up a ladder to find his own thumb.
I think about that Mark Wahlberg movie, “Lone Survivor,” when that Navy SEAL gets his thumb blown completely off and yet continues to blast away at the Taliban.
What kind of a man am I, anyway?
I’m a writer.
I just have to accept that.
And I typed this whole story using my middle finger.