When I was in sixth or seventh grade, I went to Boy Scout camp at Powhatan Scout Reservation. Boy that was fun - mountain lakes, A-6 intruders, copperheads and best of all: woodcarving. It was my very first scout camp and they were already going to let us use knives. Awesome!
It's been said that a sharp knife is a safe knife, because you're less likely to be using a lot of pressure to make a cut, and therefore you won't slip and cut yourself. This is what the merit badge counselor told me as he honed my standard-issue red BSA pocketknife to a razor-like edge completely inappropriate for its construction, use, or owner. I demonstrated this shortly afterwards when, just prior to dinner, I was cutting toward my hand to make a stop-cut, sliced right into my left middle finger, and wound up needing six stitches. I even passed out in the camp clinic. My mom got a lovely phone call in the middle of the night that began "Pulaski County Hospital, can you hold? *click*"
That was when I learned that the safest knife is not necessarily a sharp knife, but one not wielded by an idiot. Rule number one is: cut away, away, away from yourself. Lest the dull tool in the box get cut by the nice sharp knife.
So naturally, having completed seven or eight years of scouting, an Eagle scout award, numerous trips for the OA, two treks, and a surgery clerkship, I've only gotten dumber. Four stitches dumber:
I was cutting a lime into slices for some drinks for my girlfriend and me (we were having a nice, relaxing evening.) I managed to demonstrate exactly NOT what to do, which is:
- hold the lime in your hand
- place a gigantic turkey-carving fillet knife against the lime where you wish to make the cut
- think you're really cool
- apply downward pressure with your thumb and upward pressure with the machete you've chosen to mutilate produce with
- half cut your damn thumb off
- better get sewn up, you chump.
My girl was pretty freaked out, to say the least. She said that I quickly did what I foretold, crumpling up in a little ball and making weird noises that she didn't know could even come out of my mouth. I was actually glad she was there to witness it, as when this (rarely) occurs, I usually just wake up extremely confused, not knowing what happened. She quickly got up, instructed me several times to lay on the floor, and went out to buy gauze. When she returned, she took a look at my finger and said, yes, we'll need to go to the ER.
Now, I dreaded that decision the very moment I overshot that damn lime. No one likes going and sitting in the waiting room - most of the time, if you aren't cardiac you're gonna wait. So we gathered up stuff to read and study for the anticipated hours of sitting, poured a bunch of water on my perfectly ashed-over charcoal, and walked over to the ER. But lo and behold, the hospital here has gotten a brand-new triage system. I was literally in a room within ten minutes. We were astonished. My girlfriend went to go get us some dinner, and she just saw me as I was getting roomed. In fact, we didn't even have time to eat before the PA was in there pumping me up with lidocaine and stitching me closed. It was really amazing how well we were served in that first half-hour.
The hour and a half afterwards, however, sucked. They completely forgot to discharge me. Being good medical students who dutifully appreciate the system (and who have been relentlessly hammered about attempting to work outside its margins) we waited. In fact, we waited until an entire hour had passed, before I got up and took a couple laps around the ER in search of my PA or the ER doc who'd come by at first to appraise my lime-finger. I didn't find them, but shortly after I returned to my girlfriend in the room, the doc comes by again and says "What are you still doing here?" "I'm waiting for my discharge instructions," I blithely replied. It was pretty stupid, all in all. They forgot that I hadn't left, and I really didn't need them to remember. But in the name of bureaucracy, I stayed. Shows you what you learn here in the ivory tower, eh?
What really bugged us wasn't staying, and wasn't being forgotten (we had a nice chat with an elderly patient who was in the room with us, she was great.) It was missing The Office, which, turns out was a beautiful, classic character-driven and situationally clever Office episode. Thankfully all the episodes are available online free-of-charge. Else I really, really would have felt stupid.
Live and learn, and learn again, and learn again a decade later.