Just above my right eyebrow I have a scar. It is about an inch long and runs at a perfect 45-degree angle up toward the center of my forehead. When people ask, I tell them that I got it saving a busload of wolverines from a ravening horde of schoolchildren. Or that it was part of a rite of passage to get into one of the local churches. Anything to keep the masses amused. The truth is infinitely more mundane.
Toward the end of my college career I worked as a prep cook for the local (I kid you not) Polish-Mexican restaurant. A year of making bratwurst burritos had removed any novelty which could be found in the job and I was looking to get out.
One September morning I was chopping up the fixings for the days tacos with a knife which probably hadn’t been sharpened since Easter. Parts of the blade were as sharp as a razor; others as sharp as a stick of butter. I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing, so when a dull section of the knife slid across the surface of a head of lettuce and a sharp section bit halfway through my thumb, I didn’t notice until I felt air where I had never before felt air: on a bone.
Several thoughts went through my head, “fuck” being the most prominent, closely followed by “I hate my job” and “sauerkraut and refried beans are a terrible combination”.
Running the wound under cold water was astonishingly painful so I wrapped it in a wash-cloth and sat down in the employee break area. A few seconds later I opened my eyes and thought “I don’t remember tiling my bedroom”, then “I don’t remember hanging cook jackets over my bed”. Then I watched a spray of blood arc gracefully from somewhere above my field of vision and hit the wall. The full horror of the situation hit: “No, seriously. A sausage-taco salad?”, and “I have a degree?”, and “what happened?”
Later the guy who worked the dishwasher – who might have worked me over while I was passed out on the ground – said he saw me walk back to the break area, sit down, stand up, and do a face-plant into the floor. He said I “fainted”. I preferred to think of it as “temporary stress-induced unconsciousness”.
So our new manager (her first day!) drove me to the med center, where I was by far the most interesting thing to appear that morning. The doc put me on a bed and numbed my head (shaddap!) and sewed me up, While watching the needle disappear and reappear from my field of vision I had a brief hallucination that he was tying pigeon feathers to me and was going to go fly-fishing when he was finished.
So I got the rest of the day off. When I finally looked at myself, covered in blood and stiched and unexplained bruises all over my face, I felt inexplicably proud. I still had little feeling in my head (i said shaddap!), so it seemed a grand idea to hang things from the stitches. Necklasses. Earrings. Safety pins.
That evening, still decorated, I drove out to Grand Valley to visit those unfortunate friends who had not yet graduated. This was the beginning of the semester and they were participating in a “Student Life Night” where everyone tries to recruit everyone else into their [club|frat|cult]. One of the booths was empty so I grabbed an enrollment sheet and made a sign, and the “Head Piercing Club” was open for business. I got about a dozen signatures, mostly from stoned freshmen in tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirts (made in Thailand). Then The Man shut me down. Said university insurance didn’t cover stupidity.
The next morning I went in to work with a safety pin through the stitches. One of the waitresses thought I had put it in because one of the stitches fell out. Yup. Not kidding. Others thought it was disgusting, what with me mocking myself by making fun of an injury. Didn’t I have any feelings for me? Didn’t I know I was part of an oppressed minority? Why, I could get the ACLU to sue me for a hate crime! (I kid. Most of my co-workers couldn’t spell ACLU).
A few days later I had both my stitches and my job removed and began a long career at a bookstore. One of these days I will tell you THAT injury story, which is at least as funny as this one.