York Steak House at the Warwick Mall had been my part-time job for two years. Four days after I graduated from high school, as I was working at this job I’d imagined was going to pay for my books and incidentals when I got to college in Vermont later that summer. It was fairly early in the morning, I’d say about 7:00 am since at the time I was one of a handful of prep cooks on staff. We would arrive at 6:00 am to do things like make desserts, ready the potatoes for baking, stock shelves and, make 100 gallon bins of shredded salad.
It was the salad shredding that got the best of me that morning. The big, industrial strength food processing machine was a behemoth of stainless steel and spinning blades. Various sized chutes on the ends were used for different vegetables; lettuce, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers. We’d been well-trained; signs cautioning, “make sure you always put the plungers into the chutes not being used”, were hung all over the machine. And, it was a requirement to have two people working the machine at one time.
Of course, sometimes in life, no matter how often we’re cautioned, a moment’s misstep can change everything. I reached into one of the chutes to retrieve some carrots that had come through still in big chunks. I should have realized when I saw them that the plunger was not in its proper place–had it been the carrots wouldn’t have popped out that way. I knew what I’d done to my hand the moment it happened.
I pulled my hand out of the silver sleeve, yelled for the manager and instructed my co-worker (by the way it was her first day), to get me a bucket of ice for me to put my hand into in case my fingers needed to be reattached. How I had the presence of mind to stay calm, I have absolutely no idea! My manager took a look at my hand that I’d wrapped tightly in my apron. He’d called the rescue, which arrived several minutes later. I still hadn’t cried…I didn’t do that until my mom walked into the emergency room where I sat waiting.
The doctor came into the treatment room, looked under the bandages that the triage nurse used to replace my wet and bloody apron. He was going to have to do some MAJOR stitching after the pain killers kicked in!
The people who helped me through that day and the summer of doing nothing as I recovered deserve my thanks! The nurse who held my good hand when the painkillers were injected into my fingers. My newbie co-worker for her level head. My manager for not freaking out. The doctor for making sure I didn’t lose any of my fingers. And finally my friend Chuck , my friend Sue, my friend Robin, for keeping my occupied.