Friday, October 20, 2006

Putting Your Finger On It

Another finger has appeared in a fast food item. More to the point, a severed finger was found in a Subway sandwich. Okay - allegedly severed in an alleged Subway alleged sandwich, found allegedly. We won't know the truth until it has been drained of all it's life force and money by a sizable pack of litigators and health department officials.
What's the big deal? Considering the number of fast food sandwiches flying over the counters in California alone each day, isn't it quite impressive that we only get to hear about this once a year or so? I myself came perilously close to sweetening the mix of a certain Roast Beef (Yes Sir) restaurant's menu with my one of my own digits. The first day of training (OJT for "on the job training) we were given a harsh and vivid demonstration of the vicious reality of the meat slicer. A sponge was brushed lightly across the blade and it fell cleanly in half with the slightest pressure. I made it a note to be afraid and very cautious around this particular device.
Years of service and the regular donning of a brown polyester vest dulled my instincts, and the slicer became a matter of fact in my life. Every so often, when new employees were subjected to the sponge-lopping demonstration, my awe was briefly renewed, but those hungry IBMers weren't going to wait while I worked up my courage to slice enough beef for their sandwiches. I had to make friends with the machine and put my fear aside.
Every night, the slicer had to be taken apart and cleaned to near sterile - not exactly sterile, but cleaner than most other items near it. We had a pair of chain mail gloves for just such a purpose, and I conscientiously wore them each and every time I was left with that chore. Except for the night that I didn't, and I nearly lost the ring finger on my left hand.
It had been a typically busy Saturday night, when we stayed open past midnight, with the usual parade of hungry drunk boys and their dates. At last it was time to close out the slicer and the shake machine, leaving just enough shake mix and cut beef for the last few stragglers before we locked the doors. As closing manager, it was my responsibility to make sure that the books were done and the registers were ready for the following day, so I chose to clean the slicer because it was closer to the back room - the desk and the safe. I prepared my cleaning bucket, sponges and looked briefly for the special gloves.
Like most lost things, I am sure they were merely overlooked, but my haphazard and rushed attempt to find them was fruitless, so I decided to move ahead sans protection. I had cleaned the slicer dozens of time, and I knew that there was only a very short period of time that my hands might actually be in peril. But you already know what happened. I only made a small error, and the back of my finger slipped past the blade. For just a moment, I had the sensation of biting down on an ice cube with a filling, but it came from my left hand, not my teeth. It cut to the bone as easily as the sacrificial sponge of yore. It bled less than I might have expected. That isn't to say that it did not bleed. It was briefly quite gory.
I'm a company guy, and I don't abandon my post. The two other guys who were working with me urged me to go to the emergency room. "And who's going to do the books? You two?" The notion that the books could have been done after my hand had been stitched up or even the next morning didn't come fully to me until the next day. I washed the wound and dressed it with a wad of gauze, three paper towels and a hand full of rubber bands. The rest of the crew busied themselves scrubbing up the scene of the crime, and I headed for the desk where I did my best to hold my throbbing hand above my heart, since I imagined that this would keep me from bleeding to death.
I survived. I carry the scar. I live with this story of ridiculous commitment, and I still wince when I think about just how close my finger came to being a statistic. Next time you're in a Subway shop, watch how careful those guys are with their knives. Like I said, it's kind of amazing that it doesn't happen more often.


Anonymous said...

Never going near roast beef again.



Anonymous said...

Oh my god--if you'd lost the ring finger on your left hand, you never could have married your lovely wife! And by the way--eeeeeewwwwwwww!!!!!


Robin said...

My index fingernail still grows in crooked from a run-in with that very same blade. My favorite part of that memory is the store manager pressing me to accept a couple of six-packs of illegal (for me, at the time) beer rather than filing my workman's comp claim. Ah, youth.