Steel Teeth and Soft Thumbs

John Ramsey Miller

On Monday I went stupid for a split second and damn near lost my left thumb to the blade on my table saw, which was spinning at 4,000 RPMs. I’ve been using table saws all of my adult life and this is the first time I’ve drawn blood. I kept the thumb, but involved 17 stitches and I will long bear a greatly revised fingerprint and a lack of those nerves that tell a person what their thumb is discovering. At the time, I was working alone out at my place so I had no choice but to wrap a bandanna around the injury and drive myself the 25 miles to the hospital of my choice.

This Tuesday past I was scheduled to speak this week and so I had to wear something other than denim overalls and slip-on boots. Alone at home, I discovered that I had to iron a dress shirt, which is slightly harder with a thumb cocooned within a huge bandage. Then I had to button my shirt, tie my tie, and lace up my dress shoes with one thumb. I haven’t had so much trouble with tying a bow since I was five. After managing to do all of that, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of fifty or so supporters of the library at a nearby college. I talked about my background and how I fell into my career, and how I do what I do. I ran through the old standards: developing characters, where my plots come from, the differences between mysteries and thrillers and then I went into ebooks and what seems to be the future of publishing. For instance, by 2014 ebooks should account for 25% of publishing income. I basically scared the crap out of the audience.

But the cool thing (and one of the points of this blathering) was I started my talk by holding up my Kindle, explaining how it works, how I can put a library inside it, and then placing it on the lectern and waking it up. After I was finished with the basics of my life and career, I told them what was happening with ebooks and the publishing industry. After my talk there was an hour and a half of questions. And I confessed that the points for the talk I had just given were on the Kindle screen. I emailed them to my kindle, and when I had covered the points on the screen I would just hit the “next page” button. The night before I was trying to decide if I would use note cards or wing it as I usually do, but this thumb thing requires stiff medication and that can fog the sharpest mind. I knew I could email my manuscripts into the creature, and so I went modern and emailed my notes to John’s Kindle, which has its own email address. Worked like a charm. But the entire time I was speaking, and glancing down, I swear the Kindle was breathing raspily and saying, “John, I am your father. Embrace the force. Love the technology.” Well, I guess I’ve gone over completely.

8 thoughts on “Steel Teeth and Soft Thumbs

  1. Way to persevere despite physical trauma, John! I thought blade saw manufacturers were required to put thumb guards on those things nowadays. Of course, it doesn’t take power tools to cause injuries. I once read that the number one reason for people visiting emergency rooms is people slicing their hands while cutting bagels. I’ve done it myself.

  2. Only takes a second even for the most attentive. Have had a few close calls myself.

    Had no idea you could send notes to the Kindle. Need to spend some time figuring these gadgets out. Have an iPad too – equally clueless with that.

    Glad you were lucky. May the force be …. uh never mind.

  3. working the emergency room for 30+ years….my cohorts and i wished home depot and lowes had a 7 day waiting period before men were issued ladders….and saws!!! and maybe that tree blinds had never been invented.

  4. Great post! So sorry about the thumb. Glad you didn’t lose it.

    Have you heard of a Saw-Stop table saw? The inventor is an electrical engineer or something similar. He figured out a way to electrically charge the blade and detect when it comes into contact with flesh. The safety component constantly monitors this charge and stops the blade when it changes (i.e. when it touches flesh) within 5 milliseconds. There are some demo movies on the site of a hotdog triggering the safety feature. The saw barely cuts through the hotdog’s skin.

    The shop teacher at the junior high told me about them this summer. All the saws he uses are Stop-Saws to protect his students.

    Anyway, thought you might be interested.

  5. It turns out that cats are circling my thumb, and it appears I may loose parts of it that are black and smell like a polecat’s ass. Great. I wish I had owned a stop saw.

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