THE VALLEY DISPATCH, Paul Sullivan’s vintage columns appear every Friday in The Valley Dispatch. He wrote this one in 1995. Sullivan’s WBZ-radio show airs Monday through Friday from 8 to midnight.
Last week while cutting a bagel, I sliced my thumb open. I ended up over at St. John’s Hospital — oops, I mean Saints Memorial Medical Center — for seven stitches. More on that later.
At the time I cut myself, I figured I was the first knucklehead to do such damage to himself via a bagel. I mean it looks like a harmless enough pastry. Round, smooth and fat free, it’s almost the perfect food.
But then Sunday morning I was reading Ann Landers’ column, and what should I see but this message: “Dear Readers: Would you believe that the greatest underreported injury of our time is hands cut by bagels?”
Ann, my love, you are talking to my soul.
She went on to quote Dr. Mark Smith of George Washington Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine in Washington, D.C. Smith explained what a tricky little item the bagel is to cut.
You’re not telling me anything I don’t know, Doc.
“The bagel is inherently unstable because it is round,” he said. “In fact, there are two unstable surfaces — the knife against the bagel and the bagel against the table.”
Of course. I never had a chance. And for the last week I’ve been blaming myself.
Now that I have been able to confront this issue head-on, I can finally have closure to this episode in my life. I am a Bagel Injury Survivor. I ask all of you who have been victims of the bagel to come out of the breadbox.
Don’t lurk in the shadows. You have nothing to be afraid of. You can either learn to live without bagels, or you can adjust your behavior and buy precut bagels — or even one of those bagel-cutters you see on the Home Shopping Network.
Or, you can take the advice of an Ann Landers’ reader who calls himself “Buffalo Bagel Lover.” He suggests “that you place the bagel flat on a hard, stable surface. Put the hand not doing the cutting on top to steady it. Take a sharp knife and cut halfway through. Then, place the bagel on end and finish slicing it in half.”
Hey, that’s how I cut my thumb in the first place!
But there is a serious note to this experience. While I was in the Saints Memorial emergency room, I figured out why people get so impatient in emergency waiting rooms: They can’t see the work being done by doctors, nurses and other folks who are tending to those who have emergencies.
As I sat, waiting for my name to be called — with a little bandage on my thumb — I couldn’t help but get impatient.
After a couple of hours, the wait became more of an issue than the injury. But after I was finally called to the treatment area, I felt pretty guilty. I saw all the doctors and nurses running around treating people who were really sick or had serious injuries, not just bagel injuries like mine.
It occurred to me that the hospitals would be better off having windows near their treatment areas, so those of us who are out there whining about the wait can actually see what the emergency-room staff is doing.
Either that or they should have instructional videos on kitchen safety.
To comment on this story, e-mail Paul Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.