Bloodthirsty Windshield Wipers: or How to Injure Yourself Like an Idiot

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You know when you are just sitting around with people, casually talking and somehow you all start showing off your scars?


I spent a long time hanging out with construction workers in my twenties, O.K.? This is normal behavior among a certain group of men people. Anyway, these conversations have always been somewhat embarrassing for me. They go something like this:

A Guy: "I got this scar when my buddy almost removed my arm with a Skilsaw."

Another guy: "You think that's bad? This is a scar I got when a rusty railroad spike was accidentally embedded in my toe."

Me: "I had to get six stitches after having been impaled through the foot by a windshield wiper blade when I was six."

How, you ask, do you become injured by a seemingly innocuous thing like a windshield wiper blade? The answer is that it may be something only I can do. I doubt that this is a widespread problem encountered by emergency room doctors. In fact, a Google search for the term "windshield wiper injuries kids" yielded information on the hazards of drinking windshield wiper fluid and, strangely, information on Marfan's Syndrome, but no other examples of this type of incident.

On the day that this unlikely injury was suffered, I was playing in my front yard with two boys. This is interesting because I was anything but a tomboy. This may, in fact, have been the only occasion where I played with two boys of my own volition. (And you see how dangerous this practice can be.) We were making paper airplanes. Obviously, this was not my idea. If I was in charge, we would have been presiding over an imaginary kingdom peopled by stray cats.

Probably because I can't really throw paper airplanes (or anything), I got up onto the hood of my dad's Plymouth Duster in order to allow gravity to do the work for me. This is when I noticed that a windshield wiper blade had somehow gone through my foot. My memory from hereon may be somewhat foggy. I specifically remember that I flew–as in above the ground and over the boys' heads–up the porch steps and into my house, the concern uppermost in my mind being that I would be in trouble for climbing on the car. I remember being hustled off to the emergency room and experiencing great surprise that no one seemed to care that I had climbed on the car at all. I remember being amazed that they were actually going to sew me up, with a needle. And, afterwards, I thought I was a bad-ass because I had six stitches and a story to tell, never really stopping to consider that this story proves I am an ill-fated idiot.

It gets worse, too.

The next time I got stitches was when, at the age of fourteen, I had decided to teach myself to sew. Almost immediately at the outset of this project, I lopped off a section of the fuck-you finger of my left hand with sewing scissors. More accurately, the tip remained, hanging on by a bit of skin and doctors were able to re-attach it. I still don't have normal sensation there. The two interesting results of this injury were that I never learned to sew, and that when it was healing, and I was showing the injury to people, I kept flipping everyone off by mistake.

The worst injury I have suffered left no real lasting scar except a tinge of shininess to the skin of my arms, thighs and forehead. This happened when I lived in my first apartment, at the age of twenty. I had a gas stove, which is great. I love gas stoves. The problem with this one, though, was that it didn't light on its own. I had to remember to turn on the gas in the oven and then light it when I wanted to bake something. I was twenty and worked at a restaurant, so you can imagine how often I wanted to bake something. Not a lot. This made remembering to light the damn thing even harder, ovens in my experience always having lighted on their own when turned on.

One day, for some damn reason, I was making what I believe was a vegan eggplant parmigiana with some kind of nutritional yeast sauce (don't ask) when it occurred to me that I had forgotten to light the oven again. Twenty minutes ago. This might have clued someone else in, but I never took any real sciences in high school because I was so busy writing poetry and getting stoned on a couch in the woods, so I missed the part about it being a bad idea to throw a match into an enclosed area filled with heated natural gas that had built up over twenty minutes.

Anyway, there was kind of a fireball and it made contact with my face, thighs and arms briefly before flashing out, which left me with first and second degree burns. In places my skin was shiny and sunburned-looking and, in other places, it was blackened and bubbly and sort of sloughed off, very much like the outer casing of a grilled hot dog. It hurt very badly. Again, it made a good story, but one in which I looked like a total idiot.

I have thus far managed never to have broken a bone, unless you count the tailbone that my son relocated with his head during my third trimester. I have never suffered a concussion, torn a muscle, or undertaken any activity ambitious enough to result in my ending up in a brace, sling or cast. I just do these idiot things that single me out periodically as prone to particularly preposterous affliction. Drop a can on my foot. Cut myself with a cotton ball. Poke my own eye while shampooing my hair.

The talents I have in this world are finite and foremost among them is my talent for uniqueness. And I have the scars to prove it.


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