This is the first in a series about the six classical simple machines.
Sometime in college I was home alone in my mother’s apartment and I was looking to open a can of tuna (which reminds me that oh! the irony of just recently perfecting a tuna salad recipe mere months before I became a vegetarian!) and found only one of those old school–type can openers (see exhibit A) in a drawer. It’s true that I did grow up in this apartment and should have known where things were, but from the second I had headed up to college, my mother had begun a major redecoration project of the apartment and all its contents.
Therefore, confronted with only the most basic of can-opening equipment, I attempted to open the can the old-fashioned way. But I hadn’t counted on the razory sharp edges left by the can opener, nor did I expect those razory sharp edges to cut so deeply into the palm of my hand. As I bled through sheet after sheet of paper towels (I know! So wasteful!) I realized that I might actually need stitches.
I have no idea what I expected would happen when I picked up the phone and pressed the button that said (helpfully) “doctor,” but a doctor’s office answered and told me to come right down. I had to ask where they were located exactly and then walked about a mile, bleeding all the way.
As I entered the office, a doctor happened to be rushing by and he took a quick look at my hand. Oh, you’re going to need stitches, he said, and then, Do you have insurance? I don’t know, I answered (sweet innocent 19-year-old me!), to which the doctor replied, Oh, I shouldn’t even be looking at you! And he rushed off. This seriously happened, America. We should all be ashamed.
So I sat in the office while this was being sorted out, bleeding all the while. I think that once it was confirmed that my mother and stepfather were actually patients of this office, they decided that a doctor (a different doctor) could treat me and then they could bill my mother. But that doctor was extremely irritated and only cursorily answered my questions (I cannot resist talking to doctors). I watched then, in silence, as he numbed my hand and stitched it up the way you might stitch up a hem or something, and then I walked the mile back home.
I know you’re probably wondering (as I am) what happened to the tuna. Did it sit, neglected on the counter, as I headed out to the doctor’s office, only to be tossed out hours later when I returned home? Or, more likely, did I first mix up some tuna salad (which was nothing special back then) and calmly eat it as I bled through sheet after sheet of paper towels? Is this the gun that was introduced in the first act, only to be ignored by the third? I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you. I will say, however, that I have been opening cans with no further incident in the years since. And that if I’m not mistaken, that was the first and last lever ever to disappoint me. I still have the scar to prove it.
(Here’s the second in the series: wheel and axle.)