Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not Everyone Can Be a Smooth Operating Ninja

That’s what I was back in middle school. Taller than most. Darker and quicker too. 

A few memories from those days revolve around shop class, but one in particular comes to mind from inside Mr. Horgas’ domain. If I recall, we were working on custom projects — from blueprint to final stain, and mine ended up being a CD rack. Side note: At one point I pulled the ultimate loving son move and designed a parrot shaped clock for my mom; cut that one with the jigsaw. (No she is not a Buffett fan, she actually raised and bred parrots during my childhood).

But for this particular project I ended up using the “band saw.” Similar to a table saw in its function, the band saw gets its name because its blade runs like a belt on your car motor. Being a bit advanced on my project, I took the time to assist the ladies in class with their cuts, but only if they needed it — few resisted my assistance.

Well that, in part is what got me in trouble.

While assisting nameless young lady, I must have been distracted for a second while making a cut, because damned if that band saw didn’t cut into my right index finger. You know the one that rests on the “j” key and is also used to hit the “y” and “n.” Chewing through the tip of my finger — nail and all — this damn blade didn’t know it was working with a smooth operating ninja. It ate about a half an inch in and I pulled back. Now the tip of my finger looked like a snake’s tongue. 

That was until the blood started to gush. Saw still running I grabbed my finger with the opposing hand and walked over to Mr. Horgas who had been helping another student. I waited my turn, but then the finger started to throb and I interrupted Mr. Horgas to ask for a Band-Aid, because “I nicked myself on the band saw.”

He looked at my finger, gushing blood and his eyes engaged — “Whoa, time out on the band saw,” he exclaimed with his baritone southern draw. I didn’t laugh then, but the replay in my head is funny every time. Till this day, I can repeat that “time out on the band saw” line to certain people and it elicits immediate laughter.

Despite the medical bill situation, the little mishap ended up not being all that bad. Luckily I was covered by insurance at the time, but that wasn’t always the case. I tend to have a fairly high pain tolerance, so I don’t remember much of that — well, aside from the first few days when I could feel the replay of the sharp blade eating through the center of my finger as if it were nameless young lady’s piece of wood.

Being that it was my index finger on my right finger and that is the hand I use to write, I could choose an “assistant” to help me with my notes in class. Most certainly an attractive and friendly young lady.

These days, with a scar on my finger and healthy respect for power tools, the man I work for — California Assemblymember Das Williams — is authoring a piece of state legislation to help the common man have ninja like results also in the event their flesh comes in contact with the blade of a table saw. Technology exists that can stop the blade of a table saw — applicable to other types of saws as well — quick enough to drastically limit the injury. The proposed law would require that all table saws manufactured for sale in California after 2015 would require ninja reaction technology to detect flesh and stop it in a split second.

Federal stats document more than 67,000 injuries similar or worse than mine a year. That ads up to more than $2.36 billion in medical costs annually; same federal data, not me. It’s that high in part because the average medical cost for the blade contact injuries is about $35,000 a pop. Such available technology may not drop the number of injuries, but it sure makes them less damaging. Get this, the blade stops before it cuts off your digit. If it were you, your finger would be left with just a knick instead of, well, the alternative. 
Imagine that, just like an airbag softens the impact of an auto accident, the ninja reaction saw technology serves a similar function. And one day just as all cars come standard with airbags, so will power saws come with ninja reaction technology. Because after all, not everyone can be a smooth operating ninja.

This scribed in the hope for a lot of hungry blades out there that only get a taste — I salute my finger.

[Check this video about the legislation and technology]  



  1. Yikes. Thank goodness for your ninja-like reflexes. I am cringing after reading this - injuries to nails and teeth freak me out.

  2. Reliving the story in words made me cringe a bit too!