By Frank T. Alcorn (Guest Contributor)
Has a single unexpected incident--one that sucker-punched you in the stomach and forever-redefined "normalcy"--ever profoundly changed your life?
On February 23rd, a Saturday, at 7:45 p.m., I experienced such an event.
If you are squeamish, I suggest you read the following with only one eye. I touched the edge of my table saw blade while it was engaged. The tip of my left thumb looks like the ground chuck section of Kroger’s meat counter. What was I thinking? Thinking! Who was thinking?
This is the event that defined my new normal. Within 12 hours, I was devastated to find:
• I could not remove the top of nor squeeze the toothpaste tube with my left hand
• I had difficulty putting on my left sock
• I could not tie up my pony tail
• But the final straw was that I could not open a sealed plastic bag of shredded cheese to add to my morning omelet.
I cried aloud, shaking my good fist at Fate, for this calamity.
The dark cloud of melancholy hovered above me, boiling like a vat of liquid charcoal. As I clung to the tiniest thread at the tip-end of life’s long rope, a golden aura fringed that ominous cloud and symphonic music filled the room. You may have heard of the old “silver lining” myth, but take my word for it, gold is the color and it was the birth of a spectacular idea.
Despite my physical deficiency (mental deficiency is already well-established), I feverishly outlined the idea before my delirium passed. The drum roll you hear in the back of your mind is not imagined; it is the precursor to the idea. I have formed an activist group representing accident-prone woodworkers such as myself. Thus far, our members are all males. While there are many fine female woodworkers, we have yet to find one stupid enough to touch a whirring saw blade rotating at six gazillion rpm.
The group is the Society for the Protection of Unintelligent Thumbcutting Underbrained Men. We go by the catchy acronym of “SPUTUM”. Our motto is, “Combine our IQ’s and it won’t amount to a spit in the ocean”.
Need more information? Contact us at www.sputum.dumb/xz!argh.
If you qualify, you would be well served to join. Our inaugural meeting was wondrous to behold. What had been an austere union hall was now tastefully appointed in colorful streamers and sparkly confetti with helium filled balloons tap-dancing along the ceiling. The room overflowed with men of the brotherhood, respectfully waiting the entrance of the Chairman.
Silence prevailed, yet the excited heartbeats of the faithful resonated throughout the room as though a base drum were beating rhythmically. Without fanfare, cheerleaders standing statuesquely against the walls pirouetted onto the floor to lead us in a rousing cheer:
SPUTUM, SPUTUM, is our cry.
V – I – C – T – O – R – Y.
Are we with it?
Yes you bet.
We’re all wet.
I still feel the electricity of the moment. Each man quietly returned to his inner self. One by one, they arose to thrust a thumb - or stub - toward the heavens to recite the SPUTUM Pledge:
“I (mumble your name), formerly being of sound mind do hereby pledge to make it my life’s mission to honor the bureaucracy and society which enables me to blame others for my own failings. Plaaay ball!”
Hush overtook the hall anew as the Chairman approached the podium, his eyes solemnly downcast. He softly cleared his throat, visually embracing the sea of grateful faces and proclaimed, “There being no further business, I declare this gathering adjourned.” The recall of such power, insight, and eloquence, even now, produces a grapefruit-sized lump in my throat.
Life just gets rosier from here. As you know, the federal government monitors activist groups and seeing merit in our cause, moved with expediency to bring about relief to this huge voting constituency. A bi-partisan bill passed, without dissent, directing the House Ways and Means Committee to allocate $100,000,000 to provide an answer to why seemingly stable individuals touch moving saw blades. A “Special Investigator” is appointed to leave no stone unturned in finding where the fault really lies. Early suspects include the Power Tool industry and magazines specializing in woodworking articles.
Some decry this as early rush to judgment. While those in authority agree (off the record), nonetheless, these are the heads pre-selected to roll. And roll they will, like Tina Turner performing Proud Mary.
My Congressman acknowledged all of this to be good and proper but made an impassioned plea from the floor of Congress, demanding emergency and immediate relief for the brotherhood. Modesty and a non-disclosure clause dictate that I not mention numbers, but my monthly stipend exceeds five figures in perpetuity and, in return, my Congressman expects re-election in perpetuity.
Were all of this not good enough, I save the best news for last. Hollywood has bought the rights to my life story and will soon begin production. Tom Cruise waived his customary salary just to have the chance to portray me. He says the challenge of bringing to the silver screen the depth of emotion, physical strength, and courage I have displayed throughout this ordeal, except for the short time that I cried like a baby, will be career changing. The screenwriters have promised that their version of my tears clearly will reflect that walnut dust had blown into my eyes, and I was bravely blinking away the caustic irritant.
These screenwriters are ok, but I requested Bill Shakespeare, Sammy T. Coleridge, and Ed Alan Poe be hired to ghostwrite my story. I have been advised they may be deceased. Clearly, the Hollywood crowd does not understand the concept of ghostwriting. However, I believe them to be alive and well and performing as a country group in Peoria.
The entire “A” list of Hollywood’s who’s who is lined up for the possibility of landing even a cameo role. My friend, Mark, whose project lies dormant in my workshop, the victim of an Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) lockdown, a parallel to the horse-and-barn-door story, is to be played by Brad Pitt. As an aside, the accuracy of this casting is uncanny. The Supreme Court, or maybe it is the Supremes, will portray the ministry team, with the sole exception of Blackie. Frodo, not the actor, the real one, has been awarded that plum. Did I not say this casting was uncanny?
Oscar buzz has this film scoring big in all categories on the night Hollywood honors itself. An old Dean Martin classic has been reworked for our film and is a lock for the best song Oscar – “Everybuddy loves thumbuddy thumbtime.”
Life is good again. Dumb pays dividends and stupid is as stupid does. Except that pain and exhaustion overtakes me, I am confident I could dredge up at least a half dozen other platitudes and trite phrases.
I leave you with two observations, these expressed by the best of America’s thought leaders. The first is contemporary and attributed to the man who in a controlled and systematic way is presiding over the disintegration of Chicago, – “You can’t let a good tragedy go to waste.” The second and no doubt music to your visual ears is from my lifelong idol, Porky the Pig - “Ba-dee-ah, ba-dee-ah, be-dee-ah, th-th-that’s All Folks!”
But since I can’t help myself, I leave you with a third observation requiring a whole new story for which I show you the mercy of not recounting. If you decide to turn to a life of crime, the removal of a thumbprint could prove useful. I understand authorities are mystified by the unusual thumbprint left at the scene of several recent crimes. For this I make no admissions.
Remember Kids, don’t ever touch a moving saw blade; leave that to the professionals.
In the late 1940’s, when television was in its infancy, Milton Berle reigned as Mr. Television. A favorite expression was “All seriousness aside folks …….”. All that precedes this next paragraph is my “All seriousness aside folks”.
I have had a life changing experience – a real old school one. On my knees in the sawdust, at the urging of the Holy Spirit, my life was not just changed and not just transformed, it was made new and about that, I am quite serious and most thankful.
Frank T. Alcorn
(The “T” formerly stood for Thomas but is legally changed to Thumbcutter)