If you’re a loyal follower of this blog – and who wouldn’t be – you’re probably aware that I’m having a pretty bad year in terms of health, particularly orthopedic health. Turns out I didn’t just become the world’s biggest klutz in 2018. I’ve always been that way.
Let’s rewind to what should have been an ordinary afternoon in Dallas, circa mid-’90s. I was scrambling to put together a pitch for a quarterly companywide meeting that evening when I suddenly realized I’d completely forgotten to eat lunch.
Just so you know, that is so not normal for me. I’m a notoriously consistent and voracious eater, especially when it comes to lunch. Back then I didn’t eat breakfast, just loads of coffee and the occasional banana.
But that afternoon I was distracted. This was my first time as a veep of a public company and I was understandably nervous about getting up on stage and presenting to hundreds of employees. I really wanted to make a good impression, you know?
Deciding my slides were good enough, I hopped in my red ’93 RX-7 (loved that car) and headed off to the barbecue joint down the street. That’s when I realized I was running on empty and made a quick pit stop at a nearby gas station.
I got out of the car, slammed the door behind me, took a step toward the pump and stopped. Something, I had no idea what, was keeping me from reaching for the pump, like somebody was holding my arm and pulling me back. That’s when I looked behind me and saw my right hand stuck in the car doorjamb.
Now, if you’re thinking it’s impossible to slam a car door on your own hand without realizing it, let me assure you, it’s not, at least not for me. Don’t ask me why; I did not feel a thing. Somehow that was more terrifying than anything, except maybe that the car door was completely shut on my middle finger.
Holding my breath, I opened the door with my left hand, relieved that it didn’t look or feel all that bad.
That lasted about a second and a half. Suddenly my hand was covered in blood and I felt it. Boy, did I feel it. So I wrapped my hand in a roll of window washer paper towels, put pressure on it and headed back to work. I parked, walked into the building and found Karen, a sales admin sitting at her desk working. “Hey Karen,” I said.
“Hey Tobak,” she said without turning around. Guess I have a pretty distinctive voice.
“Listen, can you please take a look at this and tell me if I need to go to the hospital.”
“Wait, what?” she said, snapping around and seeing me standing there, holding up my wrapped-up hand. “What did you do?”
“Slammed the car door on my finger.”
“Jeez Steve, how the hell did you do that?”
“I don’t know, it just happened,” I said, unwrapping it and looking away. “Can you please just check it out? I’m afraid to look.”
“Yeah, you did a pretty good number on it,” she said. “Why don’t you sit down, keep your hand up and keep pressure on it. I’ll get some gauze and drive you to the emergency room.”
Turns out I didn’t break anything, just smashed the upper part of the finger. They cleaned it up, put in a stitch or two, splinted my middle finger, wrapped my hand up in gauze, gave me a referral to a plastic surgeon and we were out of there, just in time to make it to the University of Texas lecture hall center for our companywide meeting.
As I ascended the steps to the lecture hall stage and walked up to the podium, I tried to think of something funny to lighten the mood – theirs and mine. “I just want to thank Jerry for making me – I mean asking me to speak to ya’ll tonight,” I said, to a few chuckles from the crowd. Spotting our CEO sitting in the front row, I held up my bandaged hand, said “Thanks boss,” then impulsively turned my hand around. The place erupted with laughter.
You know, I really did not intend to give my CEO the finger. Or did I?
Image credit Ralf Steinberger via Flickr (FYI, that’s an 11-meter high marble statue outside the Milan stock exchange. Don’t ask.)