03/28/2008 02:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Food For Thought

I'd come home from work, tired and cranky and in no mood to cook. My shelves were depressingly bare except for a cinnamon raisin bagel. Not interested in waiting for take out, I figured that there were worse things I could eat for dinner than that blessed food usually reserved for Sunday mornings. But that particular bagel was never meant to be my dinner, because while slicing it open, I apparently forgot how to use a knife correctly.

The serrated edge slid into the fleshy side of my left pointer finger, deeply enough that when I paused in shock, it stayed stuck there. Any klutz worth her weight in plaster knows that moment of panic: How bad is this going to be -- Is it broken, or just sprained? Is it just chipped or broken off? Am I going need stitches? When I finally pulled the knife out, the blood started pouring like a broken spigot. Standing in my Brooklyn kitchen arms raised up above my head, looking like an outtake from Carrie I wondered... How do people in New York get to the hospital?

It's been well documented that living in New York is like living on its own planet, or better yet, a cult. To become fully indoctrinated, you have to pass through several stages, check things off your New Yorker List. Things like breaking up with someone on a stoop, buying a Christmas tree off the street and lugging it home by yourself, and being vomited on by a total strangers.

I had just passed another marker on my path to OT Level NYC: I sliced my finger open while cutting a bagel. Later on, a doctor asked me what kind of bagel I'd ruined. He chuckled, and held up his own palm and pointed to a pearly line bisecting his thumb, "Mine was onion. Welcome to the club."

But back to the dilemma at hand: how was I going to get to the hospital? It sounds like a stupid question. It is a stupid question. But when your hand is going like Old Faithful and you're all alone, the situation quickly becomes a debacle. Surely I wasn't supposed to get on the subway like this? One of the reasons I love living in New York is public transportation, but it didn't seem, well, kosher to hop on the train in the state I was in.

So, a taxi became the best option. If I lived in Manhattan, that'd be no problem, but I happen to live in Brooklyn, and in residential Brooklyn no less (not so much hipsters as matronly lesbians and their nine kids). I wonder what my bedraggled neighbor was thinking as she shuffled by in her mumu, slightly aghast as I sat on my stoop, griping a bloodied cell phone and waiting for a hired car, arm still raised over my head. Nothing flattering, I'm sure.

Upon arrival at the ER, I instantly realized that I had made a mistake. A white girl with a bagel wound was not going to be particularly high on anyone's list of things to take care of. Then again, it didn't seem like much of anything would rouse the three people lounging behind a desk in the packed waiting room.

A guy whose face looked like it was pummeled with a baseball bat stood next to me, both of us confused and waiting for someone to offer us a seat, or a form to fill out, or at least fresh towels to wipe up my thumb and his entire head. (I later overheard that he actually was pummeled with a baseball bat.)

Swallowing a healthy dose of reality, I left before filling out anything or talking to anyone and took my own bedraggled self home, arm slung low in defeat and well-deserved embarrassment. After a slow walk in the Brooklyn night air, I pushed open the door to see Lizzie, my wise housemate, waiting with some hydrogen peroxide and a shoulder to soak up my self-pity.

Once I gathered myself together a bit, we realized neither of us had band-aids. "Don't worry," she said. "I'll just ask the people downstairs." Like you do, here in New York. So now I've got a new scar and another box checked on my New Yorker list. It's right next to my grocery list that reads: