Based on the existence and fairly stringent enforcement of child labor laws in this country, I feel fairly confident that I can take it for granted that I work with adult, full-grown people in my company.
Adult, full-grown people generally possess common sense; granted they use it far less frequently than we might like, but they possess it nonetheless.
Sometime with-in the last few weeks one such adult, full-grown person, upon arriving at a meeting wherein breakfast was provided, (despite the ongoing directive to conserve funds wherever possible, I might add) and noticing the lack of proper cutting implements to divide the unsliced bagels, took it upon herself to bring a large serrated knife from her cubicle into the conference room to cut the bagels. She then proceeded to place one of said bagels into her lesser hand and begin slicing the bagel in two. What happened next is very unclear as there were, in reality, very few witnesses to the event, but from what I understand the adult, full-grown person somehow managed to cut through the bagel and fairly deeply into one of her fingers.
Having used her own knife, brought from her own cubicle and under her own steam sliced into her own finger, she took it upon herself to clean up her mess, wrap up her hand, and driver herself to the emergency room where she received, I’m told, approximately eight stitches. No one called 911. Crime Scene Cleaners were not called to clean and dispose of the bio-hazardous fluids that escaped. No one even bothered to call security and submit an incident report. Hell, it wasn’t eve filed under Workers Compensation. The woman is fine. No lasting effects from her injury. She has even returned to work.
What with us being a bunch of adult, full-grown people, you might think that was the end of the story.
You would be wrong.
Earlier this week, I was shown a document, created by an unknown entity, and approved and finalized by someone who makes a lot more money than I do, to be posted in all break rooms and conference rooms. The document was printed in full color and laminated thickly so that it would hold up for a good long time to come. As is so often the case (particularly with things that originate where this document did) not nearly enough, or the right eyes fell upon this document in advance of calling it complete and only after it had been finalized, printed and posted did I see it (not that I’m calling myself the right eyes.)
I have received a number of comments from people I am friendly with in the building. People who are not complaining to me in an official capacity or with any expectation that I will, or could, effect a change, but simply because they know me and my level of intellect and know I will understand where they are coming from. Nonetheless, these people are complaining as they state, rightly, that this document is downright offensive.
The document is titled “Careful Cutting: Knife Safety Tips”, and just as it sounds it is a list of suggestions how to handle a knife safely… Because clearly one distracted person who took responsibility for herself is irrefutable proof that the entirety of modern society is too ignorant to manage a knife without some guidance. The document is laid out as a list of bullet points; brief sentences with suggestions that are entirely valid, though clearly written for kindergarteners. It is written with some of each point bolded as one would do for a document that has highlights within each point that are most important. In other words, I make a list of things and I’d like you to read the entire list, but if you won’t, please at least read this part and you’ll get the primary focus of the line item. The purpose of strategic bolding in a document such as this, is that even if you don’t read anything more than what I have strategically bolded, you will still get the point of the document.
That said, here is what this document says to most people who will read it:
Following these basic guidelines for using knives can help to ensure safety in the work environment.
- Be alert and pay attention
- Always use a solid surface
- Do not hold food
- Point away. [That actually is a sentence on the document. Just “Point Away.”]
- Use your free hand to firmly hold the food
- Never use a knife
- Hand knives
- Do not startle or distract someone
- Wash and store knives immediately
Honestly? Some of those are really good advice; words to live by, even! However, with the exception of number six, I’m not sure how clearly they actually convey whatever point it is we were trying to convey, which I can only assume is not “We think you’re too stupid to take care of yourself.” Now don’t get me wrong. I understand we live in a ridiculously litigious society where we sue fast food restaurants for selling hot coffee that we then burn our vajayjays with when we put the scalding hot cup between our legs and then drive, resulting in the necessity to print “caution, contents may be hot” on every hot-beverage paper cup ever made for the last 17 years. But I think the actions of the woman in this situation proved that she was not interested in suing her employer for something she so clearly held total responsibility for.
- Be alert and pay attention Well, yes. Whether you’re driving, or walking, or cutting a bagel or balancing your checkbook (does anyone do that anymore?) being alert and paying attention seems like excellent advice. It prevents mistakes from being made and erroneous information being disseminated. Admittedly, it also prevents fingers being severed… usually.
- Always use a solid surface Always? Isn’t it conceivable that there will be times when a solid surface will not be ideal? I like my bed to be soft and fluffy. For sure my pillow needs to have some give. My chair at work could actually stand to have a bit less solid surface that I sit on. On the other hand, I prefer a solid surface to drive on and a solid surface to write on and a solid surface on which to put my laptop. Solid surfaces do, indeed, serve many purposes; but “always”?
- Do not hold food Holding food can certainly become messy from time to time. Crumbs drop everywhere. Sauces tend to drip off of the food item and run down your hand and arm. It can make for a real mess. Hell, even today I ate a couple donuts with a knife and a fork, (In clear violation of rule number 6). But sometimes you have to hold food. It’s pretty tough to prepare food without holding it from time to time and some things, like pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, were just made to be held (actually I eat pizza with a knife and fork too, but clearly I’m a rebel.)
- Point away. Seriously. That’s an entire sentence. I have no idea what purpose this advice serves. I mean, my mother told me pointing was rude. And after a while your arms get tired. Clearly more research is needed on this one. I need better guidelines before I can go around pointing, away.
- Use your free hand to firmly hold the food But?!? Didn’t you just tell me not to hold the food?
- Never use a knife It would be pretty tough for me to imagine going the rest of my life without ever using a knife again. Nonetheless, I think we could actually have accomplished exactly what this document is trying to accomplish with these four simple words. NEVER. USE. A. KNIFE. I can guarantee you will not cut your own finger off if you never use a knife. You will also never cut a steak, or toast and shmear a bagel or make a peanut butter and honey (or jelly if you prefer) sandwich, effectively, again, either.
- Hand knives The only thing I can figure is this must be the working title of an Edward Scissorhands Prequel/Sequel (commingsoontoatheaternearyou!)
- Do not startle or distract someone Again, it only seems polite. I mean, some people really don’t like surprises and some people are easily distracted and need to be able to focus. Wouldn’t you feel guilty if you startled someone into a heart attack or something? I know I would!
- Wash and store knives immediately Well, I mean,… I’m kinda in the middle of something right now. Can’t it wait till I’m finished? Also, what knives? I don’t see any knives. Does that mean I have to guy buy some knives first? You’re kind of asking a lot.
I admit it. I think the whole document is stupid. I think it’s utterly absurd that something like this has to be made because of one isolated incident with one person who hasn’t even suggested that it’s anyone else’s fault, but if we are going to do something along these lines, at least we could come up with something that is a little better written and laid out!
(By the way, if you’re anything like me, you really want to know what the rest of the document actually really says. If you’ re not interested, you can stop here and skip to the bottom to leave your comments. Ahem. Otherwise, here is the rest of the document in its entirety.)
- Be alert and pay attention when you have a knife in your hand. Do not get distracted or engage in conversation when using knives. Keep your eyes on the blade at all times.
- Always use a solid surface to cut on.
- Do not hold food in the palm of your hand while cutting (i.e. bagels, fruit.)
- Point away. When you are using a knife, always cut downward and with the blade of the knife angled away from you. Never angle the knife toward you or your fingers.
- Use your free hand to firmly hold the food item against the solid surface, making sure fingers are out of the way of any slips that might occur.
- Never use a knife for any purpose other than cutting. A knife blade is not to be used as bottle/can openers, staple removers, box cutters, etc.
- Hand knives to another person handle first, with the cutting edge pointed away from your palm.
- Do not startle or distract someone who is using a knife.
- Wash and store knives immediately after use. Hand wash knives with the edge of the blade away from your hands and dry thoroughly. Never leave knives in a sink.
Actually, I don’t think knowing the full text of the document makes it any less offensive…
Anybody know if they sell “safety knives” next to the “safety scissors” for kindergarteners?