Have you ever gone about your business for hours before you noticed you had injured yourself? And then it hurt?
I read book that described a manual laborer who landed on a six inch nail that went all the way through his boot. The pain was so bad the doctors sedated him with pre-surgery drugs and gave him painkillers normally reserved for terminal cancer patients. But when the doctors removed the boot, they found no injury: the nail was lodged between his toes.
Recently, I wasn’t so lucky.
I have a Bostitch stapler in my office. I call it “the librarian,” because it’s the device a librarian would suggest you use when you’ve got a stack of printed research materials that would jam an ordinary Swingline. Then, he or she would say good luck reading it all and making sense of it.
But take your eye off the ball for a second, and you learn a stapler like that doesn’t know a printed thesis from a fingerprint. I looked up at I-forget-what only to hear a sound that sort of sounded like “Whoa, that went through every page?” but not quite. That’s when I looked down.
Spoiler Alert: I stapled myself.
My left index finger is not a fifty-page stack of bright white copy paper. It’s not dense enough to curl the edges of a heavy-duty staple. And unlike my finger, copy paper doesn’t bleed when penetrated.
That staple went straight in. I felt something, but it wasn’t pain. It wasn’t discomfort. It didn’t even hurt until I looked at myself, and realized what I did; then it hurt. A lot.
Experience says there’s no pain until it bleeds and my brain makes the connection that a steel alloy staple through my finger ought to hurt very much. For a second, I wondered if I needed a tetanus shot. I don’t, because I had one two months ago after a ceramic plate slashed my thumb when it decided it didn’t want to be cleaned, yet.
I needed two Band-Aids, since I’m awful at unpeeling them with one hand. I wondered whether it would have been less painful had I not expected the pain as soon as I saw it.