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What do you do when you don't have insurance?

Everyone should be able to consider themselves a home cook in some regard — knife skills are not difficult to develop and hey, then you can cook! But even with all my years of experience in the kitchen, it just took one quick swipe with a well-sharpened Wusthof to go from “dutiful daughter making delicious fish tacos for mom” to “do we think the bleeding will stop soon?” I was about to find out how much it would cost me to answer “no, it won’t.” And I didn’t have insurance.

I was one of the 3 million or so young folks that went back onto their parents’ health care plans after college. That vacation from adult responsibility ended on my 26th birthday, one week before the unfortunate finger chopping episode (to add insult to injury). We “young and invincibles” constitute the majority of the uninsured because we just don’t get sick or kitchen-maimed that often. I have never felt more young, invincible or terrified of getting old than when I filled out an insurance application this week and saw all of the Really Fun Diseases (RFD) I can look forward to.

In the case of the fish tacos, the red onion was my undoing, and, humorously enough, the only time I haven’t teared up while slicing them. I’m a Henckels enthusiast, but I’d switch to Wusthof just for that. I can see the commercials now: “So sharp you barely feel it!” Minimizing the damage was, at this point, critical.

I held my bundled-up hand above my head like one of those hula dancer bobble dolls and applied pressure because I’m sure I saw that on ER. It was now 1 p.m. and our nice taco lunch had been forgotten entirely, which messed with my priorities. After a few tries, we found the Walnut Creek Urgent Care center straight out of I Heart Huckabees, which was encouraging. Thanks to them, the job at hand (!) was done quickly and efficiently. I was quoted $140 (“More if there are stitches”) while I attempted to fill out forms. The doctor told me after one quick glance that there was nothing there to stitch back on.

Me, hopeful: “Any chance that part of the finger grows back?”

Doctor, unperturbed: “You’ll have a permanent divot there.”

In case you were wondering, this was not my first fish taco rodeo. I tend to go quick and dirty with them: tilapia or other inexpensive white fish tossed in flour, cumin, ancho chili powder and a hint of cayenne for fun, fried til crispy and plunked on tortillas with appropriate condiments. And I was still not happy I didn’t get to partake. A post-stitching chocolate cookie shaped like a shark, chicken verde burrito and Hop Stoopid by the Lagunitas Brewing Company fixed the dramatic drop in blood sugar, but I’ve still got this sad little finger-deal.

It’s been a solid two weeks since the incident, and I can’t say my level of caution around knives and other sharp implements has increased. Necessary caveat: It wasn’t the whole finger, or even most of the finger, just a sizable portion of the finger tip (gruesome photo available upon request). And there you have it: the end of my hand modeling career, before it ever truly began. Hopefully I’ll have a better answer next time someone asks, “Do you have insurance?”

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