SAN FRANCISCO, California - A cafeteria employee cut off one of her own fingers with a butcher's knife in an "act of desperation" after a co-worker reminded her that 99 days had elapsed since someone had been injured in a workplace accident.
"Everybody knows that whenever we go 100 days without an accident, we're gonna have one of those stupid rallies to celebrate," Haruko Anaka said, explaining the reason for her drastic action in the employee cafeteria. "I just didn't think I could make it through another one."
Anaka said that at the last safety rally, there was a mannequin, and everyone had to take turns dressing him up in slip-proof galoshes, protective eyewear and rubber gloves.
The time before that, she said, they had to watch a slide presentation on how to correctly use a pair of tongs, and another one on how to lift heavy items correctly, and then had to pair up to ask each other safety questions.
"We usually have a cake, too. Last time the word 'safety' was misspelled, and it was too small for me to even get a piece, anyway.
"I freaked out when Sarah reminded me that it'd already been 99 days since Richard got his ding-a-ling caught in the shrimp splitter. When I realized we were probably gonna have to have another one of those safety parties, it was just too much, I guess, thinking about the balloons, the cardboard stars covered in tinfoil, the cheesy safety clichés on posterboard written in glitter, the managers in corny outfits doing gift certificate presentations - I told her I just wasn't going to let that happen," Anaka said. "Not again. No way."
That's when she took the butcher's knife she had been using only moments before to chop vegetables and severed her left index finger, using the countertop as a chopping board.
"I didn't feel any pain at all," Anaka recalled. "It severed the nerve clean through. I wrapped up my hand in a towel and put the finger on ice right away. Before you know it, I was in shock. It was almost euphoric.
"Not at all like the last safety rally," she said, "where I just went completely numb."
Asaka was awarded $55,000 by her employer, and her doctor reattached the severed finger.
He says she should be ready to return to work in about 90 days or so ...