Newsletter 110: The Woe of the Finger Injury

Will Leitch
6 min readMar 29, 2019

I’ve decided to start putting some of the best newsletter essays here on Medium, so more people can read them. You’re still better off just subscribing. Here’s one from June 2018, about how the plague of finger injuries afflicting my family.

When I was in middle school, my dad chopped the top of his middle finger off at the knuckle. My dad was an electrical substation worker, in charge of, among other things, heading out in the middle of the night and fixing whatever had made your power go out. (Usually a tree falling in a storm, a substation overheating or, once, an owl flying right into a major power line and exploding.) Dad did this for 30 years and was excellent at it. He got called out so often that the CIPS (Central Illinois Public Service Company) dispatcher and I become phone friends, back when there was a person who had that job, before it became automated.

One night, a stray branch had broken off a mostly frozen tree and landed right on a substation, shorting it out and sending Dad and his crew out to get everybody’s power back on. It was a huge branch, and it had to be cut into pieces to get it down from the substation so they could clear it all out and get the power back on. Dad’s crew had a tool that you could navigate from the ground, slide around the branch and then chop from below so you didn’t have to have some guy in a hoist whacking it with an axe. This day, Dad’s job was to guide the tool around the branch, give them thumbs up when it was secured and then break it apart once the guy on the ground had pulled the lever to cut.

Except there was some sort of miscommunication, and the guy down on the ground thought Dad gave him the green light to chop even though Dad, up on the hoist, was still securing the tool. So the guy pulled the level, and, nice and clean and quick, WHUMP off went Dad’s finger. It actually fell, from the hoist down the rocks below. It was so fast Dad didn’t realize what had happened until he looked and his hand and realized something that had been there his entire life suddenly wasn’t.

They rushed him to the ER, with his finger in a Ziploc bag on ice. After a series of surgeries, they…

Will Leitch

I write about these tumultuous times 2x a week. Author of five books, including “How Lucky.” NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin.