Sunday, June 29, 2003

An Australian man has committed a copycat self-amputation, slicing off his own arm with a knife after his tractor overturned, pinning it to the ground (the arm, not the knife). The catch (as it were) in this case: according to police, "[a]nother worker discovered the injured miner and sounded an alarm, but he didn’t want to wait for rescue crews." He was apparently rescued within hours, an arm short. (And just in time, too--who knows what he might have applied his overeager knife to, given another hour or so.)

Now, let me repeat the key detail, here: the man decided to lop off his own arm with a knife, rather than wait for a few hours until rescuers could arrive. The mysteries abound: how long, exactly, did he wait? How did he react when the rescuers arrived? If the opportunity had later arisen to reattach his arm, but had required him to stay for a few more hours in his hospital bed, would he have checked out in disgust, rather than wait around for the surgeon?

I've been trying to piece together the hypothetical details of this bizarre story in my mind, the better to understand it. For what it's worth, here's my imagined chronology:

  • The man's tractor overturns, pinning his arm in the process.

  • The man panics--perhaps having read the harrowing story of the Coloradan climber who spent several horrible days hemming and hawing before finally doing the necessary thing--and quickly severs the trapped arm.

  • A few minutes thereafter, a colleague finds him, and summons rescuers. The man smacks his own forehead with his remaining hand and begins mentally composing an acceptance speech for his anticipated Academy of Stupidity Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • After his rescue, an incredibly tactless journalist asks him, "why did you cut your own arm off so quickly, instead of waiting a bit longer for someone to find you?" Unable to muster the courage to look the world media in the eye and announce, "it's quite simple, really--I'm afraid I'm just a world-champion bonehead," the man puts on his best Paul Hogan sardonic/stoic grin, shrugs with his remaining shoulder, and says, "naah--I couldn't be bothered to wait for 'em."

  • It doesn't sound like all that plausible a scenario, I admit--but it's the most charitable one I could think of.

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