Toe The Line

By Will Dabbs, MD

The Baird Televisor could be considered the world’s first commercial television set. This device used a neon tube to produce a visible image about the size of a postage stamp that was then enlarged to roughly twice that size via a magnifying lens. Between 1930 and 1933, they sold about a thousand units.

Ours is a nation of 332 million people. Nowadays there are 125 million TV-equipped households in America. Until the advent of the ubiquitous smartphone, the television was the most popular consumer electronic device on the planet. Lamentably, there are no televisions or cell phones actually made in America any more.

For most of us, the television is a multi-function instrument. It offers entertainment, childcare, or a welcome distraction after a hard day at work. For many, however, the idiot box has become an unholy altar of sorts, the sort of false god that demands incessant supplication and unfettered attention. One such man presented to the urban emergency room where I worked with his foot wrapped in a bloody towel.

The Player

Our hero was fat, sedentary, and eminently likable. Once I set him up on an exam table and unwrapped his offended limb I discovered a through-and-through small-caliber gunshot wound to his right great toenail. Intrigued, I inquired regarding the details.

His was a rough neighborhood, and the local wayward delinquents had been breaking into people’s homes and stealing stuff. As a result, our protagonist had retrieved his .22 pistol from the closet shelf some months back and prepositioned it underneath his recliner for easy access. Over time he forgot it was there.

One evening he was watching his shows when he fumbled his TV remote. The slippery device took an unlucky bounce and slid underneath his chair. Leaning over to fish around for the little widget he unexpectedly discovered the familiar shape of his forgotten rimfire pistol.

The man got his television sorted and studied the pistol in detail. It had indeed been several months since he had deployed the gun underneath his chair. In all the excitement, he had forgotten whether or not it was loaded. At this point training and experience kicked in.

Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility

Anyone frequenting this hallowed site would have pointed the gun in a safe direction, carefully ejected the magazine, and then manually cycled the slide before ensuring both by sight and feel that the chamber was empty. However, that’s not the way this guy rolled. He just drew a careful bead on his right great toe, slipped off the safety, steadied his breathing, and squeezed the trigger.

At a slant range of maybe three feet, the guy was Carlos Hathcock-grade accurate. The zippy little 40-grain bullet transited his fat, hairy toe and then, in a simply breathtaking example of universal irony, also center-punched his big flatscreen television. As I cleaned his wounds and got my head around the details, this man and I enjoyed a spirited conversation. He was disappointed that he had nearly blown his big toe off, but he was quite literally gutted over the untimely demise of his television set.

Once I got the man tidied up I sent him on his way. We lost touch afterwards. If I recall correctly he also had diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, so there’s a fair possibility he eventually lost the end of his foot over his little gun safety faux pas.

Stay frosty, my friends. They walk among us. Or in this case, they just sort of hobble…

From the FE Films Archive

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