Work Life

Flesh Wound

Sawdust from the Peach Saplings
Sawdust from the Peach Saplings

I cut my right hand at work yesterday and had to get stitches — six of them at the base of my thumb.

It doesn’t hurt much, and my motor skills haven’t been impaired, however, the doctor said I’m supposed to minimize the use of my hand until a worker’s comp doctor reviews my healing progress on Friday. There’s plenty of work that can be accommodated at the home, farm and auto store so lost wages there shouldn’t be a problem. I went back to work after returning from the clinic — there was no lost time, an important metric for people like our store manager.

What matters more is the loss of productivity in everything else I do during spring to get by.

I contacted the farm and asked for relief from soil blocking for a week. The work restriction will also be a setback for weekend work in the garden. I had hoped to plant radishes, peas and turnips in newly turned ground. I’ll experiment with turning the soil without my right hand, but the prospects seem dim for getting much done.

There’s no short term disability insurance, so If I don’t work, productivity and income will be lost.

People who craft models about minimum wage often include the idea of short term disability as a footnote. Focused on hourly wage, they say if everything goes according to plan a person can make it on $15 per hour or whatever. Everything doesn’t always go according to plan, especially if one is working poor. Consequences of the minor lacerations on my right hand serve as testament.

That’s where economic models created to advocate for raising the minimum wage are inadequate. Life is much more complex. There are unwelcome limits an injury imposes on life at the economic edge. Accommodating and adjusting in response is a more resilient skill that matters more than raising the wage.

It has been so long since I was injured at work — more than 40 years ago at the meat packing plant — I can’t remember what to do.

I’ll adjust because I have to to preserve the tenuous thread from which our economic life hangs. It’s all part of sustaining a life in a turbulent world.