New Year’s Weekend on the Hand Surgery Ward, Old Pilgrims’ Hospital, Naples, Italy

Outside, the neighbors were firing a pistol and setting off firecrackers in honor of the coming New Year. I decided to make a lasagna so I began chopping onions and I cut off the end of my thumb.

In Italy the emergency number is different for police and ambulances. I couldn’t remember which emergency number was which so I called a pediatrician to whom I had been giving English lessons and she called the ambulance.

The dispatcher started calling me, she kept asking me which building was mine and I kept telling her which one it was. I eventually realized the ambulance guys didn’t want to walk up all the stairs to my apartment, so I called my neighbor, Norma, to ask her to go down and meet them, but I accidentally called my ex-girlfriend on the speed dial. I don’t know if I hung up before it started to ring. The fourth time the dispatcher called, she said the ambulance guys were waiting at the bottom of the stairs. We began to argue. I told her I understood that they wanted me to go down but I was in one room and my thumb was in the kitchen. I kept saying, my thumb is on the cutting board! My thumb is on the cutting board with the onions in the kitchen!

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