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I’m With Stupid – March 30, 2012

by Todd Hartley

Having never had a desire to injure myself, and having thus far successfully avoided putting myself in a position where lopping off body parts became necessary, I can’t claim to understand the psyche of self-mutilators. If forced to offer an opinion on the practice, I would probably say it seems like a bad idea, but like I said, I’m speaking from a position of ignorance.

I do, however, live in the Aspen area, former home to Aron Ralston, America’s most celebrated self-mutilator, so I do know this about chopping off pieces of oneself: If you’re going to do it, at least have a good story to go along with it. That way, as Ralston’s case demonstrates, you could conceivably end up with a best-selling book and a hit movie to ease your pain.

Sadly, this important aspect of the whole self-mutilating process seems to have eluded a couple of men who made headlines recently for deciding they were better off without certain parts of their anatomies.

The first incident took place a couple of weeks ago in Adelanto, Calif., when a man whose name was not released purposely cut off his hand with a kitchen knife. According to the Victorville Daily Press, “it wasn’t clear why he cut off his hand or whether alcohol or drugs were involved.”

Now, I won’t presume to understand what the man’s motivation in this case could have been, but I think we can probably rule out alcohol as a precipitating factor. You see, I have, on one or two occasions in the past, been as drunk as I could possibly be. I’ve thrown up, I’ve passed out, I’ve woken up the next morning with bruises I didn’t remember getting, and I feel confident saying that nobody drunk enough to consider cutting off part of their body could possibly accomplish the task.

On the other hand – assuming most of you still have both of yours – I have never tried PCP. I’m told, though, that it can make users feel indestructible and superhuman. I’ve even seen videos of naked guys punching holes in fences while under the influence of PCP. (Quick note: I didn’t intend to see a video of a naked guy, but for some reason people on PCP always seem to end up with no clothes on.) So, could drugs have had something to do with the man cutting off his hand? I’d say it’s a distinct possibility.

The second incidence of self-mutilation occurred just last week when an Austrian man, Hans Url, sawed off his own foot with an electric saw and then threw the severed appendage in the furnace to ensure that doctors wouldn’t be able to reattach it. To you and me, who don’t have universal health care, such an act might seem crazy, but it turns out Url actually had a very good reason for doing what he did.

It seems the Austrian man, who hasn’t had a real job since 2003, was going to be visited by unemployment officials to determine whether he was physically capable of working. In a panic over possibly having to do something to earn a paycheck, Url just did what any healthy person who wants to appear incapacitated would do in a similar situation.

This I can understand. As I said before, I’ve never wanted to injure myself, but I like being given money for doing nothing as much as anybody. If I’d been living off the government’s largess for the last nine years, I might do something drastic to keep getting paid, too. Sure, I probably wouldn’t saw off my own foot, but if that was the only thing Url could think of doing at the time, I won’t hold it against him.

Unfortunately for Url, his tactic might not have the desired effect. According to Austrian unemployment officials “losing a foot does not automatically mean he will not be able to work.” So, in addition to having a foot missing and nearly dying from his wounds, Url may now face the even more painful experience of having to hold down a job, which, given his resistance to the idea, may be the ultimate case of adding insult to injury.

Let that be a cautionary tale, my friends. I know a lot of you were thinking to yourselves that Url was rather clever, but the truth is he’s just a guy missing a foot – at least until he signs a book deal and someone decides his story would make a great movie.

Todd Hartley bit off a hangnail the other day, but so far no publishers seem interested. 

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