Bagel Victims - you're not alone
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 95 11:07:49 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Bagel Victims - you're not alone
Forwarded-by: Julie Mangin <email@example.com>
Byline: Cindy Loose. "Experiencing a Slice of Bagel Life: The Less
Adept Find the Cutting Edge of a Round Bun." Page A1, A18. Washington
Post, Feb 25, 1995.
Every weekend, they arrive at District and suburban emergency rooms with
blood dripping from their injuries: upstanding citizens, often leaders in
their fields, sometimes with their pajamas showing beneath their coats.
It happened one morning to Eric Berman, head of research for the
Democratic National Committee. He tried to hide his wound, wrapping it in
a red kitchen towel. But when his face turned ashen, his mother-in-law
shoved him into a cab and took him to George Washington University Medical
"When I pulled off the towel, the doctor said, 'Oh, a bagel injury.' He
knew immediately, " Berman said of the cut he suffered while slicing his
breakfast. How could the doctor conclude that about a patient he'd never
"Oh, we get a bunch of these every Saturday morning," Berman said the
doctor told him.
Indeed, an informal survey of area hospitals revealed that bagel-related
accidents are, in the words of Mark Smith, head of George Washington's
Department of Emergency Medicine, "the great underreported injury of our
times. I wish I had statistics, but I can say it's unbelievable how many
An epidemiologist tracing the surge in bagel accidents no doubt could find
its roots in an explosion of bagel consumption and franchises, with
national sales approaching $1 billion a year. In the Washington area, for
example, Chesapeake Bagel Bakery started with on store on Capitol Hill in
1981 and now has 35 in the Washington area, 60 nationwide and 361 more in
Spokesman Dan Rowe said Chesapeake sells 700,000 bagels a week in this
area alone. Its major competitors here include Whatsa Bagel, Bethesda
Bagel, and Brueggers Bagel Co., which entered the D. C. market a year ago,
and now has eight stores, not to mention independent bakeries and the
bagels and bagel look-alikes sold in grocery stores.
With all those slippery spheres being sliced by recent converts to the
once-humble dough brought to America by Jewish immigrants at the turn of
the century, accidents were inevitable. There is even a Yiddish word to
describe a person who cuts himself while cutting bagels: klutz.
"The bagel is inherently unstable because it's round," said Smith, of
George Washington Medical Center. "In fact there are two unstable
surfaces: the knife against the bagel and the bagel against the table."
That inherent instability is exacerbated by the firm, fight-back crust
around a softer middle. "This is speculation, but I theorize that it's
difficult to modulate the force needed to get through the exterior once
you hit the doughy part, and you cut your finger," Smith said.
A spokeswoman for Georgetown University Medical Center, misunderstanding a
voice mail message, returned a reporter's call prepared to discuss fatal
injuries. Informed of the real query, she changed course without missing
a beat. "Oh, *bagel* injuries," Claire Fiori said. "Oh, yes. That's one
of our biggest."
She summoned Thomas Stair, head of the emergency medical department, who
said bagel accidents are a "recognizable syndrome. ...There should be a
name for it. It's a good opportunity for an eponym: Somebody should
write a paper and get it named after themselves."
There is one bright spot for hospitals: Nearly every bagel victim is
insured. As trauma technologist Rick Tuppen put it, bagel cuts are the
bane of the middle class." This ethnic import from Eastern Europe has
acquired a certain cachet associated with urbanity, upward mobility,
East-Coastness, even effeteness.
"I'm so embarrassed about my cut," Berman said. "My populist reputation
Bagel cuts, while hardly fatal, can be frightening. Chris Enochs, manager
of design services at Georgetown Medical Center, was bleeding profusely
from a stab wound incurred while cutting a frozen bagel when he heard a
knock on the door.
"A lady from the homeowners association was delivering newsletters, and
there I am standing at the door with a bloody knife and blood-drenched
clothes." He said she turned as pale as he was but calmed down enough to
give him a ride to the hospital.
"I ate that bagel when I got home," Enochs said. "I won't ever let a
bagel get the best of me."
After seeing Berman's bandaged middle finger, his colleagues gave him a
device they considered a joke: a bagel cradle It holds the bagel while a
person cuts (George Washington gives cradle brochures to bagel victims).
Berman did not get a bagel guillotine--a more expensive model with a
He did, however, get some sympathy: Dallas Morning News reporter Susan
Feeney dropped by his office for some election statistics and ended up
offering her own "I cut myself and someone bought me a cradle" story.
Robert Rothstein, chairman of emergency medicine at Suburban Hospital in
Bethesda, said bagel victims tend to be embarrassed, but the near epidemic
is causing more of them to "come out of the closet."
"There's a whole cult of people out there who have cut their fingers with
bagels. ... So many," Rothstein said, "that there must be some sort of
support group by now."
© 1995 Peter Langston