Must Be Quantum Physics


Work calls.

Never good.

Hurt employee.

Stuck finger where finger doesn’t go. 

Drive to work. 

No blood. No cut. No bruise. 

Young man.

He holds hurt fingertip tightly, only letting go to adjust the rubber band keeping his hair in a man bun.

Says, “Hurts really, really bad. Like on a one to ten scale, 10 bad.”

Load him up and start toward an urgent care clinic.

For five minutes he gives an instant replay, blow by blow, of how the injury happened.

When he finished I simply asked, “So, why did you put your finger there?”

“I don’t know.”


He started talking at warp speed again, then stopped a second.

I jumped at the opportunity during his talking pause and hit my playlist, a wide range of artists, songs and genres. A John Denver song starts, Take Me Home, Country Roads.

I think — no more talking, please.  I discretely use my finger on the steering wheel to turn the volume up loud.

Worked! No talking.

Instead, he burst into song like I’m not even in the truck with him. Singing! As loud as he could!

“Country roads, take me home, to the place, where I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads!”

Even with just the two of us in the truck, it was embarrassing! 

I cautiously glanced his way.  His eyes were closed, chin up, and he held his hurt finger in front of his mouth singing into it like it was an imaginary microphone.

I think — no more singing, please. I discretely use my finger on the steering wheel to turn the volume down to a whisper.

That worked too, but only a moment.

I tried asking questions instead, but the first, and only question, was the last one.

“What do you see yourself doing five years from now?” 

I secretly hoped he would say working for another company, but no way Jose was that his answer.

He started.

“Well, I’m currently studying quantum physics, reading a book about it.  Five years from now, I’ll have invented a new technology. It doesn’t exist now, so it’ll be new. So, I’m going to use quantum physics on my new technology and it will copy people’s memories and transfer them to computer chips.”

He got excited and kept talking.

Faster. Barely breathing. Every sentence. 

“At first, I’ll just sell it to people so they can remember things, but then I’ll sell the whole thing to the gaming industry. They can use it in their video games so people can play a game using only their brain and not have to move any part of their bodies.”

I asked, “Don’t they already use their brain, and only move their thumbs on video games now?”

He looked surprised, like he hadn’t thought about that before. Still holding his fingertip, he hesitated, then launched into more of his “quantum physics”.

“But you see, my new technology, the one that doesn’t exist now, yeah, umm, so it requires like a huge amount of computer memory.  Have you heard of a megabyte before?”

I didn’t look at him. Didn’t want to. I just kept driving and answered, “Sure!  A megabyte is why parents take their kids to the orthodontist for braces!”

He didn’t laugh, didn’t get it all. He just stared at me a second and flatly said, “No!”

He started again. “So a gigabyte has 1024 megabytes, and a terabyte is 1024 gigabytes!” 

He rattled off bits, bytes, peta, exa and zetta, then announced that the largest is a yottabyte.  He claimed the human brain uses 2 ½ yottabytes of storage for memories, but didn’t say how he “knew” that.

I’m just guessing, quantum physics?    

I kept driving, looking straight ahead. 

He stopped talking, eventually, and from the passenger seat stared at me for a long time before asking,  “Does all this vast knowledge just overwhelm you!?”

I glanced his way.  He was serious, dead serious! 

I promise! I tried not to laugh. I REALLY tried, but it was a mid-swallow, spit your drink of water out of your mouth funny laugh!

It was a welcome relief to park at the urgent care clinic. 

The nurse quickly took him back to x-ray his fingertip and give him a drug screen, which surprisingly, he passed.

A few minutes later though, the nurse came back alone to the room where I was waiting and whispered, “I don’t want to sound mean, but is he one of y’all’s ‘special’ employees?”

I feel your pain, and assured her he was not ‘special’, but confirmed he was indeed an odd duck. 

She whispered, “He just keeps talking, and I have no idea what he’s talking about!”

After the x-ray, the nurse brought him back to the little room.  She asked me to have a seat in the chair and for him to sit on the padded bench until the practitioner came in. Before he could answer, she quickly left and closed the door.

A small TV on the wall was playing Moana, a Disney cartoon movie.  He sat on the examination bench a moment, then jumped back off to look it over.  After studying it a second, he asked, “How does this adjust up like a hospital bed so I can sit in bed and watch the movie?”

His vast knowledge began to overwhelm me. 

I pointed out to Mr. Quantum Physics that the bench was a five-foot long, solid wooden bench with green padding on top that did NOT adjust like a hospital bed.

All he said was, “Oh”, and jumped back up on the bench.

“Does all this vast knowledge just overwhelm you!?”

He was instantly mesmerized with the cartoon movie! 

I glanced up from my phone.  His feet were off the ground, swinging back and forth under the table like a hyperactive child.  All the while, he was holding his fingertip as if it was going to run away from home if he let it loose.  

His eyes were wide, fixed on the TV, and I kid you not, his jaw was completely relaxed, mouth wide open! You could drive a truck in there!

Maybe the nurse was right?

I admit I was being sarcastic, maybe even tacky when I asked him if this was his favorite movie?

Without looking away from the screen, he emphatically shook his head side to side, “No. It’s Lilo and Stitch.”

Bless her soul! The practitioner came in soon afterwards.  

Final diagnosis — hairline fracture of the fingertip, barely visible on the x-ray.  

Splint it. Wrap it. Go.  The quicker, the better.  

He moaned and groaned like he had an amputated arm when the nurse splinted the end of his finger.  She buddy wrapped it to the pinky for stability.

I didn’t ask, but wondered if she was sending a subtle message with the pink Coban she wrapped his finger with. 

We left.  On the way back, I dared not turn on music.

Half way back to work though he saw a bug exterminator truck ahead.  He got really excited saying it might be his brother-in-law who worked for the pest control company. 

He quickly texted him, and hit the send button, before quietly adding that his brother-in-law had never texted him back before.       

He’s back at work.  One handed duty, and to his credit, hasn’t missed a lick.  

But ever since Saturday, I’ve been thinking about the nurse asking, “Is he one of y’all’s ‘special’ employees?”

I’m not so sure now. Not sure at all!


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