Getting a tattoo is generally considered to be a safe procedure when everything is done correctly. But those last five words are the most important part of that sentence -- that's why the kinds of tattoo artists who don't just start stabbing on sight will give you a list of do's and don'ts before your appointment, such as "make sure you've eaten something recently" and "don't show up wasted, you degenerate." You might be tempted to crumple it up and throw it away, because you're not a toddler, or maybe you are a toddler and you need some liquid courage to handle the ouchies. (Note: Actual toddlers should not be given alcohol before they get a tattoo.)
Unless they're teething.
But they don't give you those instructions because they took one look at your khakis and determined that you're a pansy who can't hang. It doesn't matter how much of a badass you are: If you don't eat, you can pass out. If you're drunk, you can bleed out. OK, you won't die, but it'll be ugly because alcohol acts as a blood thinner. "Normally, there's not gonna be more than a drop or two of blood on the floor," says Sam. "But this [drunk] guy had, I don't know, maybe a cup of blood on the floor."
Even if you do everything right, you're trusting not just your artist but every artist in the studio to refrain from being fatally gross. You can check for old hidden sharps containers and demand a needle made of pure solid Lysol, but if anyone is sharing ink and any of those people are screw-ups, they're taking ink out and putting infection back in. "We had some bad ink, and anybody tattooed with it -- it was bad," Sam says. "Two of my friends got tattooed with that same ink, so it was kinda obvious. ... [The owner] refused to throw it away. I eventually snuck in and threw it away." It's not always the filthy parlor at fault, either -- Big Ink occasionally ships out a toxic batch of product. It happened most recently with a company called White & Blue Lion in 2014. In New York as many as 6 percent of people wind up with itching or infections that last longer than four months.
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"It says 'amoxicillin' in Chinese!"
As for how sanitary the shops themselves are, it's hit and miss. "The autoclave [sterilization machine] and that stuff, that's really well-done," says Sam. "I mean, we tattoo each other, so we definitely don't want diseases or anything." Everything else, though, literally gets swept under the rug. "The sharps containers can pile up," he says. "During the health inspections, they'll go and hide them out back somewhere. There's a $500 fine for every violation, so they hide those things. Trash cans not taken out properly, that's $500; any additional trash bags in that trash can, that's another $500. Sometimes the tubes will sit for a couple days, and they end up getting cleaned, but I don't think that's very good for health code."
OK, we suddenly realize why they don't want people bringing their cats in there.
Manna has many ill-advised tattoos and also a Twitter.
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