It is a Friday night just like any other in Lincoln Park, a server walks across the dimly lit bar, bringing a beer to a tourist visiting from Belgium sitting at a booth with her date. Suddenly, the server makes a request of her unlike any other you’re likely to hear anywhere.
Open this beer, he instructs her, using my leg.
“This is my first time, that’s for sure,” Tatiana, who declined to give her last name, said laughing. “Everything happens in America, apparently.”
It’s all in a day’s work for Levi Kane, a server at Tommy Knuckles who has a prosthetic leg with a bottle opener attached just off the side of the kneecap.
“People go out to eat to be entertained,” the 24-year-old server said. “They don’t go out there to be dull and in the corner--although some do for some reason--they go out to be entertained so why not entertain them and what better than to open up a bottle of beer on my prosthetic leg.”
And surprisingly enough, his boss is totally cool with him asking patrons to do just that.
“He’s one of those types of people that goes above and beyond to service people and show off our brand the way it should be,” said Carlos Guerra, a 39-year-old Lakeview resident and one of the owners of Tommy Knuckles.
Kane lost his left leg in a horrific motorcycle accident back in 2009 when he was 20 years old.
“(My buddy and I) were at a bar drinking underage,” the 24-year-old Lakeview resident said. “We weren’t drunk by any means. We had a few though. We took off on my motorcycle.”
Nearly four years and one month to the day later, he can rattle off what happened next almost as though it happened yesterday.
“I was going 80 mph when an oncoming car--they were from out of town--they were looking for a place to change their baby’s diaper,” the Lakeview resident said. “Their TomTom [GPS unit] told them to turn left. They turned left, and I didn’t T-bone them, but I hit them head-on. The guy’s wife saw me, but he did not. It was severed at the scene.”
“(My buddy) ended up flying pretty far, and he got paralyzed from the waist down.”
Rather than let that devastating accident define him, Kane decided to define his newfound status as an amputee with a personal touch.
“I like being original,” he said.
And as you can imagine, a prosthetic leg with a bottle opener attached isn’t something that’s mass-produced or readily available. Kane had to take matters--or in this case, his leg--into his own hands.
Naturally, this wasn’t the first time he had tried modifying his prosthetic leg.
“I used to always have one magnetized on it, and I kept on gluing the magnets on, and it would always fall off,” he said. “It was just big and clunky and annoying, so it started out with a really makeshift wooden bottle opener until I finally found this perfect wall mount, and I bolted that bad boy on there.”
So bolt that bad boy on there, he did, choosing to affix it just off the kneecap for two reasons. There’s the convenience factor of being able to simply lift his leg up and angle his knee for easy opening. There’s also the fact that he didn’t want to destroy his entire prosthetic leg.
“There’s a plastic guard that goes over the knee joint that protects it from getting broken,” he said. “That’s the only hardware that I’m OK with drilling into. I don’t want to drill into any actual components and screw everything up. It’s just a plastic guard.”
It’s an idea that was born when he was on vacation with his dad.
The two had just plopped down on the couch with a beer as they had done countless times before when they realized they had a major problem.
“We both grabbed a beer and sat down on the couch and then we were like ‘Oh, we forgot to open it. Now we’ve got to get up to open it. Are you kidding me? That’s horrible,’ ” Kane recalls.
This time, dear old dad had an epiphany.
“He was like ‘We should just bolt one on there.’ ”
His doctor is reportedly fine with him having bolted a bottle opener onto the side of his prosthetic leg. Kane said having it there has saved him a ton of time over the years in addition to helping him out at his job.
“Tips definitely seem to skyrocket when I let them open the bottle of beer on my leg,” he said.
“It’s quite shocking at first because you don’t know how to take it,” Guerra added. “With someone that’s confident within himself, it makes it a lot easier to enjoy moments like that.”
Of course, the bottle opener attached to his main prosthetic leg isn’t the only homemade creation Kane has in his collection designed to make drinking both easier and more fun.
“I also have a pegleg--a pirate’s pegleg for Halloween when I want to dress up as a pirate,” he said. “I built myself a pegleg, and I attached a road beer holster on the side of it and lined it with koozie foam and everything. It’s pretty badass.”
So would he recommend other amputees follow his lead and modify their prosthetics in the name of having a good time?
“I’d say go for it,” Kane said. “Work like a captain, drink like a sailor, party like a pirate.”
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