In Praise of Thumbs

No offense intended to the rest of the digits, but thumbs definitely rock. I guess it’s their opposability. (WordPress says that isn’t a word, but play along.) That and their ability to play well with others.

As usual with these things, it came to mind because one of mine is being difficult. As you may have guessed, hauling boxes of cheese around and putting it on hooks is kind of physical work. Thankfully I haven’t had any trouble with my back. (Leg and abdominal muscles also deserve a round of applause while we’re at it.)

Not so much luck with my right arm. The current issue (hence the title) is my thumb. I’m not sure if it’s tendons, joints, muscles or whatever. It kept me awake a couple of nights. Yesterday it was awful. Today it felt like something snapped a few times in my hand/wrist and it’s much better. I think it’s some kind of evil spirit.

Some days I have almost nothing to think about at work and my mind wanders. It’s been like that for years, but is much less disruptive without the job requiring thought. Unless you count matching the colors on bags of cheese as deep thought. In which case we should probably talk about the viability of your own blog.

Without further ado, here are some of the things thumbs don’t get much respect for:

It is almost impossible to zip up jeans without using your right thumb. It is particularly an issue if you have gained weight since the last time you wore the jeans. Or are in denial about the true size of your body.

Pulling open potato chip (or other unhealthy) bags. It seems like such a failure to need to resort to scissors. Besides, it’s pathetic to need something like that so badly that you can’t wait. Go with an ice cream cone.

Holding an apple while you eat it, even if you slice it. Or French Fries. Or pickles. Some things just can’t be held like a cigarette, and a lot of them are food. Do you have any idea how silly you would look holding a pickle spear between your first two fingers when there is no obvious reason for it?

Doing dishes. I admit it. We are also the only family in suburbia without a dishwasher. Holding soapy dishes without using your thumb is most useful for getting rid of the hideous dishes someone gave you for your wedding but you haven’t ever gotten around to sending to charity.

Holding your cat while you try to brush the winter furs out from the spring ones. One one cat seems to be a cross between a Siamese and something that lives in the Arctic circle. Gorgeous soft fur that sheds and sheds and sheds.

Peeling vegetables. Probably less of an issue for those of you who live at Taco Bell or PF Chang’s. Or have a significant other who cooks. Or children who could be coerced into doing it. Or use frozen vegetables.

Writing by hand. It means taking a pen or pencil and making marks on a piece of paper that someone else can look at and see meaning. It is a relative of texting and email which are also more difficult but don’t require grasping a small round instrument to do. Also crossword puzzles.

Opening pill bottles to get at the pain relievers that are supposed to make it easier to do things with your injured thumb. You need one hand to hold the bottle and the other to push down or line up or whatever to get the bottle to actually open. Both jobs require thumbs.

Forks are really difficult. Chopsticks are impossible. Of course, it takes me several bites to remember how to use chopsticks anyway. You can’t even pick up the food discretely in your hand. Forget eating that really excellent chip dip at the party unless you want to have your date feed it to you. Don’t do that unless you are still in high school or it is your wedding.

Shaking hands. You will feel like the dog when he puts his paw in yours and you shake it up and down. You will have no control over how long or hard it is shaken. I do not recommend growling to get it back.

Holding the shampoo bottle while you are pouring some into the other hand. Same problem with controlling the force of ketchup. Pump bottles start to look better.

Using a corkscrew. I guess you shouldn’t be drinking alone in the first place, so this issue can probably take care of itself. Let’s hope they remember to take the cork off the pointy thing after it’s out of the bottle.

Turning the key in your ignition. Unless you have a button ignition. In which case, you probably have one of those gear shift levers on the floor that you have to press with your thumb to release it for the rest of your hand to pull back. Once you get moving, you’re fine.

Scraping the snow from your car. Never mind. We won’t think about that.

Snaps, hooks, buttons. Tying your shoes. Might work as an excuse to go to work in your pajamas. Doubt it, but you never know. Going in naked is an even worse option.

Of course, you can also perform most forms of housework and lawn maintenance poorly. Unfortunately it’s sort of a mixed blessing since you’ll have to fix it all eventually. You may have the same issue if you get your spouse or children to do it for you.

On the bright side, there is more white space and fewer words in my post. You should be able to get through it more quickly.

(Correction to previous post: Dick and Jane’s cat is Puff, not Fluffy)

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6 thoughts on “In Praise of Thumbs

  1. I think opposable thumbs are the only reasons cats haven’t kicked us off the planet yet.
    Careful – if you damage yours, our furry overlords may deem you unnecessary to their empire.
    (Disclosure: I hat cats.)

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