Things You Can’t Do Without a Thumb

When I need to slice things, I almost always reach for a knife. I’ve spent good money on some very sharp knives and I get a certain joy in using them.

But last week, looking to bake some potato chips on a week night, I thought to myself “Why make things so hard. There’s a mandolin somewhere in this kitchen. Use that.”

So I found the thing, fiddled with it and puzzled over it like a monkey trying to figure out a plastic water bottle, then started slicing. Things were going great and I was wondering why I’d never used it before.

Until the tip of my thumb came off.

Looking at the wound now, it’s not much of anything. But it was bleeding like crazy, so I cleaned it, rinsed it and slapped some bandaging on it. I took the bandaging off later that night and it started bleeding all over again. I wrapped it up more tightly and didn’t look for a full day. In my imagination, it was the entire tip. It wasn’t going to heal properly without a hospital visit. I’d die from an infection.

Turns out it was a small bit of the tip. It’s perfectly fine now. But it hurt like hell and I was surprised at how crucial the tip of your thumb on your dominant hand is to everyday life.

Some things I found difficult with a hurt, bleeding, bandaged thumb:

1. Cutting things. This was probably just as well, all things considered.

2. Buttoning a shirt. Go ahead. Unbutton and button something right now. What do you use to push the button through the hole? (Also: Button looks like a ridiculous word).

3. Getting things out of your pockets. This one is not so much that you use your thumb, it’s that there’s no way to keep it out of the way.

4. Zip and unzip your pants. Slightly annoying and led to me checking to see if I was zipped more often than normal.

5. Wiping. While we’re on the subject of pants, might as well get to the business end of things. I thought I’d just use my left hand. But no. I couldn’t even figure out the proper way to lean in that direction without feeling like I was going to fall off the throne. Apparently, wiping is a full body endeavor. If I ever break my right hand I don’t know what I’m going to do.

6. Locking a door with a key. Turns out the thumb is the strong man in the key-turning maneuver.

7. Washing dishes. Yeah, this didn’t exactly break my heart.

8. Writing with a pen. Wasn’t impossible, but it was awkward. Surprisingly, typing was fine.

9. Texting. Even slower than usual, which is saying something.

10. Picking boiled crabs. We’d been thinking of getting some crabs to boil for the two prior weeks. Cara suggested we could skip it if I wasn’t up to it. But to hell with that. By this point I’d taken off the bandage again and this time the wound didn’t reopen. And I also saw that it wasn’t the entire tip. But dealing with filthy crabs, lots of seasoning, and hard to crack shells is probably not a wise thing. So I came up with a solution: thumb condom. Bought some food-grade gloves, put a couple on the right hand, cut the rest of the glove off and left the glove on, wrapped tape around the base and voila! Since the thumb still hurt, cracking and picking was far from easy. And no matter how thin, a glove–or thumb condom–gets in the way some. But overall it worked.

At any rate, it’s about 80% healed. In fact, this entire post was thumb typed on my phone. And I learned a valuable lesson! But not until Cara said, “You didn’t use the safety guard?” And I said, “There was a safety guard?” And she shook her head as if I were an idiot.

I’m no idiot! But I did cut my finger on a potato peeler last night and I wasn’t even using the damn thing.

9 thoughts on “Things You Can’t Do Without a Thumb

  1. My sympathies. I cut the tip off my *left* thumb through the old-fashioned means of a nice sharp bread knife just last week as well, so hey, at least you had to go to the mandolin. Glad it’s healing. So’s mine.

  2. Also, turning on a lamp (using the little rotating stem switch under the shade). Ouch! I have a piece of a Pyrex dish embedded in my thumb (the best hand surgeons at Ochsner say they can’t get it out), and turning on a lamp is often when I yell out in pain.

  3. You people have no idea I was born with no thumbs you adapt there isn’t much I can’t do

  4. me and my friends taped are thumbs togther and tried some of those things.
    my thumbs are curentlytaped to my hand and i was able to open a door,slice a carrot in half, pick things up, and we could squeeze things!
    thx for this passage.
    ps:we were also able to tape each others hand in place
    from tofu ab and jo

  5. Injured my thumb and it had to be removed at the middle joint. Judging things is an issue. Try to pick up a glass with the top half gone but still think its there and you miss the glass.
    Scissors don’t fit the thumb now and any fine motor skills like picking up screws etc is not easy. I am only 6 weeks into it so will probably adapt.

  6. This is all a lie. i am 43 years old female born without thumbs and never had any surgeries to correct it i can do everything anyone else can do my hands have never stopped me from anything. Back in 1978 my mother had diabetes when she was pregnant with me the doctors told her that was the cause of me not having thumbs yes I was born early due to the fact that the diabetes was eaten at me other than that having thumbs I was completely healthy and still am to this day so what other people are saying as things that you can’t do without thumbs is lies

  7. Tanya S., Hats off to you! I have bilateral CMC joint degenerative arthritis, it is PAINFUL and the thought of having another surgery of any kind is out of the question. Now , a disabled nurse retired who once had a sewing business, I can’t even sew…I want to teach sewing. I believe in MIRACLES and with God I can do all things.
    *** Waiting and looking for a new way to do all things even if it has to be w/o thumbs.👍👎

  8. Kudos to you that have adapted! You go! I found this due to wanting to make my friend something. Let me back up ,he list his thumb and half pointer finger in an accident.(don’t play with fireworks).
    They get cold very easily. We live in Michigan. I gave him a one finger , let’s say mitten.
    He loved it. So I was thinking about attaching a magnet to one. And so that puts me on a sight what can’t you do with
    no thumb. Thank you for the /your stories. Any suggestions??

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