Thursday, 26 November 2009

30 things you can’t do with a broken hand.

It wasn’t until I broke my right hand in a “door related accident” that I realised 1) How much I use it, and 2) How utterly useless my left hand is. For the paltry 3 weeks the bulbous plaster and polyurethane 'gimp-fist' was on, I gradually compiled a list of things I simply could not do. I’d like to share a few of those with you.

1. Wash my left armpit:

I’m told you can’t lick your own elbow. As there is no earthly reason why you’d ever want to I suggest we replace this truism with the more potentially helpful “You can’t get shower gel and water into your left armpit without your right hand”. It would have saved me hours of trying.

2. Open ring-pull cans:

My mother suffers from arthritis in her hands and has always complained about these “new fangled” tins. I, being young and indestructible, always took such things with a pinch of salt. She’s still laughing at me.

3. Unscrew anything:

As a man I pride myself on the ability to open things. When adverts portray us as the brainless football watchers and sock sniffers in a female wonderworld of order and sense, I have remarked wryly that the fairer sex would at least be denied olives, jam and morello cherries were it not for us. Brothers, let me tell you now, the day you ask the fiancé to perform such a task for you is the day your masculinity dies.

4. Figure out what that revolting smell is:

I became convinced that the fiancé had gone on laundry strike because of my inability to do the other household chores usually reserved for me. Everywhere I went smelled of old socks. A chanced attempt to scratch my nose with the broken hand revealed that wrapping it in a nylon bandage, encasing it in plaster and not washing it for three weeks has the same effect as it would on a foot, only much, much closer to your face.

5. Wave convincingly:

You give it not a single thought. Simply lift your right hand and wave, but when it’s in plaster and permanently bent slightly at the wrist the effect is more the pawing of a needy puppy than the chirpy acknowledgement you had hoped.

6. Tear the tops off those little paper sachets of sugar:

I dislike paper sachets of sugar in restaurants. It smacks of penny pinching. Presumably the cost of having an employee actually fill a bowl and insert a spoon makes it worth giving your customers the impression they are not to be trusted to use a sensible amount if left to their own devices. If the customer has a broken hand however there is a real financial incentive. By the time they have opened enough sachets, the coffee is cold and they have to buy another.

7. Write:

Here's how it goes; I’m going to the shops ... I’ll write a list ... bugger. I’m watching TV ... must write down that website ... bugger. At a meeting ... I’ll put that in my diary ... bugger. Must get a lottery ticket ... now to fill in the little check box ... oh for goodness sake!

8. Sleep comfortably:

There is a very good reason no-one has ever made a teddy bear out of Gouda-scented plaster of Paris and polyurethane.

9. Sign my name:

My signature is, at best, a hieroglyph dredged from the “Other Side” where monsters lurk and envy our world. Once the hand used to execute this sigil is wrapped in an inch of plaster of Paris the hand tends to skid, stretching it to even greater lengths. My request for a book of those giant charity presentation cheques was met with a stony response from the bank.

10. Turn keys in stiff locks:

When it’s dark and wet and cold and the only sound above the rain is the rhythmic slamming of your forehead against the still-not-budging front door you’ll wish you’d fixed it before you broke your hand.

11. Get change from the pocket of tight Jeans:

How to make a queue. 1) Take one man with a broken right hand. 2) Put all his change in the right pocket of his jeans. 3) Place him in front of a parking meter in a busy city centre car park. 4) Allow to stand for fifteen minutes or until bludgeoned to death.

12. Shake hands:

Normally I shake men’s hands, women’s hands and dog’s paws as a matter of course. It’s part of my manners ritual. Holding up aforementioned gimp-fist and saying “I would … but…” really doesn’t provide a satisfactory alternative for either party, least of all the dog.

13. Swat flies:

The human male has one, conspicuous ability over his female counterpart; that of being able, in the presence of a wasp or bluebottle fly, to casually swat the offending insect without recourse to a dancing around like a cross between Michael Flatly and a southern Baptist speaking in tongues. When one forgets one’s hand is 18 ounces heavier, 2 inches wider and immeasurably harder, the result is either concussion or broken ornaments.

14. Execute the “Rimmer” salute:

*Twirl, twirl, twirl, flick, slap!* becomes *Twirl, twirl twirl, flick THUNK … “STRETCHER BEARER!”*

15. Learn from my mistakes:

Slapping your hand to your forehead when you’ve blundered is a mild self-administered punishment reminding you to not make the same mistake again. This effect is largely lost with a plaster cast on your hand as it renders you immediately unconscious.

16. Use gloves (Plural):

Two kinds of people wear just one glove; Micheal Jackson and Golfers. One is dead, the others might as well be. The broken handed get to wear one glove and a football sock. This is not an improvement.

17. Use pockets instead of gloves:

James Dean looked moody and rakish in Times Square with his hands thrust in his pockets. He may have had a broken hand, although I don’t recall Dennis Stock ever mentioning it. If he had there would also be an anecdote about the tragic star flailing around like a broken marionette trying to disengage the pot from the pocket.

18. Use oven gloves:

An ordinary hand fits in an oven glove, well, like a glove. A broken one does not. Figuring this out before the soufflé is ready is strongly advised.

19. Use the plaster instead of oven gloves:

Necessity, it turns out, isn’t the mother of invention. It’s the mother of second degree burns.

20. Do ... “Toilet things”:

Many people in the Middle East consider it almost an act of religious observance to use their left hand for the application of certain paper products to certain parts of the body for the removal of certain substances. They have thus had a lifetime’s practice. They spend less time in the smallest room than I do for this very reason.

21. Wear a suit:

A black suit, well fitted in chest and sleeve, is the mark of a man ready to do business. A black suit, torn at the armpit from the force of ramming an orthopaedic cast down a fitted sleeve is not. Add to the picture the crazy pattern of white plaster scuffs and it just looks like a cry for help from a man who asked for pinstripes from an epileptic tailor.

22. Fondle. Anything:

For centuries lovers, scholars and out of work physiotherapists have looked on the Kama Sutra with wonder and anticipation. Little did they know that the number of love making positions could be effectively doubled simply by disabling one of the combatant’s hands. While we’re at it (or not, as the case may be), a discussion of lovemaking in the context of metacarpal fractures would not be complete without mention of two words; Bra and Strap.

23. Use scissors:

“Cut Here” is not a simple instruction. It’s a cruel taunt used by apple juice cartons to mock you.

24. Put drawing pins in a wall:

Normal instructions: Place pin on wall. Press with thumb. Job done. Broken Hand Instructions: Place pin on wall. Press with right thumb. Scream. Attempt steps 1+2 with left hand. Retrieve pin from behind desk where it landed after skidding off wall and flying across room because of complete lack of coordination in left hand. Hold pin in place with left hand. Strike head of pin firmly with forehead.

25. Get my hand down the back of the sofa:

When you’re leaving the house in a rush … when there’s no time to stop at the shop and buy a Twix with a £20 pound note … and if no-one else can help … you need … sofa change. Fat chance with a hand the size of a boxing glove.

26. Accurately use a mouse:

Where “Click here for your chance to win X” used to be a simple and ignorable invitation to the gullible. It has now become an aspiration.

27. Play Pictionary:

In preparation for a night in with a few friends my fiancé suggests board games as a pass-time. “What did you have in mind?” says I. “Pictionary” says she. “You’re all heart” says I, holding up hand. “Ah” says she. I’m just glad we didn’t invite David Blunkett.

28. Play guitar:

I don’t play guitar. I didn’t before I broke my hand. In the corner of the office sits a guitar nevertheless. In three weeks I managed to convince myself that the only thing stopping me from learning to play the guitar was the damned plaster cast. This turned out to be untrue.

29. Do press-ups:

So far one of the very few benefits of the broken hand has been the release from the tyranny of the fitness Nazis. It’s like a golden sick-note. I’m considering having a fake cast made so that at dinner parties in future I can be exempted from the inevitable gym conversation with a wave of the pot and a shrug conveying the sentiment “I’d love to but…”.

30. Explain to anyone that I didn’t get the injury in a fight:

When you break the fifth metacarpal in your dominant hand, everyone over a certain age will tell you, in a knowing voice, tinged with disdain, that it is ‘a boxer’s injury’. It is more than mildly ironic, given I have never boxed, never particularly wished to box and currently cannot box, that the one time I really want to punch someone is for telling me I have ‘a boxer’s injury’. Next time when they ask what I did to break my hand I’ll say “I was talking to someone about having a broken hand and they said it was a boxer’s injury and I punched them so hard I broke my hand again”.


  1. Heh. Awesome. I take it you never got round to trying to chuck a cricket ball without looking like a girl.

  2. A subject close to my own heart, which, incidentally, I can't touch with my right hand. At first, all of the above, but if your main hand is out of action for long enough, the other does begin to compensate a little.

  3. Oh dear, oh dear....oh dear!

    Sympathies. I broke my right shoulder some years ago, and your list rings oh so true.

    And I'd like to point out that when you make your way along a busy street with your arm in a sling, people seem to go out of their way specially to blunder into you.

    On the upside, by the time I emerged from plaster I had acquired the ability to operate the computer mouse with my left hand.

  4. Brilliant.

    You obviously pick your nose with your left hand.

  5. could not be more true. Try having surgery on that broken hand and have to lug around ice packs that are in need of changing every hour. oh and to top it all off try having a broken right hand that is about 5 inches bigger and 5 times heavier due to those darned ice packs so you must wear a sling and then throw in a broken tailbone for a little extra fun. This all adds up to one heck of a miserable christmas vacation. oh did i mention the broken tailbone takes 8 weeks to heal and the hand 5 weeks?

  6. Broke hand 18 months ago.

    Still can't make a good fist.

    Hand still stiff.

    Will it ever loosen up?

  7. A black suit is typically reserved for formal occasions. Blue and gray suits are better suited for business.

  8. The bit about girls being unable to unscrew jar lids is false. We can, but we must bang the lids of the jars on the floor first before we do.

  9. Ha! I broke my right hand 3 weeks ago AND EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST IS REAL TO ME! Thanks 😂

  10. dealing with this now - left wrist broken ...just drying my hair and opening a pill bottle (press and turn) yeah right - and lets talk about pulling pants on ...can only get so far!

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