Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 4.30

For some reason, I feel like channeling Andy Rooney for today’s Inquisition . . .

coffee1Why is it that when you’re carrying a full cup of coffee it only spills when you look down at it? How come you can be walking along perfectly fine, but the moment you look down, the coffee shimmies back and forth, splashes over the rim, and burns your hand? Why is that?

My theory is, our hands are extremely nervous appendages; the most nervous, in fact.

Think about it. Our hands often tremble at very odd times. Like when we’re happy. When we’re depressed. When we have a palsy-inducing hang over. When we win the Miss America pageant, and when we’re selected to be a contestant on The Price is Right. You don’t see feet doing that.

Hands are quick to skittishness to say the least.

Our hands are also frightfully shy. If we’re not clutching a cocktail or a cigarette or, I don’t know, a bazooka or something while we’re talking to people we don’t know very well, our hands waste no time slipping away to hide in our pockets. (Mine actually went through a phase where they would hide in other people’s pockets. But that’s a different story altogether, and pending litigation prevents me from elaborating at this time.)

So when you give your hands a difficult task, like carrying a mug of molten lava from the break room to your office, they’re cool, calm, and collected — until you look down.

The moment they feel eyes on them, scrutinizing them, judging them, they begin to tremble nervously, and you soon wind up in the burn ward with a catcher’s mitt of gauze wrapped around the end of your arm.

But I suppose we really can’t blame our hands for being nervous. Hands sometimes get a bad rap, and are no doubt a little gun-shy about a lot of things.

To wit, for years lechers the world over have been referred to as being “all hands”, as though disenchanted, troubled hands travel in roving packs or gangs, and somehow coalesce into grabby, womanizing perverts.

Also, when someone is discovered in the act of doing something wrong, we say they were “caught red-handed”. I can only assume this expression was coined when an unfortunate thief tried to steal someone’s coffee and then looked down at the mug during the getaway.

Hands have had to endure a lot of strife over the years. Aside from the various unpleasant personal tasks they must carry out for us each day, hands have experienced the pain of being slammed in doors, of having firecrackers explode in them, and of catching footballs on cold days.

They’ve displayed hope when folded in prayer and heartache when wrung until raw when those prayers go unanswered.

They’ve been instruments of violence, made into fists to engage our enemies. And they’ve been symbols of submission, raised to our faces to fend off attack.

peacesignThey can signal our displeasure with our fellow man one minute, and show our longing for peace the next.

They’ve been dipped into the foulest things on Earth, and they’ve even been washed incessantly by obsessive compulsives.

So you can’t really fault hands for some of their shortcomings. It’s a hard life being a hand. It really is.

But you’ve got to hand it to hands; for the most part, they’re pretty good things to have. After all, our fingers and opposable thumbs are what helped us get to the top of the food chain. Because of our hands, we made tools and developed technology that has allowed us to sail the oceans, to fly at the speed of sound, to communicate on a global scale, and most importantly, to play Rock/Paper/Scissors.applause

And despite the violence and harm we perpetrate with our hands, we also use them to express affection, holding tenderly to the hand of a child as we cross the street, or a lover as we walk along the beach. We use them to soothe and excite with caresses in the name of passion. And we use them to amuse and entertain in the name of the Pull My Finger game.

I mean, imagine what life would be like without hands.

How would we greet each other? How would we hitch-hike or flag down a cab? How would we show our appreciation at the end of a show? How would we point out the nearest restroom? What would we wash to prevent Swine flu? How would rappers signal to they homies? How would small children tell us how old they are? How would athletes give high fives? How would we enjoy Internet porn? How would Italians talk? How would we pull up our socks? And how would we make rude noises with our armpits?

Believe it or not, we derive value from our hands, and we do it hand over fist. In short, they are our little five-fingered miracles.

What can you do with your hands? What special hand-related talents do you have? Juggling? Magic? Shadow puppets? Is this the silliest Afternoon Inquisition yet?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Love it Sam, Thumbs up!

    I can do a trick with my hands but I can’t describe it… it has to do with interlocking your fingers backwards and touching your nose with your nails…. anyone else know this trick?

    It charms little kids every time :)

  2. My wife says my hands give a better massage than a professional massage type person. However the same hands have completely failed me around the greens lately; my chipping and pitching sucks.

    Hands down a great AI Sam. I could never figure out the whole foot fetish thing. Doesn’t a hand fetish make more sense? (But only after repeated washing with an antiviral soap)

  3. Well, actually, I think I have pretty good hands.

    Most of my past lovers have commentd on what fine hands I have — mind you, maybe that gets said to everyone regardless of how good or bad said hands are.

    I play guitar, and that takes some handy dandy handwork.

    Also used to do a lot of finiky finger work in electronics for guitar amps, guitars, and that kind of thing.

    I once briefly apprenticed to a luthier, who said I had the right hands for it. I wish I hadn’t left that shop.

  4. My hands have the uncanny ability to irritate immigration personnel. I’m a “resident alien” so I need to be fingerprinted every few years. Unfortunately, my fingerprints are very faint and it makes their job that much more difficult.

  5. I’ll cop to juggling: 5 balls, 4 rings, 4 clubs working on 5, but what I’m really proud of, almost insanely proud of, is that I can put on and take off my wedding ring without using my other hand. My wife has a few different theories as to how I developed this skill.

  6. I can bend my thumbs so that they rest below the first knuckle of my index finger. And my hands are pretty strong and dextrous in general.

    I’ve been very vain about my thumbs ever since I read a story in which one of the characters says that no person is truly beautiful unless they have pretty thumbs.

  7. @James Fox: “However the same hands have completely failed me around the greens lately; my chipping and pitching sucks. ”

    I love trying to interpret ideas completely out of context. For a while I was wondering what chipping and pitching had to do with salad. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much America’s Test Kitchen recently.

  8. As to spilling coffee when you look down… I suspect it has more to do with balance than attention. Your gate and body position probably change a bit causing a wobble causing spilled coffee.

  9. @davew:

    I love trying to interpret ideas completely out of context.

    Me, too.

    Your gate and body position probably change a bit . . .

    As far as I know, my gate remained closed and miles away from the coffee pot.

    Yours truly,
    Mr. Pedantic

  10. With my hands I can type fairly fast, play a few chords on the guitar, kill kittens by proxy, do the vulcan greeting, play Do-Re-Mi on the recorder…
    No special talents I can think of. I feel unfulfilled now.

  11. I can’t do anything exceptionally special with my hands. I can type fairly quickly, though my speed and accuracy have fallen in recent years. I could also play piano at one time, but I’m sure that skill has atrophied since I haven’t even looked at one in a good five years.

    I think this might have something to do with the body’s kinesthetic sense–when you actually look at your hand, your brain realizes there’s small inaccuracies in where it *thinks* your hand is, compared to where it actually is, and tries to correct. It isn’t noticeable unless you’re, say, holding a topped off cup to spill.

  12. I can juggle, play piano, play drums, and fashion a church complete with steeple AND people.

    I can also point to that little stain on your shirt right there…whoop! Got ya!

  13. @Noadi:

    What’s with cephalopods? I’m not being snide. I’m honestly curious. It’s the big thing over at Pharyngula, and I keep running into cephalopod stuff here and there. But I don’t get it?

  14. SicPreFix: They’re just great cool intelligent animals that also lend themselves well to art (I believe PZ has also done research using them). I actually started reading Pharyngula because of my obsession, first post I ever read there was a Friday Cephalopod.

  15. I don’t do the coffee thing, but I have the same trouble with turning wrenches. If I don’t think about it, I’m fine. It’s when I pay attention that I can’t figure our which way to go. I’ve been told to remember “Leftie, loosey; rightie, tighty.” Doesn’t help at all. Is that left from above or below?

    I think I’m defective.

  16. @marilove: If it doesn’t have a drum, try a new toner cartage.

    If it is ink jet, then I have no idea. :D

    I used to do printing/copying – on those printers that can get as long as a bus – and I did a lot of training on Canon printers, too. I can train a monkey how to scan, copy, and print! Hah!

  17. I draw, paint, knit, sew and rub puppy bellies.
    I can also do a trick where I put my hand flat on the table and while keeping my hand flat rotate my hand until it goes a full 360 degrees. Then I rotate it a little further. It grosses people out.

  18. My hands juggle, though not as much as they used to.
    My hands frequently coordinate with my eyes when playing video games.
    My hands built the bed that my wife and I sleep in out of solid alder, felled from my parents’ property.
    My hands play acoustic guitar, but they aren’t terribly good at it.
    My hands know where all of my son’s ticklish spots are.
    My hands couldn’t hold on to my friends when the nothing came for them. They look like good, strong hands, don’t they?
    My hands can follow a recipe, and occasionally improve it.
    My hands can write a computer program to figure out the fastest route between any two points on a map.

  19. @davew: That’s a good thorough and calm cooking show. I’m pretty fed up with competitive cooking shows except any time Mario Batali’s cooking. I love to cook and I suppose chopping and dicing are other hand skills I have. And you can chili dip or chunk a chip around the green too.

  20. My hands: construct and operate armatures for stop-motion animation; at one point played the violin; write neatly without smearing the ink, most of the time; knead bread and gnocchi dough; accept kisses; stroke cats and hamsters; repair flats and other small problems on a bicycle; detangle large knots in my hair; test how warm the brownies are.

  21. My hands are covered in more scar tissue than skin, and they each have at least one, or more, fingers that look a little wrong. More scars on the left one, because when they go up against each other, the right one is usually armed with a hammer or a knife. Uneven contest.

  22. My hands have double jointed thumbs which are great for skeeving people out at parties. They also have really funny calluses under the ring fingers from riding, and lefty is currently sporting a sprained pinky from an unruly gelding. My hands are also the fastest bird flippers in the tri-state area.

  23. Let’s see… I can make a neat dragon-puppet thing using both hands. I’ve been told by many reliable sources that I give superb massages. I can make a wide variety of balloon animals, many of my own design. I can juggle, though nothing terribly complicated. I can cut a deck of cards one-handed, as well as fan them. I’m excellent at tying and untying knots. Oh! And I can crack a whip pretty good.

  24. @James Fox:

    ATK is a good show with consistently high-quality and reproducible recipes. There is also a skeptical tie-in here as well as they take a very skeptical/experimental approach to cooking.

  25. I can’t come up with a clever enough euphemism, so I’ll just be blunt in Yelling Bird/T-Rex fashion. LADIES: I AM GOOD WITH MY HANDS.

    I can also bend the fingers back past 90 degrees with no pain whatsoever. Not exactly double-jointed, but it’s pretty cool anyway.

  26. Dogs and cats gather from miles around for my scratches and petting. I can keep one in semi-hypnosis for hours. I’m not sure exactly what or how I’m doing it, but others swear by my ability to do this to dogs and cats.

    Women, not so much.

    They try to build model aircraft, but it’s never been the same since all my hand surgeries. Some of my fine motor ability died those days. :-(

  27. Mine are very good at keeping my nasal passages free of extraneous debris.

    They can also do some truly nasty and disgusting things related to the martial arts. But I’m not talking about that here.

  28. My hands have a life of their own and fly around a lot when I’m talking – far too often coming into contact with other people’s cups of hot tea/coffee and occasionally forgetting that there is one for me in their grasp (with predictably messy results). Red wine is even worse and only encourages even wilder gesticulations.
    My friends immobilise my hands when they want me to shut-up.

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