Things My Left Thumb Gets Involved In

One morning while I was breaking camp, specifically while I was untying my hammock, a piece of my left thumbnail abruptly decided to stay in camp while the rest of me went home. In the days since then, I have come to realize how important that little bit of thumbnail was to me, in ways that would never have occurred to me before. I am literally painfully aware of everything I do that puts pressure on the tip of my left thumb.

This is the story of the unexpected discoveries I've made in the few days it took my thumbnail to grow back over the exposed quick.

The Injured Thumb (a couple of days later)

(Here is a picture of the injury, taken a couple of days later.) The missing piece of thumbnail was just about 3/8 of an inch wide and a good 1/8 of an inch long, extending 1/16 of an inch into the quick of the nail. It ran from just left of center to nearly the right edge of my left thumbnail.

Just in case any other parts of my body are thinking about abandoning me, I must make it clear that the errant thumbnail is no better off without me. If it imagined that it was getting into a cushy life of endless camping, it had another thing coming.

Cartoon - Thumbnail in a hammock

No unending days kicking back in its little thumbnail hammock.

Cartoon - Thumbnail toasting marshmallow

No endless nights toasting little marshmallows on its little thumbnail campfire.

Cartoon - Mouse eating thumbnail

Certainly, some woodland creature, perhaps a white-footed mouse, has added human thumbnail to its diet, and the thumbnail that should have gone back to work with me the next week has instead gone to its eternal reward. And precious little reward I hope it gets, for all the trouble its abandonment caused me!

My most immediate concern was getting blood on my camping gear. I worked carefully, and the bleeding stopped pretty quickly, but soon I realized that I had another problem: I couldn't untie knots!

I had to suck it up and endure the humiliation. I asked my wife to help me untie the hammock.

Untying the tarp was another matter. Not only is my wife too short to reach the knots that I had tied as high as I could reach, but I had a way to get the tarp down without help. When the ropes are expendable, a Buck Model 505 is a reasonable substitute for a left thumbnail. Of course, I had a little trouble opening the knife, but I wasn't about to ask my wife for help with that! I got it done.

After the camping gear was stowed in the car, I went to the camp washroom and made another unexpected discovery. (And don't tell my sister, the attack nurse, that I waited nearly an hour before washing the wound.) I discovered that people in public lavatories will avoid making contact with you, even more than usual, if you make little karate noises while washing and drying your hands.

This was the beginning of a long series of discoveries involving my left thumbnail, or lack thereof. Sure, I was careful about washing my left thumb and its tiny open wound, but how was I to expect that drying my right hand would hurt my left thumb?

All kinds of activities put pressure on my left thumb and brought me painful realization that my left thumb gets involved in all kinds of things.

Opening a can of shaving cream

Getting ready for work the next morning, I found that opening a can of shaving cream in the usual manner was just not going to happen. Even my right thumb was surprisingly inept at this, having had little practice. Was a broken left thumbnail going to make me grow a beard? I already had something of a beard from my four-day camping trip, ... No, I really don't like having a beard. I finally got the cap off with my index fingers.

Tying my ponytail

Tying up my boomer ponytail was a little painful, but do-able.

Buttoning my shirt

Buttoning my shirt was slow and painful, but I got through it.

Buttoning my shirt cuff

The right cuff was perhaps my greatest challenge of the day. I almost asked my wife to button it for me! No, no, that's not going to happen! I finally found the right way to twist my tongue and the proper curse-words to get my right cuff buttoned.

Opening a bottle of aspirin

After all this, I wanted an aspirin. Oh, the irony! Right-thumb to the rescue.

Picking up an aspirin pill

Just to add insult to injury, I couldn't pick up an aspirin pill with my left hand, either. The correct way to do this with an injured left thumb is to hold the glass of water (carefully) in the left hand and pick up the pills with the right hand.

Releasing the parking brake the wrong way

Turns out there's a right way and a wrong way to release the parking brake in my car, too. This is the wrong way.

Releasing the parking brake the right way

This is the right way: Use the first two fingers on either side of the knob, and let the sore thumb stick out like ... (You knew it was coming, didn't you?)

Turning the headlights on

Turning my headlights on was just a little painful, but they were on before I realized that it hurt my thumb.

Turning the headlights off

Turning my headlights off was just about impossible. Had to get out of the car and do it with my right hand. Too bad I figured it out, actually. I might have been able to give my boss an excuse he hadn't heard before. "I can't come to work today. My car won't start. The battery's dead because I broke my thumbnail."

Holding Ctrl and Alt keys on keyboard

It's a good thing Microsoft's operating systems and application software are so stable and reliable, and I hardly ever have to do the three-fingered salute (Ctrl-Alt-Del). Just in case I do have to do it, I think I'll use three actual fingers and leave my left thumb out of it.

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