On the importance of thumbs

If you’ve come looking for an interesting post on Israel, full of Zionist passion, detailing the various virtues of Israel as a light unto the nations in fields of science, society and democratic values and on how we help those in need, after earthquakes or civil wars, you’ve come to the right blog, but the wrong post.

This post is all about thumbs; my thumbs, to be exact.

Imagine this scene: it’s 2 AM, a luxurious hotel at the Dead Sea, my wife on the phone with the reception desk, asking for ice, because her husband hurt himself.

I’ll go back a few minutes. We’ve just fallen asleep in the comfy hotel bed, at the Dead Sea, where we’ve been staying for two nights to celebrate our wedding anniversary. In the morning, the plan is to enjoy the facilities and the beach a bit more before returning home to Jerusalem. We’ve just dozed off, when my wife suddenly jumps up and yells “Mosquito!”.

There’s nothing worse than hearing that buzzing sound in your ear, just as you’re falling asleep. If you’re like us, it means that if you don’t do something about it, you’ll be itching like crazy before long, and sleep is out of the question.

So, in a valiant attempt to defend my wife and myself, I got up out of bed, and went to get my weapon of choice against mosquitos: a roll of toilet paper.

We found the culprit resting on the ceiling above the bed. I got on the bed, brandishing my toilet paper, aimed, and jumped. But the roll being mostly used up and the jump too high and too fast, I ended up over-killing the mosquito. As my thumb connected with the ceiling, we heard a crack and I felt it bend in an unnatural direction.

Not knowing the extent of the damage, I went to sleep with ice on it, and went to see the doctor at the spa in the morning, who put a splint on the thumb. In the evening we went and got an x-ray in Jerusalem and found out that, congratulations, I’ve broken my first bone.

Seeing that I don’t have a story of bravery to go along with the cast that I sported for the past four weeks, I content myself by telling the ridiculous story in the most amusing way possible.

And hey, at least I won. I got that mosquito!

But there’s a lesson in this story as well. Respect your thumbs. You have no idea how important they are until you can’t use them. Opposable thumbs are one of the things that made our species the rulers of this planet. Their importance cannot be overestimated.

For the past month, I have walked around with a tiny removable cast, but have felt as helpless as I did when I was two and trying, unsuccessfully, to climb into my high-chair on my own without hurting myself.

My thumb is now, thankfully, remodeled and cast-free, and now I have to work on regaining my full abilities again.


So, in order to raise appreciation for our thumbs, here is a (partial) list of activities that are difficult or impossible to do without a working opposable thumb:

  1. Washing dishes (my wife was thrilled about this one).
  2. Writing
  3. Blind-typing (the cast keeps pressing the space bar in the wrong places).
  4. Squeezing toothpaste out of the tube- requires two thumbs.
  5. Buttoning a shirt.
  6. Tucking in your shirt.
  7. Using a belt.
  8. Using two eating utensils combined- no knife and fork.
  9. Any form of cooking that requires using a knife.
  10. Doing anything useful at the top of a ladder- you need one hand to steady yourself for safety, and then what?
  11. wielding a screwdriver.
  12. Wiping your butt. It’s doable with the other hand, but difficult at first.
  13. Using a cue-tip to clean your ear.
  14. Turning keys.
  15. Driving a stick-shift car. It’s possible, but difficult. Turning the key in the ignition- see #14.
  16. Fitting a sheet onto a mattress.
  17. Getting a pillow into a pillowcase.
  18. Getting the blanket into its cover. But I couldn’t do that with two thumbs, so that’s not new.
  19. Folding large pieces of laundry, such as a sheet or a blanket.
  20. Zipping up zippers. Including the one on your pants.
  21. All forms of Passover cleaning that require scrubbing- are doable with the left hand, as long as the thing being scrubbed doesn’t need to be held in place. It’s also very tiring to do with the other hand. My wife was particularly thrilled about this one. But hey, I broke my thumb defending her! Nevertheless, I’ve been warned never to do it again.
  22. Texting- usually uses the thumbs.
  23. Picking up coins from a flat surface is impossible to do without a thumb.
  24. Getting onto a bus and paying the driver while holding any other objects.
  25. And the obvious- carrying and lifting things.

Have any other activities that require a working opposable thumb? Feel free to add them in the comments…

And remember- appreciate your thumbs!


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One comment

  1. Ok, how weird is it that two hours after posting this, I went to the supermarket and saw a woman with no thumbs?

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