Tuesday 12 May 2015

Buttons & Doughnuts: Habits & Reflexes

Buttons are my nemeses and old habits die hard. After four days of having a broken arm, these are two insights into a world, I had, until now, had no experience of.

New experience, of course, is fuel for writers. That is if you can write. A broken arm limits the physical action of writing and the associated pain and exhaustion limits the brains ability to function or even think. So as new experiences go, it wouldn't be in my top ten. But I will give it this - you get a new perspective on life. 

Here are a few more of  my observations so far:
  • Bagels cannot be cut with one hand without a massacre but apples can by a swift butchers chop motion
  • Toothpaste and shower gel is not a one-handed squeeze unless you have no target but the bathroom mirror in mind
  • Toilet paper needs a quick hard rip or you just unroll it all out
  • Bags of popcorn or cheese or anything in a sealed bag may require teeth to open it
  • Opening a bottle needs bracing between the knees (child-safe lids can be a challenge)
  • A bra has to be fastened before putting on and then stepped into and pulled up
  • Shoe laces are so far a no no
  • Sleeping upright can sometimes require more pillows than can accommodate another human in the bed
  • If you drop something while wearing an arm sling people run to pick it up for you
  • Small children are at a perfect height to run into a broken arm
  • On a bus people give you their seats
  • Big open sandwiches in cafes, can be too big and open for the one-handed (even when the sandwich is cut in half) so you may have to request it to be cut in quarters
  • An arm sling cuts into your neck, and the basic triangular cream-coloured variety will not hide the food stains from the inevitable spillages
  • Getting knots out of hair is hard with one hand
  • Forget going up on the top deck of a moving bus with a broken arm, even if you run the gauntlet you may never be able to get back down
  • Crowded places are like stepping into a pinball machine waiting for a bowling ball to hit your pins
  • Beware of people passing on escalators...from behind they can't see your broken arm,
  • Showering is a challenge, best taken in the morning when you have energy or not at all if you are going to slip and get concussion
  • Stairs can jolt, so escalators and lifts all the way.
  • Using stick deodorant under one arm is fine...try putting it under the arm of the hand that's holding it
  • Socks are awkward, rucksacks and jackets can only be on one shoulder and knives and forks will not work together
  • One-handed drawing and typing on a laptop is possible - this post's pic and text for example, but it does take longer than when you can touch type with both hands (also pressing shift key and another key together is hard when they are apart and blocking text on a laptop with a combined left-click and mouse-pad needs practice)
  • Finally, the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is not just a must-read, and the book-group book of the month but has a broken arm in its first line.
Tonight at our youth centre I learned the most important lesson:
'Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.'
(Vincent Norman Peale, 1967)

So if I practise tying laces with one hand or buttering bread or dressing, or any of all the things I am learning to do with one hand for long enough I will be able do those things more easily and they could even become a habit and then a reflex.

Unfortunately I also learned that reflexes and habits you want to shake off when you have a broken arm don't go away so easily. Picture this: Its National Doughnut Day (yes such a thing exists!). You are holding a plate of doughnuts in your good hand, offering them around and one rolls off the doughnut pile. Your natural reaction (even if you're not Homer Simpson) is to put your other hand out to catch it. Yes I tried to catch a doughnut with a broken arm. That's reflexes for you.

Peale, V.N. (1967) 'Enthusiasm Makes the Difference', Prentice-Hall, Incorporated

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