All Thumbs


WASHINGTON -- I’m on the phone with Julie Landis, an executive with Briotix Inc., an international company specializing in ergonomics. Julie also has a doctorate in physical therapy. I was thrilled to find her. She has the perfect skill set to solve a recent vexing dilemma of mine.

Me: So, I like oysters.

Julie: OK.

Me: To open an oyster, you have to shuck it, and shucking must be done with a sharp knife, which means that sometimes you will cut yourself. That happened to me the other day. I opened a small gash on the tip of my left thumb. It wasn’t serious, but it was extremely painful to the touch. Then, by and by, I had to poop.

Julie: You ...

Me: It’s OK. I have two Pulitzer Prizes. So when I went into the bathroom, I discovered to my horror that I could not open my pants. Apparently, I habitually use my left hand to pop the top button of my jeans, but that was too painful. When I tried with my right hand, however, it was a bumbling failure. Pants-popping requires some dexterity, and trying to do it with my right hand was like trying to perform ophthalmic surgery wearing boxing gloves. I eventually solved the problem by using my left hand and withstanding the pain, but the whole event left me with a huge question. So, naturally, I went on Twitter and set up a poll. Because the location of the top button sometimes varies on women’s jeans, the poll was for men only: What hand, I asked, do you customarily use to pop open your jeans? And 80 percent of the respondents said they use the left hand! Even though only 10 percent of the population is left-handed! It has to mean something! But what?


Julie: Good question. I am wearing slacks right now, and the loop is on my left and the button is on my right ...

Gene: Just like men’s jeans.

Julie: . ... but I am using my right hand to undo the button! So that’s not the same, but ... Oh! I think I know what’s going on with you.

Me: I am on tenterhooks.


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