I Have No Hands: 4 Life Hacks I Use To Live An Awesome Life
Most people with disabilities are somewhere in the middle of a spectrum which ranges from "totally helpless" to "you'd barely notice." Like Thomas B., who for unknown reasons was born with two little nubs where his hands should be. He can work, he can play, he can do some things you probably can't. But he's still missing his fingers in a world designed by and for them, and sometimes that really freaking sucks. So what's it like going about your day to day without something the rest of us take for granted? Tom says ...
It Makes It Very Easy (And Fun) To Mess With People
Anyone with a particularly gnarly-looking scar/injury can tell you how tempting it is to go around telling people you got hurt doing something cool or heroic, like fighting off a wild animal that was robbing your favorite bodega.
"Those seals, man ... Bloodthirsty beasts, I tell you."
Well, Tom plays the Big League version of that game. "It's easy to convince people that I lost my hands in a shark attack, so that's the story I tell all the time. Sometimes, I'll even cover my hands in ketchup and show them to unsuspecting people." Hey, they say you have to laugh at your problems, so, logically, other people should scream in terror at your problems. That's basic science.
The trick is to pull it back just before you find yourself explaining the joke to a bunch of humorless paramedics.
Over the years, Tom's twisted sense of humor has left behind a long trail of freaked-out children and mentally-scarred drive-thru employees. But it's really Tom's love of puns that's made him our personal hero. "At work, when someone asks me, 'Do you need a hand?' I always say, 'I need two.' Or when someone talks about a 'hands-on meeting' I like to yell out, 'THIS OFFENDS ME' ... I love making those jokes."
Still, we don't want you to think that Tom is only concerned with making a bunch of silly little jokes about his condition. He's also all about the long joke game: "I met my best friend in middle school ... When we first met, I asked him to tie my shoes. He did. He then continued doing it for a year until he caught me doing it on my own. The last time he tied my shoes was at my wedding."
Prosthetics Aren't Really An Option In Many Cases
In movies and comic books, losing a limb is one of the best things that could ever happen to you, because it usually means you get to strap on a badass prosthetic and instantly gain a million cool points. It did wonders for Aquaman.
Go ahead, tell him he's useless.
However, in the real world, walking around with a hook isn't really an option for most people. Sadly, neither are more sophisticated prosthetics. "I never had a prosthetic. Always dreamed of having one. Some kind of prosthetic hand [that] I can control with my mind. I'm sure it's expensive -- never looked into it. For a long time, I didn't have insurance, but now I do. Still, it's probably not cheap." Tom is right, of course.
"You might say it costs an ... uh ... a lot of money."
The cheapest prosthetics with movable fingers start at about $30-40,000, with the high-end models going for more than $100,000. (Really? That shit had better be able to shoot Iron Man repulsor blasts.) Even the simplest setups will run you a few grand, and we're talking about stuff that looks as stylish as barbecue tongs duct-taped to your wrist.
Even toy Hulk hands would be better than this.
But what about surgery? To paraphrase Tom: "What about it?" To actually quote him: "I talked to my doctor about it. He said they'd have to chop off a few things, and I would be on medication for the rest of my life just to turn my nubs into pincers. I don't want to be a crab person."
Thankfully, there have been tremendous advancements in prosthetics thanks to 3D printers, but the technology still isn't fully there. "Maybe in the next 20 years, there will be an option," Tom concludes. "Maybe that will help me with the simple things. I can make a sandwich, but that takes time."
You Occasionally Forget That You Don't Have Hands (But There Are Always Reminders)
We all have an innate need to feel normal. And sometimes, that need is so strong that it makes us forget about our differences, right up until something triggers us back to reality and ruins our entire day. Being tagged in an unflattering Facebook pic usually does the trick ("Is that what I look like without a shirt on?").
The same thing happens with Tom and his non-hands. He honestly forgets sometimes that high-fives are technically impossible for him, and then freaks out when he catches glimpses of himself. "When I notice [that I don't have hands] in pictures and video, it's like, 'What am I doing? what is that? Ew.'" It even happens when he sees strangers with the same condition. "Other people without hands are weird to me. We were going to the airport this one time, and we stopped at a chicken and biscuits place. The lady in the drive-thru did not have a hand. Well, she did, sort of, but it was deformed, different. Not like mine, but just ... weird. I saw it and thought 'Ew.' My wife asked me, 'Why are you weirded out?' She was upset, [but] I don't understand it myself."
It's harder to get away from than you'd think.
But then there are those well-meaning people who feel like they can't let this handless stranger pass from their lives without saying something to "encourage" him. "I don't like hearing that I'm special or that God gave me a gift. Not having hands isn't all that great. I don't enjoy it; I just have to live with it ... Religious people can be so obnoxious. If it's such a gift, then you try living with it. Most of the time, it happens at places like fast food restaurants or with a cashier. They'll suddenly ask me about my hands and tell me it's a gift from God. No it fucking isn't. Being born with hands is a blessing."
This is objectively more difficult than doing it with fingers.
You Can Lead A Mostly Normal Life (But You Have To Get Creative)
Out of curiosity, what do you think Tom does every day? Obviously, he doesn't play the piano, but he also doesn't spend hours staring at pictures of himself with Photoshopped hands. Instead, he works with computers, because he still has those finger-like protrusions that allow him to type and participate in lots of hobbies -- including painting, drawing ...
We said he had a sense of humor.
... obstacle races ...
In case those of you with hands weren't feeling completely inadequate after that painting a moment ago.
... and sharpshooting.
The great thing is that his trigger finger can't get itchy.
Tom even fights with foam swords at live-action roleplaying events (and hopefully screams and squirts ketchup on his hand when he loses). "Most of the time, we fight 400-600 people ... I whack people with my huge foam sword [that's attached to his forearm]. It looks pretty cool. We do that each weekend."
"I'm looking for a man with six fingers. Lucky bastard needs to be taken down a peg!"
And in case you were wondering, here's how a person without hands ties his shoes:
Tom is even an avid gamer. "Video games these days are going with motion control, but I can't use that without using rubber bands to attach those stupid controllers to my arms ... I put the controller for the Xbox and the PlayStation in my lap, and I can hit all the buttons in that position. First-person shooters and driving games are harder, because they don't allow you to remap the controllers. I mostly game on my PC because I can remap the commands on the keyboard."
As for the limitations, well, it's a lot of the little things we take for granted. "I don't have nails, so I have a really hard time peeling stickers off. It's also hard to scratch scabs. Hell, I can't really scratch anything." Ladies, if you are reading this with a guy, and he's making a face that was full of discomfort and compassion, please do not question him about it.
For the purpose of this article, let's say Tom was referring to not being able to scratch animals behind the ear.
The biggest obstacle that Tom faces, though, is being on the road. Oh, he can drive perfectly fine (again, modern technology is fucking amazing), but can you think of another driving activity that requires fingers? If you've said "flipping asshole drivers off," then you are right (and possibly from Florida).
"You know how hard it is to have a road rage episode when you can't flip people off? There are sooo many people I would like to flip off, which is why I bought this mechanical hand (from Spencer's, I think) that, when you push a button on it, its middle finger pops up. I had it in my car and used it all the time."
We hope the inventor of this got a Nobel prize.
Thomas B. is not a world-class thumb wrestling champion. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more insider perspectives, check out 6 Weird Realities Of My Life With An Awful Superpower and Amputee Fetishes: 6 Realities Of Losing Both Legs As A Girl.
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