Friday, December 21, 2012

Middle Finger on a Stick

Everybody has their limits. Some people say that if they become crippled to the point where they can’t wipe their own ass, they no longer want to live. Hell, some people say if they can’t play tennis they don’t want to live.

I don’t know about all that.  I haven’t wiped my own ass since about 1972, but I always figured out a way to get it done. You just have to plan ahead. It takes a little of the spontaneity out of life, but it ain’t worth dying over.

But I’ve come to realize I also have my limits. You can pull the plug on me if it gets to the point where I can no longer give the finger. I like to express my emotions and if I couldn’t express that particular emotion I don’t think I could bear it. On those occasions in life when the only appropriate response is to flip someone or something off, if I had to bottle all that up inside I would probably explode.

Thank God I’m not a literal person, or that dark moment would almost be upon me. I’ve just about lost the ability to physically flip the bird, especially in winter, when my hands are cold and it’s harder to move my fingers. But I know cripples are resilient. Where there’s a will there’s a way. I derive hope from crippled role models who can’t move their arms but still flip people off with facial expressions. They’ve mastered a variety of dirty looks that make it unmistakably clear to the intended target that they have just been flipped off, cripple style. It’s inspiring to behold.

The more crippled up your body is, the more you rely on your face. So I know that even if my body becomes nothing more than a pedestal for my animated head, I’ll still be able to give the finger in my own unorthodox but equally effective and satisfying way. I’ve already started practicing dirty looks in the mirror.

 But what if I have a stroke or something and I can’t move my arms or my face? How does a guy like Stephen Hawking flip people off? He can’t even shoot somebody a raspberry. It must be hell.

So I’m working on a piece of cripple assistive technology I call middle finger on a stick. It looks like those foam hands goofy sports fans wave except it’s a different finger sticking up and it’s made of plastic so as to be more durable an easier to clean (dishwasher safe). And it’s on a stick. Middle finger on a stick comes in an array of colors and sizes so a cripple can carry around a quiver of them and display whichever is most appropriate for the occasion.

The vexing question that remains, however, is how does one who cannot move their arms deploy their middle finger on a stick? If you’re accompanied by an assistant with whom you are simpatico, that person can be your middle finger on a stick caddy, so to speak, and help you select and wave around the proper middle finger on a stick. But I fully understand the deep desire of some cripples to be able to fully utilize their middle finger on a stick independently. So I’m trying to design a deployment system where middle fingers on a stick dwell inside cylinders mounted on a wheelchair. And when the need arises to flip someone off, the occupant activates the system by pushing a button with their nose or tongue (or maybe by using brain waves) and the middle finger on a stick pops up. That part is still on the drawing board.

But once I figure it all out, middle finger on a stick will give cripples new hope that no matter how bad things may get, they’ll never completely lose their autonomy. They’ll always be able to give the finger.


  1. A few years ago, when I first got all messed up, I couldn't move at all, save for a random twitch and my unstoppable, incoherent, stream of sub-consciousness babbling. After a few months, I began to connect with reality in sporadic ways, but the one thing I was determined to do once again was trouble flip the bird.

    Before I could feed myself, clean myself, hold a pencil, scratch my own ass or even see straight, I reached my goal of giving everyone I encountered one glorious day an outstretched and irreverent middle finger.

    That's when I knew life was worth living.

  2. As long as you're eager to flip the bird you know you're okay. It's when you don't care enough to express disdain/disgust/fury, etc. that you're truly in the crapper.

  3. If Stephen hawking can type via teeny muscle twitches you could definitely operate an off-flipping device with minimal movement. Maybe you could get the mechanism attached to your actual hand so it's like a bionic finger that rises and falls at will? I'm pretty much going to be thinking about this all day now! Merry Christmas!

  4. Is flipping somebody off considered an Activity of Daily Living? Can we get Medicaid to cover these devices? I need one operated by single switch, please?

  5. I toy with robotics as a hobby. When the need arises I'd be honored to try and make the "prosthetic bird" a reality. Probably a lot of people who call themselves "makers" without wincing would be happy to pitch in.

  6. You could have iPads for hands, you could flip 2 birds at once. No need to carry around multiple middle fingers on a stick - simply adjust your setting, and you can will the dream-bird into existence. If Apple can stretch a suicide net around Foxconn, they can make this happen.

  7. You could expand the idea to cover obscene gestures from other cultures as well. Cripples all over the world could use this product.

  8. I laughed so hard my tween daughter begged me to read this to her. Here is the conversation that followed...
    R. Hey, can I have a Finger On A Stick?
    Me. No, you can not carry a stick around.
    R. Can I put one the end of a WII remote?
    Me. No, what would you use to play Wii, and it is not dishwasher safe.
    R.(scooping her cat onto her lap and holding up it's tail) I can train Buttons to to it, and best of all,she cleans herself!
    Thanks for the best laugh I've had all week!

  9. You, sir have made my day. This is a literary masterpiece. I am laughing so hard on the train that I believe they are going to escort me off at the next stop. Please hit me up with a spiritual and symbolic bird-flip.