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.