The tyranny of the two handed majority

How do people get along with only one hand?

My left hand is really messed up right now (details here), and I’ve been encountering some of the problems that a one-handed person might:

  • Driving. Wow this can be difficult. Thank goodness I’ve got an automatic (a decision I had previously regretted when I bought my current car. Turn signals are pretty hard to initiate, parking lot maneuvers can be pretty tense. Sudden turns may be impossible. I’ve been wishing for a handle sticking out from the wheel that you could use one-handed to do multiple spins of the wheel.

  • Opening a wine bottle – give it up, there’s no way in hell. Similarly, other things that require a stationary grip + a hand that rotates, such as opening a jar of pickles. I can do it, but only by subjecting the bad hand to enormous pain.

OTOH, using a computer isn’t that bad, though typing is painfully slow with one hand.

Regarding your steering difficulties-you may want to consider a suicide knob, which is something like a doorknob with an internal bearing or bushing attached to the wheel, allowing one to turn the wheel lock to lock with the approximate effort of drawing a large circle. Easily installed and removed as well, so you could adapt your car as necessary.

And good luck with your convalescence.

Ha! That’s exactly what I was picturing in the OP! Excellent.

Thanks! I’m hoping this is a one-time inconvenience, but it got me wondering about how people who are truly hand-challenged get along in a two-handed world.

I have the use of two hands now, but last December I broke my dominant hand’s wrist (right), and dealt with only having one effective hand, more or less, for a few months. I was allowed to use my right fingers to write and type, and that was about it.

For opening bottles, I tended to either tuck the bottle firmly under my right arm, using the upper arm to hold it against my body, while I tried to open with my left hand, or I would sit down and clench it between my thighs. I also used a lot of bottle/jar opening tools, like grip wrenches for bottle twist-off caps, strap wrenches for jar lids.

I don’t drive to work, so fortunately that wasn’t an issue.

My largest saucepan (other than my stockpot), which I use for cooking pasta, has two short rounded handles, requiring a two-handed grip to move the pot or tip its contents into a sink strainer. I ended up doing something that I definitely did not admit to my orthopedist - I tucked my casted forearm, above the break site, under the right handle of the pot, and grabbed the left handle with my left hand. Careful lift straight up, pivot through waist and hips to get the pot over the sink, lower it down so it rests on the sink edge. Remove cast from under the handle and dump contents into strainer using only the left hand.

Not being able to use a sharp knife well was not fun. For cooking (I love cooking and was going stir-crazy when I couldn’t), I had to buy a lot of pre-cut ingredients or get my husband to do it for me. (If it had been my left hand injured, then I would have been faced with trying to hold the food in place somehow while I cut using my right hand.)

I read that as “tranny” of the two handed majority.

Heh. All those 21 fingered ladies. :slight_smile:

Ferret Herder, thanks for sharing. If this goes on for a while, I’ll probably need to look into those opening tools you mentioned. Right now I’m still in the phase where I start out to do something, not realizing at first that its damn near impossible in my situation, and just look at the task and go, “huh… now what?”

Re, abusing the cast – I’m just in a brace, but I do find myself doing stuff I probably shouldn’t with my forearm (sparing my hand) that I probably shouldn’t, because I couldn’t figure out any other way to proceed.

Huh – see, there you go – of course you need two hands to operate a knife for food prep. It didn’t even occur to me until you said that. Man, I hope this isn’t a lasting issue, I do like to cook sometimes.

See, it’s amazing how often you suddenly realize, “duh, I use two hands for that” when you’re faced with the situation. Like going to the convenience store at work to buy a 20-oz bottle of soda. Then I look at it and go… oops. And with a plastic soda bottle, if you squeeze it too tight under your arm, you’ll start squeezing the soda out before you’ve even freed the cap completely.

The tools are just standard hand tools repurposed for kitchen use.

Strap wrench around the stuck jar lid, sit down, clench jar base between thighs or between upper arm (of injured arm) and ribcage, twist wrench. If it’s a new jar lid, use a blunt table knife as a pry bar up under the lid to break the seal. Wedge the jar in place using your preferred method until you hear the pop, then opening should be a lot easier.

“Robo Grip” pliers for a stuck cap.

As for cutting, I didn’t have a food processor at the time, which would have helped. Even then, however, you have to think about stuff like peeling your carrots (one hand to hold the peeler, then you take the carrot and… um), trimming down potatoes to fit down the food chute, etc. A mandoline would help with slicing/shredding but you’d want to really brace the bottom of the unit in place before using your working hand to pull the food item down the slope of the mandoline.

For me, the hardest thing was washing dishes. I finally gave up and bought paper plates and plastic utensils. I also ate a lot of frozen dinners.

It’s funny you should say that – I was emptying the dishwasher this evening – slowly, mostly one handed – and was trying to put a small corning-style casserole dish in a cabinet. I balanced it and the lid on my brace, and reached for the cabinet door, and… I flinched and basically broke the dish by accidentally shoving the dish into the cabinet face and crushing it. The dish broke into about 8-12 pieces, with plentiful shards everywhere. I felt very, very discouraged, but I sucked it up, because my son had rushed over to see if he could help. Together we cleaned it up, and my son was great. But, godammit, it was so frustrating to have my handicap basically crush a plate in my arms. Grr.

Ferret Herder, again thanks for the posts.

Yep. Stuff you just aren’t expecting to be difficult. And you end up with a deer-in-the-headlites “how can I do A with B with no C”.

Jeez, I’d be scared to death of a mandoline in the shape I’m in, but I can see how it might work after some very careful practice.

Question – how does one open a wine bottle with one hand? I’ve got a nice Chardonney taunting me now. How can I achieve wine-bottle consummation?

I hadn’t heard it called a “suicide knob.” I first saw the item on the steering wheel of a gal I was dating; when I later described the item to my Mom she told me it was a “necker knob.” :eek:
I didn’t ask Mom how she knew this. :confused:

Self-pulling opener? You’d still have to brace the bottom of the bottle using the aforementioned jar-holding methods. I’ve also owned a handheld one that involves sliding a long, thick needle through the cork until it pokes through the other end, then hitting a button and firing a blast of CO2 in, popping the cork out.

Ferret Herder – I’d never seen one of these openers before. I’ve got a Rabbit-style one, but this looks pretty cool. I suppose I could clamp the bottle between my knees, then apply the self-pulling opener.

So: how the hell do I button my pants (Levis) ? I had to do this this morning, and it was a bitch. The problem hand suffered much abuse.

I was in an airport once, and the guy behind me in the security line asked me to help him button his pants after he had to remove his belt for the x-ray machine. (No idea how his pants got unbuttoned.) I hesitated for a moment, thinking he was some sort of pervert, but in the end I did it for him.

I think there are little gizmos designed to help one-handed people button shirts and pants. And I think I remember reading an article about John McCain in which the writer mentioned that McCain asked him to assist with something personal like this.

I think I avoided jeans until I was allowed to use my hand more, frankly. If I knew I would have been ‘disabled’ for longer, I would have started looking into assistive devices, mounted clamps and things on the kitchen counter, etc.

I just saw a clip of [Dave Dravecky](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave Dravecky), the baseball pitcher who lost his arm to cancer. He was telling a joke about catching a fish “This BIG!”, which got a tremendous laugh.

Yeah, but I don’t even have a dishwasher. There is NO way to hand-wash dishes (and especially glasses) with one hand. But I had to figure out how to open cat food cans right away.

When I was much younger, one of my second cousins came to stay with us for the summer as a working hand on our farm - a family dairy / ranching operation. He is at least 15 years older than me - so that would make him early to mid twenties at the time. The way this related to the OP is that he lost the use of his left arm as a child, due to the polio vaccine, I am told.

I was fascinated by the way he managed pretty much any 2-handed task in a 1-handed fashion. Even tricky stuff, like shuffling cards or driving his '64 Corvette (manual transmission) at insanely high speeds. Just watching him button his shirt was a lesson in what you can do when you have to.

Being an impressionable child, I wondered what it must be like to have only one arm, so I practiced a little bit - I managed the one-armed buttoning thing okay, but shuffling cards was just an exercise in picking them all up off the floor over and over again.

This practice came in handy many years later when I dislocated my right shoulder and had it in a sling and swath for several weeks. Some of the hardest things to do were trying to shave and brush my teeth left handed. And going to the bathroom was tricky, too. Not the actual act, but trying to get my pants buttoned and buckled afterwards. Tieing my shoes - also a major PITA. But it does get easier, and you develop remarkable dexterity in your remaining hand. You also get to use your teeth for a lot of different things besides eating and smiling :D.

Hope your recovery is speedy and complete.

And BTW, my favorite t-shirt at the time said “I’d give my right arm to be ambidexterous”.

As a wheelchair user (self propelled) I occasionally find myself wondering, if I were to suddenly lose the use of one arm, just how long I’d be spinning on the spot before being rescued. :smiley: