Monday, 27 April 2009

Flailing of hands

As long as I can remember, I have waved my hands around too much.

- Cue montage of Lucy Fishwife at assorted ages gesticulating wildly and (a) smacking, or worse, innocent bystander in face* (b) knocking over glass of, inevitably, red wine on tablecloth/bride's white dress/small baby (c) accidentally bidding for a Rembrandt. Well, not the Rembrandt but you get the idea.
Shortly after I graduated I had a job working in the Royal Ear Hospital in Bloomsbury. I was "Clinic Supervisor", which actually translates as "temp who makes appointments/tea and fetches medical records". As you may well imagine, most of the patients had hearing problems, and after I'd been there about three days one of the speech therapists came to see me. "We've had a complaint from one of my clients," she said sternly. "He can't understand your signing". It turns out that while I had remembered to speak clearly so he (and other profoundly deaf patients) could lip-read, I had forgotten that my wildly flailing hands were a distraction to people used to looking at hands for meaning. My lips were saying "Yes, Tania is just finishing up with a client and can see you in five minutes", while my hands were saying "Cheese! Nailgun! Exterminate my beans and vote tapir!!!". I sat on my hands after that when anyone with a hearing aid approached me (although I couldn't help wondering - how DO deaf Italians manage? Surely it's a constant barrage of meaningless information?).
However. While idly Wiki-ing Hinduism the other day (I was reading Hindi cyberfiction and had forgotten what Ganesh rides on. A rat. Further reason to love rats!) - I came across the concept of mudras. In pictures of Hindu gods (also Buddha), the position of the hands (and, in the case of Shiva, feet) is vitally significant. I have decided, although luckily no longer in the ear trade, to adopt certain positions which are symbolic of something soothing - for example :

I will look slightly odd, but the likelihood of me poking someone in the eye with my biro or knocking coffee into the computer is greatly lessened.

*Aged 16, I was waving my hands around and poked a lit cigarette up the nose of Bronwen Roberts's boyfriend. Bronwen, if you ever read this, I'm still sorry!!!!

31 comments:

greyfavorite said...

Ooh, I'm a wild gesticulator too. And it gets worse when I'm out of my element, as in say, when I meet new people. Meaning that, the less well I know you, the more likely I am to inadvertently slap you. Awesome. What a charming first impression I make.

Jaywalker said...

That made me snicker in a very undainty fashion. Recent flailings over here:

1. Threw my boss's Blackberry into the handbag of a strange woman on the Eurostar

2. Threw a glass of wine over a (female, very clothes-horsy) client at a conference.

You are not alone. Sadly.

Lucy Fishwife said...

So true, so true. If in the first five minutes of meeting you I haven't thrown coffee/wine on you or punched you in the face, we may become friends...

Lucy Fishwife said...

Jaywalker - sorry, I'm always getting caught out by the multiple comment moments. Love the boss's Blackberry - my worst one was managing to throw the cabin key off the side of a ferry to Holland when I was 12. Damn good job the purser thought it was funny and had a spare...

French Fancy said...

I don't flail (my, doesn't that sound odd) but I am very clumsy and will manage to knock things over quite easily.I think it's quite interesting watching people using their hands and arms a lot whilst talking - unless, of course, they are Tony Blair.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Tony Blair is a classic example of a geek who has been trained to look, instead, like a prat. An object lesson in How Not To Let A Life-Coach Ruin Your Natural Nerdiness. Maybe he thinks he's doing mystic hand-gestures too (in manner of "Gordon is crap!" "I'm better than the Pope!" "I'm reliable, sexy and trustworthy!" etc) - doubtful whether they're Buddhist or Hindu though unless Cherie's been at him with her New Age ideas...

librarylizzie said...

I'm a hand waiver too, and as i have worked in software sales for some years my gesticulations that are supposed the respresent the importance of using a relational database to ensure the validity of your autority files are now legendary.

However, i am also a hearing aid wearer, and i actually do know sign language...work that one out if you can!

Nora Johnson said...

Flailing hands is only part of the problem here in Spain where you're expected to kiss every Jose on both cheeks every time you meet.

So far I've managed to knock off one elderly man's (admittedly large) sombrero and one woman's designer specs. Clearly I haven't yet mastered the art of genteel air kissing...

Lucy Fishwife said...

Now this is really interesting - as a hearing-aid wearer do you find yourself automatically trying to read meaning into peoples' hands where there patently isn't any? Or as a fellow waver do you just ignore it?

Lucy Fishwife said...

Sorry Nora - reply overlap again! Lived in France for a while and got so used to cheek-kissing that I accidentally kissed my boss when I first started at Air France (years ago). Also knocked his coffee over twice.

usedbuyer 2.0 said...

Jaywalker flails:
Blackberry sails.

Fishwife throws away key:
Purser replaces, free.

Nora's smack:
Finesse lack.

LibraryLizzie:
Dear, deaf, dizzy.

Steve said...

Just as an aside but the picture at the top of your post... looked like a snail. I honestly thought it had been photoshopped. I think I need new glasses.

Cassandra said...

Yes, yes, yes, TOTALLY flail-tastic. ALWAYS knock the wine over, without fail. But BEAUTY of being a flailure is BRACELETS!!! Use your hands and hear them tinkle!I was sick into a handbag once.

Cassandra said...

Completely agree with Steve about the snail, btw.

Lucy Fishwife said...

usedbuyer - Exquisite. I notice you're keeping well away from the confessional though! Surely you must have gestured enthusiastically with a book and accidentally thrown it at a customer. I know I have.

Cass - I LOVE the word "flailure". Will be using it to describe myself, sadly quite often. Love bracelets, have many, worry that they over-emphasise the flailing? Have a friend who was sick into her own handbag on the tube. Got off, embarrassed, sat down to wait for next tube. Got on. Realised same tube, same seat. Tube had paused in station. She was drunk.

Steve - Yes it does look like a snail now I come to look more closely; would love to see a red snail with a glass shell! Snails not well-known for their rapid nervous flailing though (maybe the glass ones are...)?

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh you did make me laugh - the idea of your mouth saying one thing and your hands say these random odd words. Hysterical. You are so funny.

Lucky it wasn't Myfanwy I suppose or who knows where the cigarette might have gone!

Rol said...

Never mind apologising to Bronwen - what about her poor boyfriend?

Lucy Fishwife said...

RB - the disadvantage (or otherwise) of blogging is you can't see me as I flail and gurn my way through another post. I would say "I'm quite attractive when I sit still" but sadly I'm totally unphotogenic. The picture on the sidebar was taken about 15 seconds before I fell asleep, otherwise there'd be three chins and a ventriloquist's dummy grin. Your comment about Myfanwy has almost put me off smoking but not quite...

Rol - If I could remember the poor sod's name I'd apologise. As it is, he's lucky I remember his 1983 girlfriend's name (she was the year above me at school so I was scared of her)!

Leigh Russell said...

Your description of working with the hearing impaired made me laugh out loud. It never occurred to me before how confusing people who sign must find hand gestures. Presumably they don't wave their hands around. It would be like having Tourettes. I wonder about a habitual gesticulator, like yourself, who lost their hearing and learned to sign... it's like a whole new world I never thought about.

Leigh Russell said...

I knocked a glass of red wine over my ex-boss's wife, with an overexpansive hand gesture. She was wearing white at the time... and she had no sense of humour.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

QVC presenter & product demonstrator perhaps?

Or just call you a Shiva goddess Lucy...?

;- )

Liked the story about your 'signing'!

I'm just a generally clumsy dropping things person, me. Perhaps that's why my teachers always used to say 'Get a grip, Laura!' Mind you they also used to demand 'Where's your sense of perspective'...

JRSM said...

Not terribly relevant, but I've obviously been blogging too long: I'm now having dreams featuring fellow bloggers. Last night I dreamed David Bowie's secret journal of a grand love affair had been discovered and published, and they were able to identify his mystery paramour as you because the various perfumes he described her as wearing matched those (and the dates) listed on your blog. Be warned! You will be found out!

Lucy Fishwife said...

Leigh - I suspect you may have the seed of a particularly odd but hilarious novel there. I threw espresso all over somebody's white linen wedding outfit once and fear they still aren't speaking to me..

Laura - Would love to be a four-armed goddess (pref blue with a sparkly headdress) but can you IMAGINE the carnage if I had four hands to flail around instead of two? QVC very good idea. I could demonstrate an entire Diamonique range without having to stop to pick the bracelets up. My teachers said I lacked application; there's a computer-based joke in there somewhere, which no doubt will come to mind when I've logged off...

JRSM - God, I wish. Although my first boyfriend was the world's biggest Bowie fan, AND is now a grumpy gold-disc-festooned semi-recluse having accidentally been in one of the 90s' biggest trance bands...

Anonymous said...

oh, my DH and I are both abject flailures. We have NO wineglasses left in the house and are reduced to using the children's plastic cups, due to over-enthusiastic gesticulating on a regular basis.

mantua maker said...

I don't remember the Bronwen Roberts boyfriend incident but I do remember when trying to light a cigarette you accidentally set light to the varnish on your fingernail so you instantly dipped your finger into the nearest person's glass of wine.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Anon - why hasn't anybody invented a glass that works on the same principle as the weebles, ie wobbles but doesn't fall down? Am now expecting to see you on Dragons' Den.

MM - It was your glass of wine, wasn't it?

mantua maker said...

It wasn't my glass of wine but a boy's - can't remember which boy though. I do remember he was so stunned by the whole incident, what with the flames coming out of your finger, and the aplomb with which you stuck it in his glass, that he couldn't summon up an expression of being annoyed.

Lucy Fishwife said...

MM - God I'm cool.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and had to comment on the flailing issue. I am a serial flailer and have upset many drinks, plates and people. I have tried to sit on my hands but that just makes me forget what I am saying.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Anon (2?) - I have a theory that the flailing actually does function as a kind of sign language. I amplify statements by expressing "GIGANTIC" or "TINY" with my hands as well as my words. I also forget half of what I was going to say if I sit on my hands. The trade-off is that I come across as far more measured and reasoned, since I am neither over-emphasising "GIGANTIC" nor hurling random liquids in all directions.

hearingaustintx said...

I wish that I can also join that gathering. I am sure that I am going to have a really great time meeting you all people.

hearing testing Leander TX