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Guest Post: Tommy Thumb, Peter Pointer & Buttons

Hi folks!

I was recently sent this article from my grandfather, Bill Cunning (inventor of “Panic! Crossword Challenge), and thought it was rather clever and insightful — and may even give you people some idea of where I get my knack for nonsense from. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

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Tommy Thumb, Peter Pointer and Buttons

I have always believed in paying tribute to deserving people and so the following missive is dedicated to three “unsung heroes”. It’s hard to believe that they have done up and undone more than 400,000 buttons so far in my life. This does not include many other unnamed buttonings.

Have you ever threaded a needle, or even peeled an orange? If so, did you pay attention to see what natural actions were in motion during the process? Well what actually happened was that your brain told your eyes to see the problem, and then your thumb and first finger grabbed the thread and aimed it toward the eye of the needle held by the other thumb and forefinger. A similar action took place to peel the orange, sometimes with the help of your finger nails. Our brain organized the whole procedure from years of practice of threading needles or peeling oranges or buttoning. All this activity goes on and we probably do not realize it. And what about those similar actions that take place automatically when lacing shoes, scratching your skin, putting on socks, flipping a coin, testing food, zippers, light switches, using a fork at meal times, counting paper money, opening and closing Venetian blinds, playing a guitar, and so on… 101 jobs for them.

Those fingers really do not know what they will do until a problem arises. For instance, when your finger touches a hot pot it doesn’t know it’s hot until it sends a message, via some nerves, to our brain. The brain then tells the finger that “the pot is hot, take your finger off of it”. So that may be how most of our bodily actions take place.

This story is about Tommy Thumb (our thumb), Peter Pointer (our first finger), and Buttons. My education in perfecting the art of doing up and undoing buttons probably began about 80 years ago, born in Regina in wintertime when I was about four or five years old, learning to operate the buttons on my long-john combinations. In those years my pants had three buttons to close the fly (If someone noticed that a button on the fly was undone, they would say, “It’s one o’clock at the water works”). Then came shirts, sweaters and winter coats. Shirt cuffs were quite tight in those days and the buttons had to be undone to be able to get your arm into the sleeve. Thank goodness that manufacturers eventually made a looser cuff. There were usually five or six buttons to close a shirt. My sweaters were also button up as zippers were not common then. Pants braces had six buttons and overcoats either winter or rain, had four or five large buttons. It’s amazing to witness those two digits on both hands go about their business of finding a button and locating a hole to place it in. In time I became proficient in that job and could even do it with my eyes closed.

Now to the point of this article – an estimate of how many buttons I have done up and/or undone on my clothing from age 4 until age 85.

Daily Routine:

Age 4 to 14 days years total buttons total done up
combinations-winter 90 10 900 4 3,600
sweaters-winter 90 10 900 4 3,600
shirts-daily 365 10 3650 5 18,250
pajamas-daily 365 10 3650 4 14,600
overcoats-winter 150 10 1500 4 6,000
Total 46,050         

 

Age 15 to 65     
pajamas-daily           365 50 18,250 4 73,000
shirts-at home           365 50 18,250 5 91,250
shirts-business          260 50 13,000 5 65,000
sweaters-weekly          52 50 2,600 5 15,000
overcoats-winter         150 50 7,500 4 30,000
Total 274,250

                                                 

Age 66 to 85
pyjamas – daily 365 20 7,300 3 21,900
shirts-at home 365 20 7,300 5 36,500
shirts-casual 182 20 3,640 5 18,200
sweaters-casual 182 20 3,640 5 5,200
coats-winter 90 20 1,800 4 7,200
Total 89,000

 

Grand total                      
Age 4 to 14 46,050
   15 to 65 274,250
   65 to 85 89,000
Total buttoned up      409,300

Then I had to unbutton all 409,300 of those buttons!!!!

The next time you are dressing, take a moment to watch the activity as  buttons are being done up. Then give your thanks to our “unsung heroes”.

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