1.40 The Social Finger

TORONTO, ONTARIO: President Barack Obama used the same joke a few times. Like any good joke, the impact lessened with each telling. The President’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel chopped off part of his middle finger with a meat slicer while working at Arby’s. Obama used this incident to poke fun at the feisty Emanuel: “There was an accident with a meat grinding machine and he lost part of his middle finger. As a result of this, it rendered him practically mute.” The use of the social finger has become saturated. Similar to Obama’s joke, the impact has lessened with each showing. In the event that you are unaware of this reference to the social finger, follow these directions. Hold your arm out in front of you, make a fist with your fingers and the palm facing upwards. Move the middle finger so it is standing at attention. Contract the wrist towards the forearm for extra effect. The social finger.

During the middle ages, the English were superior archers. The middle finger was integral when using the bow and arrow. French forces ordered any archers caught to have their index and middle fingers removed. The British, cheeky as they are, proudly displayed their intact digits on the battlefield to provoke their adversaries.

The times have changed.

The archers have been replaced by drivers. Perhaps there is safety behind the wheel of a car where you can lock the doors. There is no responsibility. You can flip the bird, hit the gas and you’ve not only gotten away with it, but don’t even have to wait for a retort.

I was standing waiting for a bus reading a book. A car passed by, the driver showed me his social finger and said sarcastically, “Enjoying your book?” And then they sped away. I looked around to make sure he was speaking and showing to me. There was no one else around, it was meant for me. I feel that this was an excessive use – a tipping point. Besides, I was enjoying my book.

I teach little kids to skate. A few weeks ago, a 5-year-old girl motioned for me to lean down. She had something to show me. She cut herself earlier in the day and had a band-aid wrapped around her finger. It wasn’t just any finger. She followed the directions above and promptly displayed her social finger. I quickly hid it from view but she insisted. For the rest of the group lesson, she showed the finger to each of the other kids. I think she was sub-consciously trying to tell us something. The band-aid was simply an excuse.

When 5 year olds are employing the use of the social finger, it is time for a change. But the other digits are accounted for or simply not as effective. Thumb’s up is a positive affirmation. The index finger mean’s “wait a second, I’m thinking.” The fourth digit is too difficult to display. The pinky is non-threatening, even the name describes its weakness. So, an important question for our modern age is what will replace this most social of fingers?