Do you use a Fidget Spinner? You do? Are you insane or have you run out of body parts, paper clips or salamanders to play with when feeling anxious, frustrated or lonely? Perhaps you’re just too damned proud of your precious finger nails. If who, or what, ever came up with humans didn’t want finger nails to be bitten, he/she/it/them/Mattel wouldn’t have made them so damn soft and available.
Fidgeting is a part of life and those of us who count ourselves among the neurotic, introverted and impatient depend on personally disruptive behavior to attenuate our inner chaos.
I learned at an early age fidgeting is frowned upon. It came at the hands of my first grade teacher, Miss Silliman, at P.S. 186 (Castlewood School) in Queens, New York. Allow me to share two instances of her version of “behavior moderation” circa 1959, when teachers were still permitted to torture students in order to get them to draw straight chalk lines on the blackboard.
We were sitting in the old favorite “reading circle,” which was actually set up as a convenience for teachers to more easily choose targets for corporal punishment. The truth was, “Dick and Jane” was so freaking’ boring and I always hoped Spot the dog would take a dump on the school bus. I found myself losing interest in the dull narrative and skipped ahead to see if Dick ever knocked up Jane. You might think that’s quite a precocious thought for a first grader, but this was the big city and we kids knew things. I had flipped a couple of pages when “wham!” Miss Silliman’s veiny right paw whacked the book out of my hands sending crashing to the floor. “Edwaaaaarrrrrrd!” she yelled, making the sound not dissimilar to that of a porcupine pleasuring itself. “Yooouuuuu weeerrrrrrrrrrrre FIDGETING!!!!!!!! LEAVE THE CIRCLE!!!!!” I did, with pleasure, secretly smirking that I could now totally tune out of “Dick and Jane” with no further punishment. Just to piss her off, I kept the book in my lap over in my corner, and continued flipping the pages.
Unfortunately, another devout fidgeter in the class, Bud Levy (not his real name..the real guy may still be in the workforce) thought I was lucky to be banned from the reading circle so he got up from his seat and started dancing the hora. Not only did this set off Miss Silliman again, it reminded her she was an old maid and that she would never have a wedding where guests danced the hora. She was also not Jewish. Taking a new tack, the wicked witch of Room 102 wordlessly walked over to Bud, picked him up by the scruff of his collar and placed him in the wastebasket, with the gentle admonition, “that should limit your fidgeting.” But Bud was devoted to the cause and also had zero control of his habit and proceeded to dance in the wastebasket, hopping all over the room making a racket as the aluminum pail repeatedly clunked on the floor. Defeated, but unbowed, Miss Silliman yanked Bud from the basket walked him to the classroom door, sent him into the hallway and closed the door leaving Bud free to fidget his way up and down the hallways of all three of P.S. 186’s floors. Poor Bud never heard the end of it because school kids are inherently cruel and since it was many years before cowards could hide behind social media we took great joy in hectoring him in person and relishing the instant feedback in the form of his major embarrassment and truly accomplished technique at flipping us off.
To this day I’m sort of a fidgety guy. I have little patience for boring meetings, self-important speakers who are full of crap, self-help books, or hockey games involving NHL teams from cities in the south and southwest U.S. that don’t actually have ice, or a winter.
No matter to what degree I fidget I would never buy something artificial to bite or spin or abuse. It would just end up in the wastebasket.