06/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Last week, I spent about five days walking around with bandaged, slinged-up left arm, courtesy of carpal tunnel surgery. I'm a righty, so I thought I'd be in the clear, but it's amazing how quickly you realize you truly do rely on your non-dominant hand. Like when you go to tie your sneakers. Or reach into your purse and grab your wallet to pay for groceries. Or simply shop for groceries -- those carts don't exactly steer themselves. I could drive, thankfully, but still am having trouble turning on the headlights or closing the door without awkwardly reaching across with my right, stitch-free hand.

As I walked around town looking generally pathetic with my hand wrapped in a giant cloud of gauze, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick strangers were to help me. Not only help -- everyone had a story of their own. A not-insignificant number of people recalled their own carpal tunnel surgery (including a physician who had both of his hands operated on at the same time!). One woman who helped me fish my L card from my wallet made me nearly lose my lunch when she told me about breaking her radius and ulna at summer camp 10 years ago. One man relived a horrific-sounding compound fracture suffered during a football game. But nasty injures aside, my faith in humanity was bumped up a notch as I realized people really were up to the task of helping their fellow (wo)man bumble along.

A list of day-to-day activities completed with the help of total strangers:
  • Tying my shoes
  • Putting my hair in a ponytail
  • Hooking my bra (one particularly kind stranger in my gym locker room)
  • Cutting my salad in a restaurant
  • Putting on my jacket
  • Adjusting the leg press in my gym
  • Snapping my purse shut
  • Opening my umbrella

To all those Good Samaritans out there, thank you for making a semi-difficult time far easier. I only hope you're still around when I get the right side done.