Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oddities and Incomplete Polydactyly

My college Genetics course is really paying off these days. Recently, I went to a local hand car wash. One of the car washers, a Mexican young man named Jorge, rang up the charges. As I handed him my credit card, I noticed he had not one, but TWO, thumb tips. I did a double take. I've seen typical presentations of polydactyly (more than 10 toes or fingers) as well as "corrected" ones. They too cause one to do a double-take; rub your eyes and silently ask "did I just see 6 fingers on that hand - something is awry". That wasn't the case this time, there was no doubting it - Jorge had a double thumb tip on one hand. His other thumb appeared normal.

I happened to have my camera in my new Ghetto-fabuolous silver wristlet purse. When do I 1) every carry a purse WITH my camera in it?(weddings and funerals) and 2) how often do you meet someone with two thumbs? I had to get a photo of this!

I am a curious person but didn't want to make him feel odd. As I waited in the lobby for the car to get washed I rationalized how I could approach this issue with Jorge. I worked over many justifications: "hey, that's how God made him, God don't make junk", "I could lie and tell him I'm a doctor and am interested in it medically", I'm looking pretty cute today, maybe I don't need a reason". Personally after mercilessly suffering the persecution of my sisters over acne, freckles, leg fat I thought Jorge may have had it rough in his life because of that double thumb! Maybe not, but he seemed very shy and my heart went out to him. I didn't think he was a freak - just unique. Very interesting.

When Jorge returned to the office area, I simply asked him if I could look at his thumb (aren't you proud that I took the direct approach?). He was shy about it. His English was poor. But he let me look at it and even touch it! (looking back, I think I should've shaken his hand as a offer of acceptance, introduction)! It felt like a normal thumb. It's as if the bones above the top knuckle thought they were tree branches and split into two.
My brief interview with Jorge revealed that he had feeling in both tips and was born with it. I don't know about you, but I think having inherited bad facial acne is far more humiliating than a double thumb. Jorge was nice but very reserved about the whole thing. And because he wasn't a day over 18 and feeling so vulnerable, I felt bad. I thanked him with a big smile and put an extra buck in the tip box. When my car was finished Jorge told me I could take more photos outside. He asked why I was interested. I didn't know the Spanish word for curiosity, so I said "por la ninas. Es muy, muy interesante". OK<>

See for yourself. If you're squeemish or plan to be hatin' on my friend Jorge, don't look. If anyone visits Norwood Car Wash on North Foster Ave in Chicago, keep an eye out. Maybe he'll let you play thumb war.
This sign was posted at the Car Wash. I found the graphics hilarious! They should change the caption and put the signs up in Charismatic churches! "CAUTION" and people figure out the rest.

4 explorers in an expanding universe:

Laura S said...

Very interesting. It does make me a little squeamish, though. You meet the most interesting people!

Lola said...

What a sweet guy! I actually found this story heartwarming since I'm sure most people avoid looking at his thumb while trying to sneak quick looks. Good for you for being direct.

And the sign at the end made me laugh!

Roxanne said...

that is sooo crazy that you a. met this dude & b. asked him to take a picture, I thought I was bold at the hotel asking for a free breakfast...That is why I love you Beck...fearless and fabulous...

K said...

I'll bet he appreciated your honesty. Thats probably why he offered for you to take more pictures! Plus I'm sure he could tell you were genuinly curious and not making fun of him! I think you handled it awesome!
P.S. Love the picture of you to the look great!