Once again, I allowed my fingers to get me into trouble.

Once again, I allowed my fingers to get me into trouble.

You'd think they would learn to stay out of tight, pinchy places. You'd think that an instinct built into human DNA millions of years ago, when early man first regretted putting his finger on a spot where two glaciers were about to collide, would now be encouraging me to keep my fingers in my pockets.

I do recall getting early warning about accidental finger-smashing. Elementary school teachers seem to dedicate themselves to giving cautionary instructions, of which "Keep your hands to yourself" is a favorite. I was a shy child who usually kept everything to myself: hands, feet, thoughts, urgent personal needs that required me to raise my hand and ask permission to leave the room, and all answers, right or wrong. Bashfulness turned me into something resembling a warm rock -- yet even I needed occasional reminders to keep my hands to myself.

A recent escapade concerning a forefinger involved an ATM. I had chosen the machine's "quick cash" option and watched as a sheaf of crisp new bills slid out of the money slot.

But was that all of the bills? It didn't seem like enough. Without thinking, I poked my finger into the opening just as the little tray was withdrawing into the machine like a butler backing out of the parlor.

And the tray bit me. It snapped down hard. Those machines have teeth like an angry gerbil and the reflexes of a mongoose. When I pulled out my finger I was a casualty, though I forced myself to walk away just as if I'd meant to punch a hole in my forefingernail. Furthermore, I was a casualty who got no sympathy from anyone.

"I stuck my finger into the ATM slot as it was closing," I told family and friends. I expected at least a "poor you" for my honesty. Instead, people just looked at me. "Why?" they invariably asked. I could see they thought they already knew the answer -- because I'm some kind of nitwit, that's why -- and I stopped waiting for condolences.

The time I fell on my outstretched right arm and the time I fell on my left hand don't count, of course, but those injuries were geographically near my fingers and are at least worth a mention. I was running in the first instance, and while my usual response to falling while running was to get up and keep going, on this occasion, the idea of more running was out of the question. In fact, I was more inclined to throw up, which as it turns out is how a person can tell that she's broken her wrist.

When I fell on my hand, I was walking down a clear stretch of sidewalk. The sidewalk may have risen to meet me, or perhaps I tripped on nothing. At any rate, I fell flat, and looked up to see a pickup-truck driver looking at me through his driver's-side window. When our eyes met, he rolled down the glass a half-inch.

"Need help," he said. He wasn't really asking. I assured him that I'd intended to collapse on the sidewalk like a fainting goat, and he went on his way. Later, I was diagnosed with a broken hand.

This brings me to last week, when I helped a son-in-law lower the wooden door on his garage. My own garage doors are fiberglass, and compared to that, lowering this door was like pulling the top elephant off a circus pyramid.

I was tugging on what felt like a piece of the elephant's trunk when the door suddenly slammed to the driveway, pinning my forefinger between two of the slats.

"Lift the elephant! Lift the elephant!" I gasped, but my horrified son-in-law already was lifting it. The finger wasn't broken, or even grisly looking. It was flattened. The tip looked like a cannellini bean mashed by a soup spoon. Some days later, when a dark blotch began to form on the nail, it turned into a black-eyed pea.

Some time back, my husband and I had dinner at a buffet that hoped to be taken for a restaurant run by Amish people. Our waitress had an Ace bandage wrapped around her forearm, and when I asked what had happened, she said nothing had. They made her wear the bandage to cover up her tattoo, she said.

I may borrow that trick. Pre-emptive Ace bandages would protect all of my fingers. I may even share my idea with Heloise.

This is how I keep my hands to myself, I'll write -- that is, if I can figure out how to use a keyboard.

Write to Margo Bartlett at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.