Walsh's Wonderings — Fingernail technology

In my ongoing effort to address all the world’s problems, I’ve finally come to fingernail clippers. You’re welcome.

Clippers have never gotten respect. Even inventor David Gestetner’s heart was really in his other invention, an early handspun office copier for documents. As a result, the simple compound lever device we’ve used since the 1800s hasn’t changed much. Most come with that tiny hook to scrape the dirt underneath the nail and a file to smooth the edges of that dull blade you’ve been nursing for years. I used to get a zipped case every other Christmas or so with a big clipper, a small clipper, and a series of instruments straight out the dungeons of the Tower of London. I’d lose them all inside of a few weeks without ever figuring out what they were for.

Oh, sure, some use the scissors. For the fastidious with steady hands, this precision instrument towers over the elementary school simplicity of the nail clipper. Those who use it on their toes are freaks of nature, and we will not speak of them again.

My complaint is that clipper technology is sorely lacking. No matter how many clippers I buy, cutting my nails reminds me of my grandmother biting into an apple without her dentures: they never quite get through. I use the things only once a month at best; why can’t they stay sharp?

Some clippers come with a small attachment that allows for the collection of nail clippings if one is able to suspend one’s fingers and toes skyward. I can barely touch my toes, much less perform yoga while clipping. I’m waiting for the invention of a “clipping mat” that will magically collect everything against a black background but allow for quick emptying into the trash. (There’s a fortune to be made here, kids — be sure to credit me when you make your first million.)

The most glaring failure of fingernail technology is that it’s the only personal care product of the last century that hasn’t gone electric. Tweezers, curlers, even hairbrushes provide a motorized kick to speed things up. Surely in the 21st Century I should be able to put on some type of magic glove that would trim my nails to Brad Pitt perfection. (I’d settle for Steve Buscemi.)

Maybe this is because our rituals around nail cutting vary so much. Some, like me, demand a bright light and plenty of space with which to gather the trimmings that land all over because I remove the protective clipping collector at the end of my clippers. (Like an irresponsible teen, I don’t use protection.) Others, like my wife, cut their toenails over the sink like animals from a Jack London novel. These savages employ moves normally reserved for Pilates and have a careless disregard for where their clippings end up in the sewer system.

There’s also the mysterious world of nail salons out there. I can only assume they’re using a combination of math and black magic to create those crazy nail patterns. I find it best not to think about them.

I secretly envy those who bite their nails, skipping the technology entirely in favor of those comforting nibbles. Of course, there’s a reason plumbers never bite their fingernails. I’ll just wait for one of those scientists working on a cure for cancer to smarten up and get to work on a better nail clipper. Priorities, people. Priorities.

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