I doodled SO MUCH today. Then I fed pigeons.
July 13, 2009 5:21 PM   Subscribe

What fun thing can I do with my hands at work? My new job consists of standing around all day being bored out of my mind.

My job is to stand outside and help people use a new model of parking meter. I speak to maybe one person every half hour, and the rest of the time I just have to stand there. Books and ipods are not allowed, because they could cause me to miss a customer.

I want to pick up some kind of hobby or activity that I can do at work. It needs to be something that will allow me to keep an eye out for approaching customers, and that I can put down quickly when somebody comes up to me. At the same time, I'd like it to be something that could take a while to master. It would be amazing if, after this summer, I had a brand new skill to show off.

Things I've thought of so far are trick coin flipping, juggling, and knitting. Things I considered and rejected include harmonica (too loud), Zippo tricks (too dangerous), and whittling (same).
posted by showbiz_liz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yo yo?
posted by taff at 5:24 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I work in retail, and during a quiet month I taught myself to count on my fingers using binary.
posted by Jilder at 5:25 PM on July 13, 2009

Learn to cut a deck of cards with one hand. The concept is easy, pulling it off takes practice. I learned how in one class a few semesters ago.
posted by theichibun at 5:28 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by nikkorizz at 5:29 PM on July 13, 2009

I know it's not centrally about using your hands, and it's not really a hobby, but... seriously... learn to meditate. Mindfulness/vipassana, not concentrative, because you don't want to be off on another planet when someone needs your help. And eyes open, obviously. Learn to become absolutely completely present doing nothing, and I swear you'll have developed one of the most practical skills for a happy life that it's possible to develop. Well, I thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:33 PM on July 13, 2009 [12 favorites]

Tieing knots? Knife juggling?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:35 PM on July 13, 2009

Metal brain teasers?
posted by Alison at 5:40 PM on July 13, 2009

Shadow hand puppets? Very nerdy but I've always wanted to learn the really complex ones...depends on the lighting at your job though. Since you're already doodling, how about learning how to draw well (if you don't know already)? This website and book might help: http://www.drawright.com/. When you're totally absorbed in drawing, time flies and it can be quite meditative.
posted by janerica at 5:43 PM on July 13, 2009

Air Guitar
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:45 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make a dorodango?
posted by peagood at 5:47 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Memorize poetry/sonnets... Rubiks' cube... poker chip tricks... seconding card shuffling tricks. Start building a tower of pennies/water bottles/stuff.

(Are you a girl? Consider doing kegels...)
posted by samthemander at 6:00 PM on July 13, 2009

posted by scratch at 6:00 PM on July 13, 2009

Listen to the game warden to the events rhino, for it is wise.
posted by flabdablet at 6:05 PM on July 13, 2009

* 2nding meditation
* train memory, memorize numbers, texts, poems, etc
* start writing a book and work on plot lines in your memory
* literally "do something with your hands": do finger stretching exercises until your fingers are strong enough to poke a hole in sheet metal
* breath exercises
posted by rainy at 6:10 PM on July 13, 2009

Sign language?
posted by brevator at 6:11 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

finger knitting, or other kinds of knot and cord-making that can be done with just your hands.
posted by not that girl at 6:43 PM on July 13, 2009

Worry beads. If you don't mind being mistaken for an elderly Greek man.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2009

Pen Tricks?
posted by losvedir at 6:56 PM on July 13, 2009

Sleight of hand coin magic. Really, something that just requires constant practice. Learn to palm a coin. Learn the french drop.
posted by filmgeek at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Learn braille (so you can keep your head up while reading).
posted by cmiller at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2009

I use these hand strength things all day at work lol. Not really fun. But my grip is deadly. Helps with bass playing too.
posted by JIMBOND27 at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2009

Contact juggling?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:35 PM on July 13, 2009

Meditation will hold you in good stead for the rest of your life, not least in useless and interminable department meetings (should you end up having to attend such).

If you want a physical activity with tangible results, crochet will work better for you than knitting. (NOT KNITTIST!) There's just the one implement, smaller than a knitting needle and easy to slip into a pocket, and very very quickly you won't even have to look at the hook or the yarn.

As inspiration: Here are photos of a crocheted coral reef and here is the science writer/crocheteer at TED talking about how crochet encompasses physics, mathematics and biology. This is what got me interested in crochet.

This is a very good video to help you get started.
posted by dogrose at 7:51 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second card shuffling, sign language (particularly the alphabet), and palming/sleight of hand. Many tricks can be written out on a notecard and then it's just practice, practice, practice.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:29 PM on July 13, 2009

Hit post instead of preview...

I was also going to say that once you get good at some of these things, more people will stop to talk to you. :)

Also, hacky sack?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:30 PM on July 13, 2009

Thirding coin magic. Note that you'll even be able to use it in your job! "Y'see, these meters use cards, so you won't need to keep coins on you any more--not even behind your ears..."
posted by No-sword at 8:37 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could you busk? Play three chords on a guitar/ukelele and sing? Those guys are always looking up and around. It could even be songs about the merits of a revolutionary new kind of parking meter. "Swipe your smartcard, it's a breeze, park your car and, pay with ease." Thank you. Thanks, you're very kind. That way pedestrians not even using the meters could learn of their many charms. And you'd make enough in change for a fine sandwich.
posted by Askr at 8:42 PM on July 13, 2009

Get some 3 or 4mm nylon cord and a small book of knots. Become an expert at tying knots.

(A buddy of mine who has limited manual dexterity due to one knife, and two planer accidents, can do a bowline in 10mm rope one-handed.)
posted by notsnot at 8:53 PM on July 13, 2009

IMHO, anything with your hands will simply get shot down when someone notices, especially something with odd connotations ("a coin flipper or card shuffler approaches you on the street...."). It does not seem like if a book or ipod is not allowed that playing hackey sack or a musical instrument or something else visibly distracting to those passing by will be allowed, but hey, if they allow it, go for it.

Someone else recommended meditation. If that is not your style I suggest looking at parked cars and people and trying to assemble a comprehensive and cohesive backstory. This is not as trivial as it may seem. "Let's look at this car, what does it tell us about the person?"

This can be a useful life skill. Watch this for a sort of funny rendition of the practice.

Alternately, teach yourself 30 new words a day. Flash cards. If I was standing around all day, I would relearn Japanese vocabulary.
posted by rr at 8:59 PM on July 13, 2009

Rubix cube. Hours of entertainment.
posted by kjs4 at 9:55 PM on July 13, 2009

posted by legotech at 11:22 PM on July 13, 2009

Lock picking.
posted by bjrn at 3:21 AM on July 14, 2009

Read ebooks on a portable device like a Sony Reader or iPod Touch
posted by JoannaC at 4:22 AM on July 14, 2009

wire-bending: make nifty little bits of art.
posted by aniola at 7:36 AM on July 14, 2009

I was going to suggest knitting, but you might want to get down the very basics (casting on, figuring out the knit stitch) at home, first -- when I was learning, I constantly had to stop and refer back to a book or to youtube videos. Doing this will also help you be able to knit without looking, so you can keep an eye out for your customers. When I was first learning, I also threw my attempts at knitting across the room a lot. Try to not hit a customer if you need to do that.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:07 PM on July 14, 2009

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