How I Lost My Fingerprints

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 23:09
Stalks of corn - flickr - John Lillis

Discovering I had no fingerprints startled me. I actually felt my head jerk in the same way my body shakes awake when I fall in a dream. I was washing my hands (like usual) and I noticed that my hands and fingers were slipping past each other with zero friction between them. Was it a different type of soap? No, because even when I dried them, I could rub the pads of my fingers together with almost no resistance. All the ridges that you normally can see with your eyes had been smoothed away.

I was confused. How did this happen? Would-be crooks, pay attention! Rick’s secret to fingerprint-free fingers is about to be revealed.

Losing Your Fingerprints in 90 days

Here was my trick: picking corn and tomatoes at Dufel’s farm for 6 hours a day each and every summer day. I know what you’re thinking: “But an ear of corn isn’t that abrasive?” It is. And if you’re jogging along side a moving tractor and picking ears as fast as you can move your hands, it’s easy get some massive paper cuts. Also, the outer husk have a semi-coarse texture, which can act like a pumice stone.

Tomatoes were even worse. They smell wonderful, but can leave some amazingly dark green stains on one’s hands, which seep in well below the surface. I often had to resort to using steel wool directly upon my hands to get it completely off. Yes, it hurt occasionally, but there was really no choice if you didn’t want to have green/brown hands 24x7.

So there’s my secret. If you need to avoid leaving a print, just pick corn for 90 days straight in the humid summer months in upstate NY. You’ll be unidentifiable in no time. You’ll also have a tremendous tan and a lot of character building to reflect back upon in your later, wiser years.

My First Paycheck at the Farm

I was proud of my first paycheck. It was the first time I made more than $50 in a single lump sum. It was also the first time I ever had to pay an income tax, which bummed me out because I could have made an additional $10. And at age 14, $10 felt like $200 in adult dollars. At $3.50 an hour ($0.75 less than minimum wage), I wasn’t going to be rich working this job. But it provided me a starting point. And it continues to provide me the ultimate grounding point memory when it comes to work because when life gets tough, I can easily reflect how much easier it is now relative to picking corn. And I can easily make more money in a few hours than I used to in an en entire week.


That summer, I bought my first pair of jeans with my own money. Until that point in my life, all my clothes were either gifts or hand-me downs. But now, I was more in control of what I could wear. Now I could pick out my shoes based on what looked nice versus what was inexpensive. I felt accomplished. I felt like I was in control of my destiny. And I knew there was no way but up from there!

It was totally worth losing my fingerprints in exchanges for this memory (and they grew back in a few months anyway).

Gaining Through Loss

Where have you gained through loss? What moments in your life seemed difficult at the time, but actually result in some major progress forward?

Please share below. I’m interested in hearing your stories.


Image by John Lillis used under the creative commons. 

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.