Some language stuff
一边… 一边… yī biān – This is one of the earliest structures you learn when you start taking classes, so you may have picked this up already, but these two “一边”s tie together two tasks that someone is doing at the same time. Like, definitely do not 一边开车，一边看手机 (Drive a car, while looking at your phone).
手忙脚乱 shǒu máng jiǎo luàn – This phrase means “flustered”, or “in confusion”, and if you look at each character individually, you can see why – if our hands (手) and feet (脚) are busily (忙) and messily (乱) moving around, we’re probably flustered, or frantic. I translated this as “scrambling” in the below essay, because it works in context. This structure, where two similar words are paired with two other similar words to describe lots of frantic activity, is common. Another example of this 东望西看 dōng wàng xī kàn, literally “east gaze west look”, which means “looking around everywhere”, and 胡思乱想 hū sī luàn xiǎng, literally “muddled consider messy think”, or “let one’s imagination run wild”.
咦 yí – A sound that expresses surprise, like “Ack!” or “Agh!”
多么 duō me – Translates as “so”, as in “I so wanted to be there!” or “I so wish he would answer the phone.”
什么也帮不上 shén me yě bāng bu shàng – This structure is hard if you only know one definition of each of these characters, because although these are all individually easy words, three of them are being used with their secondary, slightly less-common definitions. So, let’s break down their most obvious meanings first:
什么 – what?
也 – also
帮 – help
不 – no / not
上 – up / over / above
That makes no sense. So let’s look again with the alternate definitions that are actually being used here, with differences in bold:
什么 – anything / nothing
也 – even
帮 – help
不 – not
上 – rise
Hm, still hard, especially the appearance of “rise”. In this case, 上 does not mean “rise” in the directional sense, like “to rise up in the air”. It means “rise”, as in “rise to the task”. 帮不上 is one of those action + result structures that we see all the time in Chinese. The action is helping (帮), the result is that one “couldn’t rise” (不上) to the task of helping. So, all together, 什么也帮不上 translates to “nothing one can even do to help”.