Monday, July 18, 2005

What's Left?

Unfortunately, I'm one of those left-handed persons born into a right-handed world. It wasn't my fault. "Oh, yeah," the relatives would say, "wasn't Great Uncle Claude or so and so left-handed?" Oh well, that's me and I'm stuck with it. I'm not here to complain much, mind you. It's been interesting all my life to adjust to the "right" side of things. I guess it would depend on where I was brought up, too. If I were born in Israel or China, I'd write from right to left instead of left to right. I'll tell you, 3-ring binders are no fun to left-handers. That's why a lot of us write halfway upside down. To avoid the binder rings. I suppose if I were born in England or Japan, I would be driving on the other side of the road and be able to shift with my left hand. Maybe that's why we do it the other way here. To spite the British. Maybe our auto manufacturers wanted to please all of the right-handed signers of the Declaration of Independence who hated anything English. They didn't realize that one day we'd have a long succession of left-handed presidents, from Gerald Ford through Bill Clinton, except for Jimmy Carter, who I think could sign a bill into law while cracking a peanut shell with his left hand. Pretty much everywhere else in the world they drive like us. Maybe we got it from them. So much for Yankee ingenuity, if that's the case.

I used to part my hair on the left side. Back when I had hair. Now, I just have a giant ambidextrous part in the middle of my head. Usually, I could focus on famous personalities and tell people what hand they use by which way they part their hair. That is, until the Hippie movement became vogue and everyone had long hair and parted it down the middle. Now, they're old and bald like me.

When I was in first grade, the teacher took the pencil out of my left hand and told me to use my right. I yelled "NO!" and she never bothered me again. My second grade teacher tried to pull the same shenanigans with the same emphatic answer in return. This was a public school, but, back in the fifties, there was still that superstitious element of left-handedness being some sort of mark of the devil or something like that. At least, by the time I was ready to graduate 8th grade, the teachers had learned their lesson and rightfully chose me over John Bixby to design the yearbook cover. So there, John. You always thought you were a better artist until then. Too bad you were right-handed.

Some things are awkward. I never quite got the gist of how to use scissors. Almost forever, the handles were angled to slide the right hand in to fit comfortably. Oh, I guess I can use them now, but not as well as you right-handers do. I can cut with the precision of a surgeon with a No. 11 Exacto blade, though. Doors can be a small problem. You never think about revolving doors, for example. It would be easier for me to push on it and spin to the left. Hmmm.

When I was young, we didn't have much money. I know, there are plenty of stories out there. But, I would always get the hand-me-downs. Clothes I had no problem with. Whenever I played softball with the neighborhood kids, or in school, I had to borrow my brother's glove. It was a left-hander's, which meant it fit on his left hand so he could throw with his right. I had to yank it off to be able to throw. My game improved dramatically when one of my grandfathers got me the right one. Or do I mean left one? Oh well, never mind. Later on, when I was in the Jaycees, we played ball games with the Rotary Club, the PBA, and whoever else we could conjure up for a keg of beer. I pitched many of those games. Struck out a few, too, and that's pretty difficult since it's just lob pitching. These guys would tell me the ball would do all sorts of different things. It would wobble to the left, then right. It would go up, down, and then up again. I could see it sometimes. They hated me. Same thing with bowling and shuffleboard. "You left-handers are weird," was not an unusual comment to me. I took it with pride. I think my favorite outdoor activity was Frisbee, though. That's the only real game where everybody wanted me on their team. I was always the first one picked. We would have teams of, maybe, 5-7 players each. Depended on who all showed up. We'd toss the Frisbee back and forth. If you didn't catch it (with one hand only) the opposing team would get a point. I could make a Frisbee dance and practically sing back then. Skip, do whatever I wanted. The main reason I was so desirable, though , was that the Frisbee spun in the opposite direction. Hard and fast. I would always get to throw it and rack up, at least, the first 7 points of the game because no one could catch it until they got used to the spin.

One time, years ago, I noticed that the NBC peacock logo had been redesigned. "That was done by a left-handed artist," I said to anyone who would listen. "Oh, how do you know, Mr. Smartypants?" I would tell them the face of the peacock now faces right. The old ones always faced left. Whenever I have done portrait work, it is easier for me to angle the face more toward the right. Much easier to draw.

As a minority in the world, I have never heard of an organization like Left-Handers United or the National Organization for the Preservation of Left-Handers. How come? Don't we rate? Or don't we care? Maybe, it's because WE NEED TO STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS! just won't work in our case.

To this day, I still get people who have known me for years that will exclaim, "I didn't know you were left-handed!" as if it is a shocking discovery. They always mean well. Generally, they qualify it with a "no wonder you're so smart" or a "no wonder you're so good at art" type of compliment.

How right they are.

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