I was a six year old first grader when I found out that I was a misfit although I am sure the signs were there all along. That is when my teacher, Miss Thomas, who although never my favorite teacher, was probably the most memorable one, told me that it was not permissible to be left handed. We were just learning to print and I was apparently approaching it all wrong. However, being the slow learner that I am, I resisted authority and continued to take the easy route. Miss Thomas on the other hand, turned out to be a formidable foe and rose to the task by turning my desk to face the rear of the room where it would remain until I learned to print with my right hand. It is fortunate for me that cooler heads prevailed in the form of Miss Asher, the principal who thought that to be a little severe and intervened. Otherwise, I, today, would probably be the oldest kid in first grade.
If nothing else, the encounter awakened me to one of life’s realities. That being I could do what I wanted, but it was not going to be easy. My earliest encounter was with the pencil sharpener mounted on the wall. The handle was on the wrong side, at least for me. When I graduated from pencil to a pen, everything I wrote, I smudged. I remember the first time I picked up a pair of scissors and realized the handle was shaped wrong for my fingers. Bummer. And it got worse from there. All my notebooks were bound on the wrong side to make writing comfortable. As I grew older, many classes I took had desk chairs. You know, the ones with the wide right arm that is your writing surface. Now those were fun.
I remember my right handed father trying to teach me how to knot my tie. I finally learned, but did it just the opposite. And the time I got a little plastic ukulele for Christmas, he had to restring it for me so I could strum it with my left hand.
When I joined the military I quickly found that it is easier to defend our country right handed. The holster for my sidearm was made to be worn on your right side, making me feel like Barney Fife, and my carbine discharged the spent shell casings out the right side, zipping them past my face.
Over the years I’ve just kind of learned to deal with the inconvenience. It is what it is. So now I use the right handed can opener, dig in the garden with the right handed weeding fork and trim with the right handed pruning sheers. I’ve learned to read the numbers on my tape measure upside down, and twist the wine corkscrew in the opposite direction.
I read recently that they now manufacture many of the above mentioned items for lefties, including left handed rulers, smudge proof pencils and pens, and left handed playing cards (numbers in all four corners). I guess that someone finally realized that about 10% of the population is different, although we prefer to think of ourselves as special. After all, it is a well known fact that the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body. Therefore, I conclude that left handed people are the only ones in their right mind. Just sayin.
Originally published February 2012