Thursday, December 13, 2012

Left To Our Own Devices

by Drew Martin
One thing I identify more with than any other characteristic, gender, race or whatever is that I am left-handed. Lefties are a peculiar minority and fortunately in modern America, there is no real stigma to it. The problem is that civilization seems backwards for us because almost everything is designed for right-handed people. The more ergonomic things evolve, the more right-handed things become.

I have always known and thought about the differences and dangers of being left-handed. The most dangerous power tools, such as circular saws, are made exclusively for right-handed people, with the safety switch on the right side. I always have to make an odd and unsafe gesture just to reach the switch on my circular saw. There are also the trivial, but more annoying habits, such as how cashiers always turn the receipt for the customer to sign with his or her right hand. Last week, for the first time in my life, a cashier turned the receipt for me to sign with my left hand and I thanked him. He did not do it out of courtesy but out of instinct; he was left-handed too.

I grew up thinking I was fortunate, because I knew that my grandfather and his brother had their left arms bound to their sides in school in order to teach them to use their right hands. That would be considered abuse now, but society was different in the early 1900's and people who thought they knew right from wrong, used force to make sure nothing would deviate from their path.

My first memory of my left-handedness being an issue was in elementary school. The lefty scissors were hard to come by and were always too small and did not work well so I just had to learn to cut straight with my right hand and skillfully turn the paper with my left hand. I entertained the idea that the factories only made right-handed scissors but when one did not work properly, the workers just stamped it "lefty."

I think more now about thinking as a left-handed person. I mean...we are obviously more creative, right? But now I think about how the very structure of a conversation or argument has a shape to it. It is not something you can take a picture of but it does exist. I am starting to explore the affects of left-handedness beyond creativity and how this might even influence my relationship with, and understanding of people.

Last week I was delighted to stumble upon a British website dedicated to Anything Left-Handed. That is were my certificate here came from, as well as the survey results, which show the percentage of left-handed practices by lefties. The site has a downloadable left-handed calendar, information about the International Left-Handers Day (August 13th), lefty products and "facts" such as:

Left-handers are generally more intelligent, better looking, imaginative and multi-talented than right handers - based on discussions among members of the Left-Handers Club!