Right Nor Fair

We’ve got a new cash till in our town.  It’s outside one of the banks and it’s shiny and high tech and fast and cool.

Not for me though.  It’s not shiny or cool for me.  For me it’s a taunt, a jibe, a reminder of my second class status in this world.


The place you push the card in, see, has a projecting ‘thing’ on the left hand side of the slot (sorry for being so technical).  This protects your card a bit, from prying eyes and such.

This is me, drawn left-handed by Eolaí Gan Fhéile 

It’s a good thing, I’m sure, so long as you’re not ‘me’ or one of the ten percent like me.  For us, it’s just an obstruction that makes the damn thing almost impossible to use…

Have you guessed yet?

That’s right, I’m left-handed, folks, I suffer from Cack-handedness, Sinister-handedness, Sinistrality, Sinistromanuality, or Mancinism, whichever you prefer.  In the Irish language, I am ‘Ciothog’.  In French (and some other things) I am ‘Gauche’.

There’s a neat old theory, now largely debunked, that all left-handed people were part of a set of twins originally, the right handed one having being ‘re-absorbed’ or whatever it is they do.  It’s not true, I know, but it’s kind of cute, ‘future story-material perhaps.

But I digress.  My point, as something of a designer and a one time student of Ergonomics – and as a Leftie – is that it is a tough old world for we ten-percenters.  The world has been developed for the convenience of right handed people to such an extent that the poor lefties hardly even notice anymore.

If you are in any doubt of this, you right handed people, try to seek out a left handed tin opener.  I have one.  It looks just like a regular tin opener until you try to use it.  The impossibility of the tool, for you the right handed person, is quite amazing.  Yet when a Leftie gets hold of one of these gizmos it’s like the world clicks into symmetry for a brief tin-opening moment.  Nonetheless, us Lefties can also use the regular right handed version quite well and without complaint.  Funny, isn’t it?

For us, you see, it’s been a case of ‘Adapt or Die’.  The whole bloody world is right hand biased.   Think about it as you go about your daily business.  Ask every situation you meet, “how would this be if I were Left-Handed’.  You may be surprised.

Lift Buttons, Cheque-books, inside pockets, scissors, wallets, watches, Boomerangs, playing cards… the list goes on, from left to right, never ending.  It’s only when we actually get our (left) hands on a custom design product that we start to see how disadvantaged we really are.  Back in London, I used to get left handed chequebooks from NatWest.  They flipped open the other way.  It made me feel so damn special to be able to fill in the little stubs with how much money I’d spent.  I never realised why I had never done that – it was simply because I couldn’t.

We don’t mind so much.  I mean, there’s 90% of you other guys, you deserve the bulk of the spoils.  Perhaps now and again though, a little recognition of the challenges we face every day just opening the can of beans or flushing the toilet. 

Which brings me, finally, to the greatest design challenge for the left handed male.  The one that never gets talked about but which is the secret bane of our left-biased lives.  That ‘flushing toilet’ in the past paragraph should give you a clue… it’s in the tailoring… the tailoring of trousers and how they open… I’ve said enough now, I don’t wish to be indiscreet.  If you’re still in doubt as to what I’m talking about, perhaps the word ‘Rummage’ might shed a little light.

It’s not easy being green, or left handed, but I would not change it for anything.  I am possibly the most left-handed person you’ll ever meet but everytime I smudge my handwriting or step to the right to use the cash till machine, I give thanks for that fact.  In a small way, it sets me apart from you, the regular users of the world.

As Tom Waits once wrote;  It makes it kind of special down in the core.


maybepoet said...

Very true Ken. You had a look at my blog page yet?

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve always wanted to be left-handed. I’ve always had a sneaking belief that dextrously-challenged were more artistic than right-handers like me. God alone knows where I got it from but an article in The Independent says it’s true; the price you pay apparently is that you’re more forgetful. I just thought being a writer I ought to be left-handed. It’s the same when I sit tests to see if I’m left-brained or right-brained – I’m slap, bang in the middle and when I look at my talents I can see why but for some reason I’m still a little disappointed.

gnasher said...

Haha, another one! I get my nose rubbed in it every tme I go through an Oyster turnstile on the tube (ie twice a day).

No matter, we must soldier on ;-)

Dave King said...

You think you're hard done by - I'm a crossed lateral. (There's always someone worse off than yourself!)

Art Durkee said...

Those sinister lefties! If only they weren't so creative, or inventive.

I'm ambidextrous, actually. I do a lot of things with my left hand, although they beat it into me in school to always write with my right. My left scrawl is illegible, even to me. The split between left and right tasks is about even, overall, though. My father was the same, ambidextrous.

Anonymous said...

I grew to hate my grandmother every time she slapped my left-hand for daring to do what my right-hand was supposed to. Such stupid rules anyway! I still sneak in using my left hand whenever possible or being ambi. My favorite bumper-sticker these days has become "Left-handed people are in their right-mind!"

hope said...

Like Art, the teacher made us keep those pencils in the right hand. And yet I deal cards, bat a baseball, sweep, turn twist ties on bags, tie shoelaces..all left handed. Which I didn't realize until Dad wanted to know which person in the family couldn't put the tie back on the bread bag correctly and as I was pleading innocence while sealing the bag, I looked down and realized it was me. :)

My left handed co-worker had a sign in her office. "If the right side of the brain controls the left half of the body and the left half of the brain controls the right side, then only left handed people are in their right minds."

Does that help? ;)

Ken Armstrong said...

maybepoet: Thanks. I am an unreliable correspondent, at best. :)

Jim: I share this sneaking suspicion, such that I secretly reckon I am brilliant just for being left-handed. :)

gnasher: This is the exact kind of shit we have to put up with, eh? eh? :)

Dave: I cannot begin to imagine your plight. :)

Art: I narrowly missed having my Leftiness encouraged out of my in school. My older bother was not so lucky, he was leftie but is no longer, thanks to school.

julirose: I hate hearing of things like that. You use your left, and keep on keeping me on my toes. :)

hope: I feel lucky to have been allowed to express my leftness to its full extent. I really do.

Karen Redman said...

Hi Ken, How well I recognise so much of your blog! Son, Josh, is (very) left-handed ... I knew from when he was about 8 months old. He reached for everything with his left hand and as soon as he could hold a pencil it was with his left hand that he did so. ALL the firstborn children of my husband's family, through the generations, have been left-handed ... it even worked on Josh who is the firstborn child of my dear husband's SECOND marriage. They're all bright in many & varied ways ... Josh is hugely artistic, taken to writing & performing. His teachers worry about how he holds his pen ... he grasps it in a dagger like fashion but, if I could achieve a quarter of his talent in cartooning/detailed drawing, I would happily hold my pen like that!
So, yes - life's a challenge for left-handers but a challenge worth taking up ... hey - look at YOUR talent for writing! Karen

Laura said...

My Mother is a leftie. My Grandmother was too but the teachers (when she was a kid) would hit her hands with a wooden stick if she used her left hand. So she became right handed. I've long known about the insanity in our family. I blame it on the lefties. Makes me feel like a zoo keeper at times.

Terry Heath said...

Ah! I knew there was a reason I liked you. As a lefty myself, I loved sharing in your complaints. I'd never actually thought about the whole fly thing though.

You know, scientifically, we are the only ones in our right minds.