Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On Being Left-Handed....

One of my favorite words is: sinistromanual. That is the medical term for left-handedness. (Righties are dextromanual.) It sounds like a serious affliction, doesn't it? Not to minimize the very real medical conditions that some people live with, being left-handed does feel like a small handicap sometimes. The world is "made" for right-handed people.

Here are just two examples, from my job as a school lunch worker:

(1) My manager and I both share a computer that sits on a small, multi-shelf cart. On the top shelf there is room for the big, old-fashioned monitor, the keyboard, and a full-size spiral notebook where we record daily student monetary transactions, with no space between the keyboard and the notebook. The notebook is always placed on the right side of the keyboard, because my manager is right-handed. When I need to write something there, the keyboard and even the spiral wire of the notebook interfere with my hand, forcing it into a very awkward position and making my writing look sloppy. (My manager doesn't like me to move the notebook.)

(2) The large plastic pans that we use to serve fresh foods are washed by hand in a three-sink system. The first sink, on the right, is used for washing, with a detergent dispenser attached to the wall over the sink. The middle sink is used for rinsing, and the third sink, on the left, is used for sanitizing (which must be done last), again with a dispenser for the sanitizer solution fixed to the wall. Now, working right-to-left is all backwards for me! I can't reverse the direction of my work because the push-button dispensers for the detergent and the sanitizer are affixed to the wall over the sinks -- some right-handed person did that, I'm sure!

Even everyday things, like coffee mugs with pictures on them, are designed for right-handed people; the picture is on the wrong side of the mug when used with the left hand.

Now, on the other hand (so to speak), being a southpaw is kind-of cool. For one thing, it's my own little bit of "specialness". And I notice that a lot of famous actors and other celebrities, and also several of our recent presidents -- including President Obama -- are lefties. And when I crochet pinwheel or spiral patterns in doilies, they go the opposite direction than those in doilies made by righties, which makes my doilies unusual.

It's not that difficult to learn to do things "backwards"; left-handedness is a minor inconvenience. I'm glad that I was allowed to remain left-handed, and was not, as was done in the past, forced to use my right hand. All in all, I like being sinistromanual; if nothing else, it's a good conversation starter.

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