Left Behind

I will be the first to admit that I am not handy around the house. Oh, I can repair a PC and an iMac, but wiring, painting, serious plumbing, wallpapering, or anything else that doesn’t leave one much of a margin of error…nope. John Ramsey Miller, I’m not. So no one was more surprised than I when this week I purchased and actually operated a chainsaw.

We had a part of one of our larger fir trees at casa de Hartlaub detach in a wind storm a few days/weeks/months ago and my neighbors, who usually are all fine fellows (since the conjurer of the dark arts who lived next door moved) were becoming somewhat standoffish, no doubt due to the fact that scurries of rabid chipmunks were regularly taking residence in the boughs. The detached part was bigger than most normal trees so it wasn’t something that I could haul to the curb like a Christmas tree. Some cutting and separation was accordingly in order. I went to my local hardware superstore and purchased a Homelite electric chainsaw. The directions were wonderful, and it worked like a dream. I put on a set of headphones, potted up The Complete Bitches Brew to 11, and began cutting away.

I discovered something, however. Chainsaws are for right-handed people. I’m left-hand dominant. And I mean dominant. Not even the Sisters of Charity, circa 1957, could break me of my left hand use, notwithstanding the observation that such a proclivity indicated that I was doomed to be an instrument of the devil. I do almost everything (yeah, even that) with my left hand. As with most such things, I called the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and a few other agencies and I’m going to get this discrimination redressed. Not really. Just kidding. I worked around it, used it properly — with my right hand on the trigger, left hand on the grip (or something like that) stood with the blade away from me and cut the heck out of that thing. I had that tree demolished before Miles, Chick Corea, et al. were halfway through “Spanish Key.”

Left-handed people have to adapt to a right-handed world. Does that make us special? Smarter? More creative? All or none of the foregoing? Consider this: I attended a legal seminar several years ago where the attendees sat at random, eleven seats to each long table. The lad next to me nudged me about two hours into the presentation and nodded down the table, where nine other people were busy taking notes. Every single person was left-handed. Maybe the Sisters of Charity were right.

I think it is a given that the people who are gracious enough to visit this blogspot on a regular basis are among the most creative and intelligent on the planet. And great folks of course, to boot. I accordingly am taking a totally unscientific survey: are you left- or right-handed? And do you have a good left-handed story, funny or not so much, that you would care to share with us?

33 thoughts on “Left Behind

  1. Hello Joe,
    I am a right-hander however pretty much a klutz with both.
    Moreover, saying that, I will have to admit those hands got me into trouble a time or two … or three.
    Along with that, any funny stories about our hands and their actions—may be funny now, however, at the time they were quite serious and better left buried in time.
    Now the real question should be is do our hands have separate IQ s.
    If they do, I might consider my right as being dumb, and my left dumber.
    I am not complaining now, cause I thank the Good Lord that I have them.
    Just an observation on my part, and hope it helps others.

    • Dave, since we are close in age, I am sure you will recall the desks in school, which, at least in high school, were designed for right-handers. My left shoulder is somewhat rounded from leaning over to write. I like your dumb and dumber analogy, it fits me as well. Thanks for stopping by once again.

    • That shows a shift in generation. In my school every classroom had 2-3 lefty desks. Which, while nice for the south-paws, always seemed to be the only desks open when you really needed a seat next to a cute girl.

  2. I am a lefty. My right hand isn’t totally stupid, but it is slower to catch on than its dominant mate.

    And, no, nothing funny, other than how my rural farmfolk relatives would always gather round at family foofahs and make a big deal about “that little southpaw” (which kids really like by the way, it never leaves a complex or any damage *twitch*)


    • Oh, “twitch” indeed, Terri! Be happy you weren’t raised by Italians as I was, my chubby cheeks still bear the indentations from being pinched so much, though I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

  3. I’m a parapalegic…not that’s not it…paradexter…no…ambulancer…doh! … I can do everything with both ….AMBIDEXTROUS! THAT’S IT!… life is so darned confusing….

    Confuses the heck out of folk who come to my computer and see mouses on both sideses of my keyboardses, and pens and pencils too…leave’m confused and you’ll always be in power…bwahahaha!

  4. oh…funny left handed story.

    …I cook best with the spatula in the right, but pick my nose most satisfactorily with the left.

    heh? Funny, yah?

    • Yes, that is funny, Basil! Especially since I’ve seen similar dexterity on exhibit at various nickel beaneries I’ve patronized…once.

      I thought of another story. I have a good friend who is a devout Muslim. Several years ago he was with his family at a school picnic and I brought some cupcakes to his table, using both hands. I set the ones in my left hand down in front of him. A shadow crossed his face and he looked away. He didn’t say anything but he never ate the cupcakes. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until several months later, when I discovered that Muslim men eat with their right hands and uh, use their left hands for clean-up, as it were. We eventually cleared things up and still laugh about it.

  5. Right hander. No funny stories, unfortunately. Though I am so severely right hand dominant that I see lefties at work and wonder if its painful. LOL!

    BK Jackson

  6. I am boringly right handed, but when I coached junior Olympic volleyball for young teen girls, we ran drills to cultivate the use of both hands. And finding a left handed hitter was AWESOME! Most blockers had to set up & move faster to cut off a lefty’s hit. I bet there are plenty of sports where being a lefty is pure gold.

    Have a fine weekend, sweet Joseph. Picturing you behind a chain saw is a little frightening—this coming from the girl who is addicted to the new NBC TV series HANNIBAL. Just sayin’

  7. My left hand is so clumsy that I’ve often wondered how I’d manage if I were forced to use it. Fortunately, it’s never been put to the test! Sorry you have to deal with a rightie-centric world–that must be annoying.

  8. One gets used to it to some degree rather quickly Kathryn. Annoying? Naw. Now, here’s what is annoying: I am color-blind, and people, upon learning that, will say, “What color is this? What color is that?” and laugh uproariously when I get it wrong.

  9. Am very left-handed. Although in baseball I can switch hit well for some reason. (But ask me to throw with my right and I, well, throw like a girl.

    Like you, Joe, I am old enough to remember when teachers punished you for writing with your left hand. My mom went to school once and reamed out my teacher and demanded that she leave me alone. My penmanship was beautiful, by the way.

    I can also write (cursive) backwards. Am told this is a leftie trait.

    When I went to India, I got stared at for eating with my left hand so I tried hard to eat with my right. Made a big mess but at least I offended no one.

    Only time it really bugs me is sitting in a tight booth in a restaurant. I always have to ask to sit on the outside. But all in all, it’s kinda cool being in the 10 percent!

    • Kris, unfortunately for me I have reached the stage of my existence where I can no longer sit in booths, unless they are especially designed for folks like myself of normal height and weight. That India story was interesting. I probably would have turned to the person next to me, held out whatever I was holding in my left hand, and said, “YOWZA! This is great! Try some!”

    • The stories of being forced to use the right hand in writing reminds me of “The King’s Speech” and the link between forcing the “wrong” hand to write (ie a right hand for a lefty) and stuttering.

  10. Brian, thanks for sharing this. I first had this test administered to me when I was taking the field portion of my CCW permit class. I am definitely left-eyed, footed and every other darned thing.

  11. Joe–
    Is it true that those of us who write crime fiction are mostly left-handed? If so, I will have to stop taking personally one of the definitions of sinister, and sinistrality. It fits after all, doesn’t it?

    • I’m wondering the same thing, Barry. Again, it seems to apply to lawyers,too, per my wholly unscientific observation at that seminar. I wonder if Scott Turow, John Grisham, D.W. Buffa, et al. are left-handed?

    • Uh oh. What about sociopaths (for example hedge-fund managers and bottom-feeders in the mortgage biz)? Do you think the Bureau is on to this?

    • Actually, Barry, as I thought about it, I realized that of the (very few) Feebees I know all happen to be left-handed. I called one and he pointed out that the same is true all the way to the very top of the chain of command. Does it take one to catch one? Or is there something more…sinister…going on here?

  12. I’m right handed. I have a cousin who is right handed in everything but batting. He bats left. He played catcher in high school. The other team got really confused when he stepped to the “wrong” side of the plate. He was not a switch hitter, just batted left.

    • I wasn’t much of a baseball player, Lance — slow and dumpy doesn’t work in baseball, unless your name is “Babe” — but I understand the strategy of the game and I bet your cousin drove opposing teams crazy, even when he had been scouted and they knew he was coming. That would have been fun to watch.

  13. Interesting. I’m right-handed, but my dad’s a lefty, and I firmly believe he helped me with my first published short-story. See, he bats left-handed, but plays golf right-handed because my grandparents weren’t overly wealthy, but my grandfather got a special provision from working at the YMCA to get to play at a local course a lot. Well, Grandpa was a righty, so the only clubs in the household were right-handed. When dad wanted to learn so he could go with, he had to learn to play righty.

    I used that very description in my first story, a lefty hitiing right-handed because those were the only clubs in the house where he grew up. It’s such a small detail, but I think it’s one of the things that gave my story some taste of realism, and got it published.

    • Jake, it’s details like that — small but ultimately important — that push a story over that small but very hard hump between “good” and “great.” Hope to read more from you, and soon.

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