A Left-Handed Compliment
I was feeling good that morning. I woke up to the happy discovery that not a single one of our major home appliances had broken during the night and we still had running water, which is highly unusual in our household. Then I got both dogs all the way outside without getting the Wee-wee of joy on my feet. It looked like it was going to be a great day.
Then, like a fool, I picked up the newspaper. You should never pick up a newspaper when you’re feeling good, because every newspaper has a special department, called the Bummer Desk, which is responsible for digging up depressing front-page stories with headlines like DOORBELL USE LINKED TO LEUKEMIA and OZONE LAYER COMPLETELY GONE DIRECTLY OVER YOUR HOUSE.
On this particular morning the story that punched me right in the eyeballs was headlined: LEFTIES’ LIVES SHORTER STUDY SAYS SO. YOU probably read about this. Researchers did a study showing that left-handed people live an average of nine years less than right-handed people. This was very alarming to me because I’m left-handed, along with 10 percent of the population, as well as many famous historical figures such as Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandy Koufax, Speedy Alka-Seltzer, and Flipper. President Bush is also left-handed, which has raised a troublesome constitutional issue because every time he signs a bill into law he drags his hand through his signature and messes it up. Nobody knows whether this is legal. “This doesn’t look like a signature,” observed the Supreme Court, in one recent case. “This looks like somebody killed a spider on the Federal Highway Authorization Act.”
Because of the way we write, most of us lefties go through life with big ink smears on the edges of our left hands. In fact, when I first saw the newspaper article about lefties dying sooner, I thought maybe the cause would be ink absorption. Or maybe it would be related to the fact that we spent our entire academic careers sitting with our bodies twisted clockwise so we could write on those stupid right-hand-only desks. I have this daydream wherein the inventor of those desks is shipwrecked on a remote island, and some natives come out of the jungle, and he waves at them in what he thinks is a friendly manner, unaware that this is the fierce Wagoondi tribe, and if you wave at them with your left hand, they treat you like a god, but if you wave with your right hand, they play the Happy Snake Game with your intestines. Not that I am bitter. Nor am I bitter about the fact that I always got bad grades in art class because I couldn’t work scissors designed for right-handed people. On Parents’ Night, when all the children’s art projects were put up for display, mine was the one that looked as though the paper had been chewed to pieces by shrews.
Nor am I bitter about gravy ladles. And if you don’t understand why I’m not bitter about gravy ladles, just try using one with your left hand.
But I have to admit that I AM a little bitter about this business of dying nine years early. According to the researchers, a major reason for this is that left-handers have a lot more accidents than right-handers. I know why this is: We read books backward. Really. When left-handers pick up books, they tend to start reading from the last page. This saves us a lot of time with murder mysteries, but it’s a bad habit when we’re reading, say, the instructions for operating a barbecue grill, and we begin with “STEP 147: IGNITE GAS.”
I myself have always been accident-prone, especially when I attempt to use tools designed for right-handed people, the extreme example being chain saws, which should not even be legal to sell to left-handers. I had one back during the Energy Crisis, when I had installed a wood-burning stove in our fireplace in an effort to reduce our energy consumption by covering the entire household with a thick, insulating layer of soot. Near our house was a large tree, which I realized could supply our soot needs for the better part of the winter. So one day I strode out and, drawing on my skills as an English major, started making strategic cuts designed to cause the tree to fall away from the house. I even called my wife out to watch the tree fall, and of course those of you who are familiar with situation comedies have already figured out what happened: The tree, which was clearly right-handed, fell in the exact wrong direction, chuckling audibly all the way down and missing the living room by maybe six inches.
My wife, who thought I had planned to have the tree do this, said, “That was great!” And I replied, “Wurg,” or words to that effect, because my brain was busy trying to get my heart going again. Speaking of which: Some scientists think that left-handed people’s brains work completely differently from right-handed people’s brains. I read an article once that theorized that left-handers are a different species from right-handers. Isn’t that silly? As if we were aliens or something. What nonsense! Planet foolish this over take will we day one.