Friday, July 20, 2012

Annoying things about being a lefty: BuzzFeed's list doesn't cut it.

I'm a lefty, and as such, I like to kvetch and complain about the various accommodations that I have to make to a world built for right-handed people. Don't get me wrong; these are not generally huge concessions, but they are still somewhat annoying. Most of the time when I feel a little annoyed with the right-handed dominant world is when I'm writing or eating. The writing is annoying because of how book binding and character formation seem to favor right-handed people. At least in English. I have sometimes tried filling in a notebook from back to front, but that ends up just being confusing to me, so I don't do it anymore. The eating is annoying because a lot of people haven't learned how to eat with their elbows tucked in at their sides, which does increase the chance of bumping elbows (even when I eat with my right hand).

When I recently saw a link to "the 18 worst things for left-handed people", and I thought that it might be an interesting list to compare against what I find annoying. I was struck, however, by how many of these things are non-issues for me personally (and how many of these were somewhat silly), thus making my "worst things" list a LOT shorter. In fact, most of the things on the BuzzFeed list smack of being First World Problems, but here's my take on my annoyance level and associated solutions (serendipitous or learned) to overcome (or at least deal with) each of them.

1. Spiral notebooks: I don't use spiral notebooks, precisely because they are annoying to write in, and it's not too difficult to get non-spiral notebooks. Indeed, when living in Japan and Taiwan, spiral notebooks were the exception to the rule, maybe due to considerations of trying to put more than one spiral notebook on a bookshelf. (Go ahead, put a bunch of spiral notebooks on a shelf, and then try to extricate just one without having a load of grief. Couldn't do it, could you?)

2. Writing in a 3-ring binder: Ditto to #1: I don't write in 3-ring binders. If I am going to write using loose-leaf, I'll write on the loose sheets of paper. After all, one of the massive benefits of using a binder is that you can add and remove individual sheets of paper.

3. Only 1 gross lefty glove in gym class: I never learned how to throw a ball with my left hand, and so, except for underhand lobs, I'm completely uncoordinated when it comes to throwing left-handed. My dad - probably because he didn't know that I was left-handed (I didn't know at the time, either; I was 4 years old) - gave me my older brother's baseball glove (yay for hand-me-downs) and taught me how to throw with my right hand. Although I later found that I can catch objects equally well (more or less) with either hand, my lack of ability to throw with my left meant that I never had to wear the only left-handed glove in the pile. Of course, now that I'm no longer in high school - and now that I've owned my own baseball glove for a while - I don't have to worry about using what's left in the pile.

UPDATE (2013/02/21): SocImages recently discussed the point that the ability to throw (with one hand or the other) is far more likely to be a learned and trained action than an action that is inherently handed in nature (or even gendered in nature). I guess the fact that I'm nominally left-handed, but can't throw very well at all with my left hand, merely provides additional evidence that:
no matter what the answer, men’s throwing ability is strongly related to practice

4. One pair of the lefty green scissors in class, 3 lefty kids: I don't recall ever seeing lefty scissors until I was in high school. The scissors that I had in elementary school were the ones that could be used equally easily with either hand. They do make these scissors, and although not as ergonomic as handed scissors, they do get the job done quite nicely. Still, I learned how to use scissors with either hand, and so now I use them with whichever hand picks up the scissors.

5. Ballpoint pens don't work as well because you're pushing, not pulling, the ball: I learned how to write left handed without doing the around-the-top-of-the-paper arm curl nor doing the curve-your-hand-backward-to-keep-it-from-smudging-the-ink form. This means that I can write without having to put my paper at an awkward angle for the tiny lecture hall desks (see #12), nor do I have problems with excessive smudging (see #6, #17, and #18). For some reason, I've never had problems with ballpoint pens. (Fountain pens, though, remain annoying.)

6. Ink all over the side of your hand: See #5.

7. Bonking elbows with a righty at the dinner table: Or at any table, really. Still, although for some reason I was taught how to use my knife and fork as a lefty (as opposed to my ball throwing and catching skills, see #3), I also learned how to eat with my elbows kept tucked in. This was necessary when in Japan and Taiwan; even the right-handed people didn't have lots of space within which to maneuver. During my later years of high school (when I was living in Budapest), I learned how to eat like a righty, just because I was stuck at the middle of so many tables with righties all around. Today, I usually prefer to sit at one of the corners that allows my left hand to be free, but when I'm stuck in the middle, I either just eat with elbows in or I just eat like everyone else.

8. iPad Kindle app - left side is page back: I don't own an iPad, and even with my Kindle (which has page back and page forward buttons on both sides) I read it with my right hand, because the case is built that way. Not such a difficult thing to get used to.

9. Driver's cup holder is for the right hand: Unless you are in a vehicle built for left-side driving (like in the UK, Australia, Japan, etc.), where the diver's cup holder is for the left hand. This isn't a horrible problem, though, since (A) I don't drive a car that often, and (B) when I have a beverage while driving, I rarely use the cupholder, since my beverage of choice is often a bottle of soda or something in my thermos, both of which I tend to hold between my legs. (That is - admittedly - a completely different kind of potential problem, but not one that is based on the culture standard of which side of the car the driver's seat happens to be placed.)

10. Numberpad is on the righthand side of keyboard: I got used to it a LONG time ago. I can't use the numberpad with my left hand; never learned how. This is like complaining that the QWERTY keyboard is set up in the way that it is.

11. Dying sooner, so becoming a zombie sooner: Discounting the second half of this annoyance, while it's statistically true that left-handed people are likely to die sooner on average, often because of accidents caused by mis-cues, I'm not really losing a lot of sleep over this one.

12. [Lecture hall, right-handed writing] desks: See #5 about how I orient my arm for writing. To that end, the lefty-desks are actually quite annoying for me, and I have trouble using them. Also, I almost never find myself in a position where I actually have to use these kinds of desks.

13. Measuring cups that show you stupid metric: Leaving aside the argument of whether metric is useful, measuring cups are only useful when they are left on a flat surface. You cannot accurately measure anything in a measuring cup when it's held in your hand. True, you can give it a quick "eyeball" to determine if you're in the right ballpark (correcting for your angle of viewing and the steadiness of your hand and arm, of course), but I almost never (A) use a measuring cup and (B) hold a measuring cup up to my eyes to determine the level.

14. [Can openers]: Like learning to throw a baseball with my right hand, I learned to open cans with my right hand. I have never encountered a left-handed can opener, although I know that they exist.

15. [Video game controllers]: This was one of my peeves while growing up; it was a great excuse that I gave myself as to why I was not as good at video games like Street Fighter and the like. I eventually came to the recognition that I wasn't as good at video games as my friends, because I'm just not that good at video games. Therefore, I don't play video games on consoles, and the games I play on my computer tend toward games like Civilization than Call of Duty.

16. Cord on credit card machine pen is never long enough: This is perhaps the first thing that is currently an annoyance. However, technology is continuing forward, and many credit card machines that use the touch-screen pens are moving to technologies that don't require the use of that specific pen; you can use any stylus, including (in some cases) a capped pen. Which I use. In the cases when the credit card pen is the one that must be used and its cord is not long enough, I just make signature-like scribbles with it using my right hand. (I had to learn how to make a decent facsimile of my signature when I broke my left arm; the generally low level of graphical resolution that older credit card machine touchscreens have means that my signature comes out roughly the same, regardless of the hand used to sign.)

17. [Graphite coated palm edge]: See my note at #5 about writing. Also, I don't use pencils to often anymore, which means graphite smudging almost never happens.

18. ["SmudgeGuards" to minimize #17]: I had never seen "SmudgeGuards" until I came across this BuzzFeed page.

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