As a fellow left-handed person, I cannot subscribe to Russell Saltzman’s lament in his “On the Square” essay today. I don’t really know anything about the comparative life expectancy (or accident-proneness) of lefties and righties. But I do know that whenever I am in a group of really smart people, and happen to observe what hand they write with, I notice that lefties are disproportionately represented. They are only 10-12 percent of the global population (says the oracular Wikipedia), but they count for much higher proportions of Nobel winners, for instance. Also U.S. presidents, at least since we’ve been paying attention in the last century, and since it became less common to compel children to switch to right-handedness. (The fact that no Canadian prime minister has been left-handed since at least 1980 may explain a good deal . . .)
I confess I never had any trouble with pay phones, or any other wall-mounted or table-top phone with the cord coming out of its left side—and I am old enough to have used a rotary phone, employing my right index finger to dial
counterclockwise [oops, correct that!]. Lefties learn early that they must adapt, and all of us are at least quasi-ambidextrous, having more facility with our right hands than most righties have with their left. Some things I have always done as though I were right-handed, without giving them another thought (swinging anything two-handed, like a bat or an axe); other things are merely annoying because the world seems to be made with righties in mind (like blackening the heel of my hand with ink or graphite as I write). It’s true that mutual obstinacy between a teacher and me kept me from becoming the Jimi Hendrix of the violin at the age of ten. But often I am very grateful to be an adaptable lefty. Driving a manual-shift car in the UK is hard enough for me, but at least I am using my dominant hand on the stick; it must be even worse for righties.
Then there are scissors—the one implement that nine times out of ten gives a lefty a maddening experience of failure and torn paper. Thank goodness for the manufacturers of left-handed scissors!