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 sideand I am old enough to have used a rotary phone, employing my right index finger to dial
counter clockwise [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 scissorsthe 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!