Thursday, 13 August 2009

Happy Left-Handers Day, Fellow Southpaws!

Today, 13th August, is a cool day for me. It's my "half-birthday", meaning I am now just six short months from the big 3-0. It is also International Left-Handers Day, where (if you choose to celebrate) the 10% of us who have to exist in a right-handed world can turn the tables and designate a "Lefty Zone" (don't worry Paul, given this morning's smoothie incident you have enough trouble coping with ambidextrous and right-handed equipment, let alone stuff designed for a lefty, so consider yourself spared!).

So here's a list of everyday equipment that I have to struggle to use, use with my non-dominant hand or try to find a left-handed version:
  • Pens (we need quick-drying ink or a pen that will adapt to the different way a lefty has to hold a pen to see what they've written, and the nib has to be able to cope with a lefty pushing rather than pulling the pen across the page - biros saved our lives!)
  • Rulers (I have a left-handed ruler now, where the "0" is on the right hand side)
  • Scissors (using a right-handed pair makes it very difficult to see the line that needs to be cut)
  • Cake forks (never any point in giving me a righty cake fork because I won't use the "blade")
  • Kettles (the level indicator is almost always set up so the handle is on the right hand side - I've adapted to using it right-handed)
  • Computer mice (once upon a time there wasn't an option to swap over the buttons, or spend ages in computing classes switching the mouse to the other side of the keyboard so I learned to use it right-handed)
  • Microwaves (all the buttons are on the right hand side)
  • Can openers (thank goodness most of the plastic ones out now are ambidextrous)
  • Ticket barriers (I still have a fumble at the ticket barriers as I remember to swap hands or cross my left arm over my body)
  • Hockey sticks (despite an average of three lefty students per class my school had no lefty hockey sticks, so I played with a right-handed one and sucked badly at hockey)
  • Computer keyboard (the sodding number keys are always on the right hand side, making fast data entry difficult for the lefty)
However, while these things are an annoyance (and probably much more so for people who cannot use their right hand for anything - I'm at least moderately ambidextrous with some things), I wouldn't be so foolish as to expect massive design changes in things like ticket barriers and microwaves. I'm sure if it bothered me enough I could get a left-handed keyboard, and stationery and kitchen equipment is well catered for at Anything Left-Handed.

A couple of years ago I mentioned research on the LRRTM1 gene, which may go some way to explaining why three members of my family were or are left-handed (out of 10 of my grandfather's descendants plus himself). It'll be interesting to see which hand Grandpa's great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren use, and whether the world will be a little less frustrating for them to live in.

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