The Idle American: Life on the Left

The trials and tribulations of living in a left-handed world. Photo:

Until recent years, some teachers of five and six-year-olds had denounced left-handedness, believing they could get youngsters on the right track if they were forced to write with their right hands. 

   What a downer this piece will be for those who might mistakenly expect exposure to views of leftist politics and/or liberal leanings. It’s none of those.

Instead, I spotlight a group long surrendered to “dim lights,” largely because we are greatly outnumbered. Unlike the brave Ukrainians, we give in to the world’s “right-handers,” eighty-eight percent strong, often without whimpering.

We “left-handers,” never full recipients of equal treatment on life’s highway, accept less. We groan about only twelve percent of the world being on the port side of things….


   There is evidence that the percentage of left-handed folks is growing, but ever so slowly. Few of us will be around to celebrate increasing to thirteen percent.

Pessimists among us contend that even if this is true, there’s still a long way to go.

Indeed, we are usually afterthoughts. We have learned that sometimes maneuvering awkwardly to fit in is both easier and safer than making noise for equality….


   Until recent years, some teachers of five and six-year-olds had denounced left-handedness, believing they could get youngsters on the right track if they were forced to write with their right hands.

In extreme cases, they tied left hands behind youngsters’ backs!

I’m forever grateful that Lora Everage, perhaps the sweetest first-grade teacher in all of history, allowed me to scrawl with my left hand, no matter the contortions associated therewith….



Don Newbury

I dared to research “left-handedness,” but quickly become weary of so much negativity. Whichever “handed” you are, avoid researching the topic. Terrible biases have abounded across several centuries, including allegations of warped views on religion, evil nature, and even biblical condemnation. (One researcher notes that the Bible makes 100 references about the right hand, all positive, with twenty-five for the left, (100% negative.)

In rare cases, we are viewed positively. As early as 750 BC, the Celts worshiped “lefties.” Ancient tribes associated the left with “the source of life,” as well as possessors of magical and healing abilities.

Let’s laugh and go on, thankful for baseballer Yogi Berra’s slaughter of the English language. It was he–referring to Mickey Mantle’s batting from both sides of the plate–who labeled the star as being “amphibious.”….


   I often experience subtle reminders of being a “lefty.” Recently, I bought a new popcorn scoop. It has a wooden handle, perfect for right-handed scoopers. I was able to remove the handle and clumsily attach it to the left side. It looks stupid, but it works.

I may be “left-legged” and “left-footed” as well.

I have tried, awkwardly, to aim my right leg into my trousers first (and the same is true of putting on socks). It simply doesn’t feel right. My world wobbled in a manner not unlike the day my mother sent me to school with my hair parted down the other side….


   Worsened heart conditions scream at me to accept realities, however stark. My new pacemaker is exhibit one.

I am never–note the firmness of this directive–to place my smartphone in my left-hand shirt pocket–thus saith my doctor.

When I do, the phone’s magnet can play havoc with my heart contraption. Perhaps I didn’t hear the instruction earlier, but I have readily accepted the directive to find another pocket….


   The doctor spewed “thou shalt nots” (interspersed with ever-so-rare “thou shalts”). I intend to heed the former, even when if lowered to suggestion status.

“If you use the phone regularly with your left hand to your left ear, it may still be too close to your pacemaker,” he warned. “So, try using your right hand.”

This may be a “new dog trick” for one who isn’t. So far, I’m not doing well, clumsily holding the phone against my right ear and dropping more than calls. Maybe I’ll suggest to my doctor that he consider performing medical procedures with his other hand. More likely, I’ll ask a grandchild how to use the speakerphone….


   Dr. Newbury, a longtime university president, writes weekly and continues to speak throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.

Please click HERE to find When the Porch Light’s On, Don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational memoir. You can find the book on Amazon.

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