Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Outbreak Of Left-Handedness

My firm impression is that left-handedness has been in full retreat for all of my life. I attribute this to forced-right-handedness, which I am pretty sure is an actual thing and not a figment of my imagination. People just can no longer bear the thought of subjecting an apparently left-handed child to a lifetime of annoyance, and some physical pain, at the hands of machines, devices and contraptions that were designed for the comfort and convenience of right-handed people. To see what I mean, go and try to cut something holding the scissors in your left hand. Or imagine the difficulty of renting left-handed golf clubs.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, left-handed. But my father is left-handed, and a close cousin of mine is as well. So I have heard the complaining. Pay phones were a common object of hatred, as was the entire concept of handwriting.

I arrived in Thailand over ten years ago and I was surprised at the number of left-handed students. In classes of students numbering in the mid-forties, there’d usually be half a dozen or so. That seemed high to me. I taught a class of forty-five seventeen-year-olds that included thirteen left-handed students. I remember thinking, that’s great, they let the lefties be lefties over here. Must be a Buddhist thing. Things have changed over time.

I’ve been teaching at my big university for over eight years now. Several times every year I proctor tests, and I always scan my quadrant of the room for left-handers. Without having made a science of it, I’m prepared to say that the numbers have gone down over time. I’ve written about it hereon already. Sometimes, though, there’s a sudden outbreak, an unaccountable bulge in the left-handed population. I cannot even speculate as to the why or how, although I might, just a little.

Sometimes it seems to be a particular subject that has drawn the attention of a lot of lefties. Perhaps the left-handed brain is also predisposed to the study of certain things. Mathematics? Chinese language? Further study would be required, and I am not so disposed.

My proctoring this time lasted nine days, and over that entire time every group of test takers included a greater number of left-handers that I’ve become accustomed to. Usually I need to walk the isle for a good stretch, searching through a few isles to the left and right, to come across the first lefty. Last week, anywhere I stood I could look around and find a few immediately. On a couple of occasions I could see two sitting in a row, one right behind another. One row of thirteen test takers included five lefties! Every one of the nine days was the same. It was an outbreak of left-handedness.

It has always been a blessing to me to be so interested in the world’s mundanities. Very good luck, that. 

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