I was cleaning out some file drawers last night when I came across an old newspaper clipping that I’d saved for decades because of its ominous headline:
“Left-handers could have shorter lives”
Well, great. I really needed to be reminded of that in the middle of an already-depressing winter.
Usually, I ignore the hackneyed articles expounding the foibles of the left-handed citizenry, of which I am a member. I know that gauche is French for “left” and that adroit comes from the French word droit, which means “right.” I also know that it hurts when I try to write in a spiral-bound notebook because my left hand is pressing on the wires.
These tired facts pop up in every article on the subject, causing me to suspect that these articles are written by right-handed authors because left-handed writers hate to do research.
But this article, now brown with age, was different. This had to do with life and death–my left-handed life and death.
The study was conducted by Dr. Stanley Coren, a well-known professor of psychology and neuropsychological researcher at the University of British Columbia. The professor studied death records (Oh, how many times has a Blind Date used that line??). He determined that left-handers died at an average age of 66, compared with a lifespan of 75 years for right-handers.
He concluded that the reason is not physiological so much as it is the left-handers proclivity for accidents. Apparently, left-handed people are five times more likely to die of injuries sustained in an accident.
As I read the article, I was expecting the old “gauche/droit” routine, but the professor said that he was not saying that left-handers are especially clumsy. Rather, they are accident-prone because the world is filed with products designed or right-handers–from “can openers to power tools.”
Well, that would explain a lot of mysterious deaths, wouldn’t it?
“She wasn’t killed by an unknown assailant after all. We now believe that she accidentally severed her jugular vein with the electric can opener. This also explains the partially-opened can of tuna fish near the body.”
The professor offered some encouragement, saying that “this doesn’t mean that everyone who is left-handed is going to die young.” He cited Queen Victoria and Pablo Picasso as examples of left-handers who lived long lives.
I assume this was said to allay our fears, but I was not comforted because I doubt that either one of them ever tried to operate a power tool, say, a radial arm saw. But this is just a guess on my part. (I told you we hated research.)
Professor Coren had conducted another study on this same subject using Major League Baseball players. He chose this sport because of the wealth of statistics available.
Anyone who has sat through a Sunday doubleheader knows that the game breeds statistics because it provides you with so much time between Interesting Events to ponder such things. Erno Rubik could have invented his cube during a game and still caught all the action–and maybe even a foul tip or two.
But I digress. Even the baseball study showed that left-handers have a shorter life expectancy, a fact that the professor admits cannot be attributed to accidents alone.
Should I feel better about this admission? Of course not, because he also points out that left-handed people may be predisposed to life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, allergies, and even insomnia.
Insomnia? Let me guess: You can’t sleep and get up to take a pill with a glass of water. You reach for the light switch but, being accident-prone, you inadvertently flip on the Water Pik and the next thing you know, you’re waking up in the Emergency Room.
“It’s that darn left hand,” you explain to the doctor, who nods sympathetically.
Considering the amount of his research, it should come as no surprise that the professor is right-handed.
This is why I didn’t believe he was sincere when he said that he didn’t want people to think that left-handers “are walking around with drool on their shirts.”
“Some of them are very successful,” he said, “including…presidents of the United States, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.” (Add to that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.)
I noted that the professor didn’t include Gerald Ford (of stumble and golf-slice fame) to his list of presidents.
Which brings us to the topic of the left-handed compliment…