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I think, therefore I harm

Being Ambidextrous

Most people have a dominant hand, one that is more agile and which they prefer for most tasks. Most people are right-handed, and only about 10% of the population is left-handed.

Your dominant hand is the one you will prefer for tasks that only require one hand. When two hands are required, your dominant hand will do the micro-task – the one that requires dexterity – while your non-dominant hand will perform the macro-task. For example, when you write (the old fashion way) your dominant hand holds the pen while your other hand barely holds the sheet of paper. When you dry the dishes, which hand holds the cloth and which one holds the dishes?

Scene from Da Vinci's Demons, depicting young Leonardo drawing a sketch with his left hand while taking notes with the right hands.

Scene from Da Vinci’s Demons, depicting young Leonardo drawing a sketch with his left hand while taking notes with the right hands. (Leonardo was gay. Sorry.)

A true ambidextrous is defined as someone who can use both hands equally, without preference or loss of ability. True ambidexterity is extremely rare, less than one percent, and most people’s ambidexterity can be scaled by quality. Some people could exhibit ambidexterity in particular areas but have an obvious preferred hand for most other tasks. For example, some professional athletes gain an advantage at being ambidextrous in their sport while having a true dominant hand in their life in general.

Some people became ambidextrous by training themselves. They do so because they can sometimes gain an advantage in some areas. Many lefties became ambidextrous because of social pressure and world constraints, and most ambidextrous are actually of this flavor. Right-handers may not realize that most things they use are for right-handers. Left-handed version of tools and machines we use daily do not always exist, or are less readily available. Left-handers may decide to adapt to the right-handed version of everything, and may over time gain skills with they non-dominant hand, and become ambidextrous.

I identify myself as an ambidextrous. There are a number of tasks I don’t mind doing with either hand. Paint a wall, drill holes, screw screws… I gain an advantage because I’m never stuck in a corner. For most things, however, I have a preferred hand, though that hand is sometimes the right hand, sometimes the left hand. I cannot – easily – change hand for these tasks.

I write with the right hand, and play all sports with my right hand. But, I usually use remotes, keys, phones and many other things with my left hand.

I don’t know at what point in my life I first exhibited ambidexterity, or if I was born with it. It’s only a few years ago that I actually noticed. I suppose that being able to use either hand for most tasks doesn’t really cause any handicap, and rather goes unnoticed. For most of my life, I was a right-hander since I held the pen with the right hand, and I never gave it a second thought. But as I turned into an adult and began working, people started to exclaim “Oh you are left-handed” after noticing I was using tools with the wrong hand. “Hum? It’s just a screwdriver, it doesn’t matter.” After years of this on a somewhat regular occurrence, I began to notice. For many tools, I would just use whatever hand was more convenient for the situation.

After a while, I began using my newly discovered skill consciously and intelligently, rather than whatever sounded better to the dumb unconsciousness. I can thus adopt a more comfortable position in many situations.

At my current job, I gain a number of advantages from ambidexterity. Since I never work at the same physical location, and pop somewhat randomly, I do not have any assigned area to get comfortable. In most cases, I end up setting up my laptop and printer atop a pile of empty crates or the like. Part of my job consists of reviewing numbers on the laptop with one hand while striking out items from a checklist printed on paper with the other hand. I found it didn’t matter which hand worked which position, whatever side is more convenient for the checklist works.

However, I found myself a handicap. Another part of my job consists at scanning barcodes and punching quantities on a hand-held device which, like phones and remotes, I can only hold with the left hand. I ended up being the only left-hander that have ever performed that job there, as even those I knew were actual left-handers held the device in their right hand. I did try to use the device with the right hand at a few occasions, but found I was unable to. My right thumb is unable to learn the inverted position of the keypad. Obviously, I get into trouble when I hit corners, but this isn’t the worst part.

Store managers also need to perform maintenance on their stock level using the very same device. For their convenience, most of them end up turning their over stock so that the barcode is exposed on the right side. Many of them even screw the nail even harder into my cranium as to say: “You will be glad, I placed all the barcodes on the same side.” As I turn my back to them to begin my work, I usually just raise both hands to let them notice what hand I use. If that doesn’t work, I exaggerate my motion as I reach for the barcodes with the wrong hand. Only once, over the course of eight years at that job, did I got into a store where the left-handed assistant-manager was conveniently the one performing the routine stock maintenance.

Overall, being ambidextrous is awesome, it’s like a kind of superpower. Well, a small superpower. Just a power. But it comes with a price. I don’t have an extremely good dexterity with either hand. I can’t draw. I wouldn’t be good at baseball. I cannot do any chips trick at the poker table, not even roll them over my fingers.

Did you have any situation when your dominant hand was a clear advantage or a clear handicap?


14 comments on “Being Ambidextrous

  1. heretherebespiders
    October 3, 2013

    I’m a righty. My left isn’t entirely stupid, however.

    Hubby claims ambidextrous tendencies – but the only time I really see it is when he is trying to open a can. We went through so many openers as he couldn’t work them with his left!

  2. Lidia
    October 14, 2013

    I’m right handed, and my left hand can’t do anything. Or… err, well, not much. I cut my food with right, and I eat with right, cause I can’t cut with left, and eating with left feels uncomfortable. Like I’m going to miss my mouth when I try to stick food in it. So I switch my knife and fork around. My boyfriend is ambidextrous, sorta. He eats with left sometimes right (depends if he eats with chopsticks or knife/fork), writes with right (I think he can write with left too). His mouse is on the right. There is more, but i don’t pay that much attention to it anymore. 😛

    • heretherebespiders
      October 14, 2013

      Lidia (giggle), did you know it is an American thing to switch the fork to your right hand after cutting? I didn’t know until my sister moved to England, and she told me she was mocked! I don’t know if I still do it or not? I use chopsticks right handed, for sure. But I’m very good!

      • Lidia
        October 14, 2013

        I get cramp in my hand after using chopsticks for too long!

        • heretherebespiders
          October 14, 2013

          No! You aren’t doing it right 🙂

          • Tom Duhamel
            October 14, 2013

            Well I’m pretty sure she has enough people around her to show her the right way 🙂

            • heretherebespiders
              October 14, 2013

              Apparently not! I have tried and tried to get hubby to use them, he says he only can when drunk. I say he only less worried about dropping his food on the placemat when he’s sober.

              • Tom Duhamel
                October 14, 2013

                LOL Well it’s been a very long time since I tried chop sticks, I was probably still a teen back then, and I couldn’t get the food to reach for my mouth. If even you can do it, I suppose I should learn!

                • heretherebespiders
                  October 14, 2013

                  I learned as a child – my dad invented something he called ‘black fungus chicken’ and we all learned as a family how to use them. I was youngest so picked it up fast! I don’t think food that is meant to be eaten with chopsticks tastes the same if eaten with a fork. I rather insist on them, and own several nice pair.

                  • Tom Duhamel
                    October 14, 2013

                    I don’t see how that would change the taste. I’d think it’s a psychological effect 🙂

                  • Tom Duhamel
                    October 14, 2013

                    Is it me, or the name “black fungus” by itself sounds pretty bad?

      • Tom Duhamel
        October 14, 2013

        I sure didn’t. My brother does that, switching hands. When he was younger, it was even a subject of mockeries (in a funny way, not a naughty way), and I remember how my mom tried to make him learn how to use the knife in the left hand.

  3. Susan
    December 26, 2014

    My son is an anomaly: He writes with the left hand, eats with the left hand, but can play great guitar with the right hand… He is, I think, confused in his head and has a problem, not only in this area… He abuses drugs and alcohol, is a wonderful, friendly person, but seems to have a bi-polar problem… I’d really like to know if there is some sort of connection here, concerning left and right… thank you for your opinion.

    • Tom Duhamel
      December 27, 2014

      It’s easy to make a connection when learning one thing that sounds connected, but only a doctor would know enough and have enough experience to verify the connection.

      It’s actually quite common for left handed musicians to learn the right hand version of an instrument, because the left hand version might not be available or might be quite difficult to obtain. Ritchie Valens is one that I’m aware of. He was left handed, but when an opportunity came to learn the guitar only a right hand instrument was available to him.

      If you are concern with the health of your soon, please consult a specialist. The internet may be a good place to learn about many things, but it won’t ever replace someone who studied for years.

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This entry was posted on October 3, 2013 by in Personal and tagged , , .
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