Friday, September 10, 2004

Being Left Handed

I am a southpaw, a trait I share with 10% of the world's population, including such luminaries as Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, Jimi Hendrix, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Bart Simpson and millions of others. It's never bothered me at all, no one tried to force me to be right-handed, and I can manage well enough with implements like pens, screwdrivers and motor cars.

I may have had more success in my teenage musical career as a bass player had I got my paws on a left-handed guitar (like Jimi H & Paul McCartney). But I didn't, so I was doomed to be a mediocre right-handed bass player.

It was only when I moved to the Middle East that left-handedness became a 'problem'. Before the move I read up on the customs of this part of the world, and discovered that the left hand has a bit of stigma attached to it. I believe this is mainly to do with toilet arrangements, and the lack of Andrex in the olden days. You are not supposed to touch a local with your left hand, eat with it, or pass anything to a local with it.

So, imagine the fun when a welcome dinner is thrown in my honour a week after I joined an engineering company in Riyadh (one day I might write about my year as a bachelor in Riyadh - but only if you're naughty). There is an abundance of mutton and rice, and tons of bread and salad. It is customary to eat with the hands - you scoop food up with the flat bread. I hadn't had a lot of practice with this technique, and as you can imagine there was rice and lettuce everywhere as a result of a left-hander trying to eat with his right hand. Eventually one of the guys whispered 'are you all right?'. I said 'I'm left handed'. And he said 'why don't you use your left hand then?'. Sheesh.

Ever since then I've used cutlery. And nobody, but nobody has ever expressed any surprise, indignation or offence when I use my left hand. Now, showing the soles of your feet to an Arab - that's a different story.

Addendum: I do have one small problem arising from being left-handed. I can't tell left from right. Well, I can eventually, but I have to think about it. Apparently lots of lefties have this problem. But my darling wife has invented a solution. When I'm driving and she's navigating, it is quite important to know your 'sinistra' from your 'a destra'. It seems that we drive on the , ummm, right in this country. This means that I'm sitting on the left, and the wife is ALWAYS RIGHT!