Be Kind to Your Left-Handed Friend

IT'S possible I'm a corrected lefty. When I started school there persisted a presumption that port-side people were peculiar, and if an eager student reached for something with his left hand the teacher would rap his knuckles. This was probably not then known as "remedial," but it worked. I got rapped. Today, I suppose, they'd left me be.One of my all-time favorite Maine stories has to do with a boy who resisted all efforts to correct his sinister bias and grew up to be different. He was stubborn. The more they tried to turn him into a right-hander the more he fought. His schoolmaster gave up, and the family tried in vain. Then an older brother took over, and because he was bigger and stronger and more agile, he convinced his little brother to be reasonable and conform. Actually, it was a compromise. After he had been pommeled enough, little Isaac agreed to learn to write right-handed if he might dip his quill pen as a lefty. This arrangement prevailed, and Isaac Hodsdon grew up and became adjutant general of the state of Maine. His signature can be seen on thousands of official documents, all neatly right-handed, but folk s in the state house used to pause outside his office door and watch him shift hands to dip. In our early married life we socialized with a compatible neighbor couple, Herb and Nell Walker, and we would drive out now and then for supper, and we liked to find "some place else." Everybody, now and then, likes to try some place else. (Years later we found there really was a restaurant at Greenville Junction with a sign, "Some Place Else." Sadly, a new owner changed that to "Sportsman's Cafe.") One evening, we and the Walkers headed toward the beaches and decided to try "The Ocean House," a.k.a., some place else. Now, Herb Walker was a lefty. He'd bunged up his right elbow playing kick the can about the time he started school and there was no alternative. He threw left and batted left. He played a good golf game, but had sinister clubs. He bowled left. And he wrote an extreme left - his forearm held so he appeared to be writing upside down. We spent so much time with the Walkers that we didn't notice his difference, but that evening at The Ocean House an unusual happening drew our attention. We had been shown to our table and were examining the choices when a gracious lady approached to fill our water tumblers and she said, "Good evening - I'm Alice and you're stuck with me for the duration." Gentle chitchat ensued while Alice took our orders. Things progressed, and shortly we heard Herb say, "It never happened before!" Alice, veteran and competent, had noticed that Herb was left-handed and had served him accordingly. Always before, when dining out, Herb had to take things served to his right hand and move them to his left, adjust according to, and pay the price of being the odd one. Tonight, his cup was by his left hand. When Alice returned from the kitchen, Herb said, "Thanks for noticing!" "I always do," she said. "When I was a girl and started waiting on table here, we had a head waiter who taught us to look for left hands. Simple little thing. Makes friends. And most of all, it helps with the tips." She looked at Herb when she said that, and Herb was nodding. In the many years that followed, we and the Walkers always considered the choice - shall we go some place else, or go and see Alice? Alice usually won. And then as the years passed, our daughter came home from college and we drove her deep into the Maine woods for her first summer job - waiting on table at the Kennebago Lake Club. We settled her into her room over the "back hall," and shook hands with the other waitresses, the choreboy, the guides, the cooks, the dockboy, the cabin girls, and the folks she would be with until September. The "guests" would pay to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness, and she would have it for free. The last thing we said t o her was, "And Alice reminds you to look for left hands." So lo, and even behold! This time the No. 2 granddaughter came home from her sophomore efforts and packed up to go to a summer hotel to wait on table. Her first time. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she was eager. "I suppose," I told her, "that I don't need to remind you to spot left hands?" "Nope!" she said. "Mom has told me all about Alice."

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