The Devil’s Left Hand

I went to Catholic school for the first few years. One of the most vivid memories I have of that experience is from my first grade class room.

My left hand is too evil to allow itself to be photographed. (image by Krzysztof P. Jasiutowicz, CC by SA 3.0)

We were practicing writing. The boy in front of me was left-handed. The nun who was our teacher came by and cracked the back of his hand with a ruler and told him to use his other hand. He swapped hands. Unfortunately, each time she stopped our practice to teach another letter we had to put our pencils down. And when the nun instructed us to pick them back up, my classmate’s natural tendency took over. He’d take up his pencil in his left hand.

Over and over this poor kid would pick up his pencil in his left hand after a pause and the nun would hit him. I don’t remember much of what she taught that day. I just remember learning gratitude; I thanked God I wasn’t born left-handed.

Something Sinister

In high school, I took Italian. One of the very few things I learned was that the Italian word for the left side was sinistro. The teacher explained that sinistro was the root of the word sinister. At the time the language was developing, the left side was presumed to be evil.

The other day I found out that my left hand is truly evil.

I went out to lunch. As I left, I followed another customer out of the restaurant. This other gentleman had a plate with two slices of pizza in one hand and a drink in the other. I wondered what sort of person drives down the street while they eat pizza; I did not plan to punish him for his messy and dangerous driving habits.

Yet Somehow He Got Punished

We got to the door and he shoved it open with his shoulder. In retrospect, I realize that he didn’t know I was behind him and his plan was to step around the door as it closed behind him. He didn’t know I was behind him and that my left hand had sinister plans for him.

When the door opened wide, I reached out to hold it open. The gentleman with his hands full was looking to his right, but turned to his left to go around the door he presumed had closed behind him. It had not. I held the door in place and he smacked in to it. He dropped his soda, but saved his pizza. I hadn’t planned to punish him for his messy and dangerous driving habits. My sinister left hand got the job done without a plan.

As he recovered, he looked to understand where his plan had gone awry. I gave him a sheepish shrug. The shrug worked. The man seemed to realize that I didn’t intend to make him collide with the door. We both knew it was the fault of The Devil’s Left Hand.

It was cool of him to be so understanding. I’ll bet he was that kid from first grade.



15 Comments on “The Devil’s Left Hand”

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    My mother used to get hit with the ruler too whenever she tried to write with her left hand. When my son started to develop his very “write from the top” left-handedness, she made me promise not to send him to parochial school. As if.

    We found out after my mother died that he’s almost completely ambidextrous, so it doesn’t matter anymore.

  2. lbwoodgate says:

    “The teacher explained that sinistro was the root of the word sinister. At the time the language was developing, the left side was presumed to be evil.”

    Oy vay! These are the same people who thought the sun revolved around a flat earth.

  3. Debbie says:

    I, too, went to Catholic school, but I never heard of nuns smacking kids for using their left hands to write. Maybe we in the Midwest are more tolerant??

    You’re fortunate the pizza customer didn’t seem to mind slamming into the door AND losing his drink. At least he managed to salvage the pizza — though he must have been horribly embarrassed at careening into a door!

    • omawarisan says:

      I may have gone to the most insane Catholic school ever. I’m glad you didn’t run across that. She wore that poor kid out.

      I really had to admire his balance, he kept the pizza on that plate. It was weird, everyone else went out with pizza in a box.

  4. goldfish says:

    When I was a kid, they put me in special ed classes because I wrote letters backwards. Turns out, I was just left-handed.

  5. Stories of the punishments for being left handed reached our young ears on the other side of the Catholic fence. Even we cowered at the thought.

  6. Dan Hennessy says:

    I went to Catholic school , too . I am naturally left handed but I was never smacked . Just avoided it in advance , I guess . I shoot pool left handed , shoot a rifle left handed ……. but I’m right handed . Repression ? You think . I wish I were ambidexterous .

  7. My mother went to Catholic school and was very left handed, and remains so to this day. My grandmother went down to the school and gave the nuns what-for. The nuns backed down and never smacked my Mom’s left hand with a ruler again, but they were heard to mutter as my grandmother walked out of the school office that she should understand that as a lefty, Mom would never be able to get a job as an operator with the phone company.

  8. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Lots of my friends are left-handed.

  9. Blogdramedy says:

    That poor kid only learned one thing…never to put his pencil down.
    I wonder what he does for a living now?

  10. […] the next fall, when I walked in to that classroom, she wasn’t there. A new nun, or at least a new to me nun, was there to teach my […]

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