By John Gladden
I wear my watch on the wrong hand, which is my right hand.
That’s right. I’m a rebel.
I remember my good-hearted parents and long-suffering teachers trying to explain that right-handed people — like me — are supposed to wear their watches on their left wrists.
Gather round, little children, and Uncle John will tell you a story of long ago. There was a time when watches got their power from springs the wearer had to wind every day. Yes! Every day! Physical effort, if you can imagine it. Manual labor. Tiny gears. Moving parts. Today, we would call this renewable energy. Green technology. But back then, it was an obstacle to our happiness.
Today, most watches run on batteries. In olden times, they were wound by turning the stem, which usually stuck out of the right side of the watch. Therefore, a right-handed person could conveniently use his or her dominant hand to wind the watch while wearing it.
The logic was baffling, even to my little brain.
Why not wind your watch in the morning before mounting it on your wrist, I argued, then again at night when you took it off? And what of left-handed people? Are they supposed to put their watch on their right wrist with the stem facing away from their left hand? Put it on upside down? Crazy talk, if you ask me, which no one did, of course.
I also was told I didn’t want my watch on my writing hand because the band would drag across my work. So did the cuffs of my shirtsleeves, I said, which often got stained from rubbing against the pencil and ink on the page. Should I abandon long-sleeve shirts, too?
You can see I was a troublemaker, even then.
Well, they continued. It’s easier for a right-handed person to fasten a watch band on his left wrist because the right hand is more coordinated and can work the clasp better.
What sense does that make? Am I supposed to coddle my left hand? Not expect it to do its fair share of the work around here?
Besides, I never thought of my right hand as being especially benevolent. If my watch was on my left wrist, my right hand eventually would smash it to bits.
I am proud to say I routinely operate power tools and still have all my fingers and thumbs. I type on a computer to earn my living, such as it is, so I am aware of which body parts I need to look out for.
Yet, I do have two prominent scars, both on my left hand. One on my thumb from a grizzly encounter with the razor-sharp metal lid of a Chef Boyardee spaghetti sauce can. My right hand held it out to my left hand and said, “Here … open this, would you?”
Yeah, thanks a lot, Mr. Smarty Hand.
Though you have to admit, if you’re going to cut yourself in the kitchen, spaghetti sauce really is the best thing to be cooking.
The other scar is from an old-fashioned bow saw with teeth as jagged as Mike Tyson’s smile. The blade jumped out of the groove of the piece of firewood I was cutting and, again, Mr. Coordinated Right Hand drew the saw right across the index finger of my left hand, which was holding the wood.
Both cuts probably should have had stitches, but I was raised in the “just-mop-up-the-blood-and-get-back-to-work” school of medicine.
So most of the damage I’ve done to my left hand — the cuts, the smashed fingernails, the beat-up wedding band — has been the work of my so-called smarter, more-coordinated right hand, which hardly gets so much as a splinter. It seems like there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.
Another reason I’ve been told I should wear my watch on my left hand is the old, “Hey, what time is it?” trick people sometimes will play when you have a hot cup of coffee in your watch hand. I drink right-handed.
Now what sort of people would play a dirty trick like that? Little people, such as the two who live in my house, for example. My kids are forever trying to get me to look at my watch and pour beverages down my front in this manner. Spilling on myself is something I need no help with, thank you very much.
It’s their revenge, since I am continually yelling at them to speed up, as fathers are obligated to do. Get out of bed, I shout. Get out of the shower. Get your shoes on. You’re going to miss the bus. We’re going to be late for church. Look at the clock. Get to bed. I’m tired.
My revenge, when they ask me for the time, is to hold out my watch — which has actual hands that go round and round — and show them. You can just about see the gears turning in their little brains as they instinctively search for a digital readout and can’t find one.
For now, I still have the upper hand. The right one, of course.
Contact John Gladden at firstname.lastname@example.org.