One of the most annoying aspects of being left-handed is the simple act of writing with a pen. You see, the pen – and more specifically the ball point pen – has a fatal flaw. They were designed by right-handed people. Let me explain with a picture and some arrows:
As you can see from the picture, I’m writing from left to right and I’m left-handed. The problem is that a ball point pen is designed to allow ink to flow out of the nib while it’s being moved across a page. This principle works well if you’re right handed since you spent 99% of your time with the nib facing away from the direction of travel. But write left-handed and most of the time is spent with the nib pushing directly into the paper itself, preventing the free-flow of ink to the page. Write a paragraph or two and the ball point pen will often dry up, you’ll need to scribble a bit and you’ll be able to carry on.
It’s like stroking a cat. If you stroke it from head to tail (and it’s a friendly cat) it will most likely purr and be nice to you since that’s the direction its fur grows. Stroke it from tail to head on the other hand and – unless it’s one of those mad cats that likes it – the moggie will look at you in a particularly unimpressed fashion before hissing at you / biting you / scratching you / walking away and ignoring you for a while / hissing at you then biting you / hissing at you, biting you then scratching you and so on…
Don’t even get me started on fountain pens. I don’t care what you say, it is physically impossible to write with a fountain pen when you’re left-handed unless you adopt some wrist-straining style of holding a pen. But the risk of arthritis in later life makes it a non-option for me. There are myriad other types of pen that have their own particular problems but there is one that turns out – completely by accident – to be the ultimate left-handed pen.
I am talking about the amazing fisher space pen. The incredible technological advances in the modern world are truly remarkable and none more so than the space pen. It was designed so that astronauts – whose pencils had broken and were stranded without a pencil sharpener in space – were still able to write shopping lists in a zero gravity situation. (At least, that’s what I’m assuming the design goals were).
I could explain to you exactly how it works by quoting the instructions but you wouldn’t understand it – I surely don’t – it’s just far too advanced for our human brains! But the bottom line is that the ink cartridge is pressurised so that even if you try writing upside down, or underwater, or… eh… upside down and under water, the ink will still flow. And of course, if you just happen to be left-handed writing from left-to-right (or right-handed writing right-to-left) then you’ll be thrilled to discover that the space pen won’t dry up on you mid-sentence! I bought one on impulse a few years ago and discovered this left-handed miracle and meant to spread the word but I’ve been too busy finishing all those sentences I’d half-written when the ink had dried up.
Even better, you don’t have to be left-handed to own one! Apparently (as you can see in the picture at right – click for the full version) if you dress like the Village People, then you can own one too!
[As an aside, the people who designed this brochure have the best job in the world. Imagine you've been given the brief along the lines of: "We want this flyer to show tough, rugged people that normal Joe's aspire to doing tough, rugged things with their space pens. Oh, and if you can make it a bit camp too then even better!". Must have been a real laugh.]
But on a more serious note (and being left-handed is a serious business), if you’re left handed and you’ve been left frustrated and let-down by pens in the past, then your choice is clear. You can either use a frikin’ pencil or buy a space pen! If you go for the latter (the right choice) then be prepared for other left-handed people demanding to know how you can keep writing paragraph after paragraph without pausing for breath. Just point them at this article and I’m sure they’ll make the right choice too!