One of my childhood baseball heroes was Mickey Mantle, the greatest switch hitter who ever lived. There are a lot of switch batters, but few can hit equally well from both sides of the plate. Mantle was a true switch hitter, meaning he could actually hit from either side. He was a more prolific home run hitter from the left side, thanks in part to the short porch in Yankee Stadium, but he could drive the ball even deeper from the right side.
I was never able to duplicate Mantle’s efforts at the plate. Like most people, when I switched sides I looked like Grandma Moses swatting flies. But the desire to go both ways never left me. And where I failed in baseball, I succeeded in a much more humble way with my computer. There aren’t any crowds to cheer or statisticians to place my accomplishment in the record books, but I can proudly state that after weeks and months of determined practice, I am now an accomplished switch mouser, equally adept with the computer mouse with both my left and right hands.
For years I wished I could use the computer mouse with my left hand. Being a rightie all of the time has a couple of huge drawbacks. You can’t pick up a pen and write something at the same time you’re using the computer. This is annoying and time consuming. You have to stop using the mouse, hand-write your sticky note, and then go back to the mouse. Or, you have to stop using the mouse to pick up the telephone. As long as you’re holding the phone, you can’t use your computer.
I used to think how great it would be if I could mouse left-handed, freeing my right hand for note-taking and telephone-holding. But I remembered my failed attempts to become a switch hitter just like Mickey and I never really made an effort to become a switch mouser.
As the years flew by I realized I was never going to amount to much and would leave nothing remarkable behind unless I changed my ways. I faced the fact that the reason I could never switch hit is that I never practiced enough. It takes hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice to learn something new and to do it so well that it seems natural. I might have failed with my Louisville Slugger, but I swore to myself I would succeed with my Icemouse!
I must admit, it was even harder than I thought. I plugged the Icemouse into the left side of the keyboard and started moving the cursor around. I’d aim for one icon and hit another; I would place the cursor in the middle of the wrong paragraph; the wretched cursor moved slower across my computer screen than a lame fly. Many times I thought of quitting, but then I realized, hey, I’m not getting paid by the hour, it doesn’t matter how long this takes! So I would labor long hours with my left hand, sometimes missing the bus because of it.
Progress came slowly, but it did come. My left-handed brain neurons began to fire and I slowly grew accustomed to holding the mouse in my left hand. When it came time to write a note or answer the phone, I rejoiced that I was mousing left-handed and didn’t have to stop what I was doing. When people walked into my office I would make a great show of mousing, impressing everyone that I could do it left handed. Then I’d quickly switch to the right hand, as jaws dropped and eyes opened in amazement.
Today, I naturally use the mouse with my left hand because it’s so much more convenient. But I know that if I get mouse fatigue I can switch to the right hand and stay productive.
After all these years, the Mick and I finally have something in common. We can both go either way. And we both have a legacy we can be proud of.