Seizing this opportunity, I would like to celebrate and heap praise upon my right arm for being so good at what it does. A congratulatory handshake is in order, although I would need another right hand to properly execute that maneuver. I simply did not realize my right arm was so dexterous and adept at so many things.

Not to slight the left arm in any way but, really, the right arm would win the Oscar, hands down, for best actor. The left would, no doubt, win for best supporting role but with no hope of anything better, unless … unless something were to happen to the right arm rendering it completely useless. Say the right arm was disqualified for doping after winning a big race or it fell victim to an addiction from which it could never recover even with interventions and exclusive re-hab. It would take something this dire before the left arm could ever hope to rise to take the place of the right and, even so, there would always be the nagging, sub-surface prejudice that it was still, technically, left.

What brought me to this observation is the same circumstance that has affected my writing and whole life in general: my right arm has been in a sling, tied firmly to my side for the last five weeks. When people see me at church or in the liquor aisle they ask, “What happened to you?” “Bar fight” is my standard reply, “And I had to have surgery.” They invariably ask how my opponent fared. I confide that “After the surgery, the doctor was a mess too.”

The humdrum truth be told, I managed to find the last vestige of ice from the 2020–21 winter, my feet slipped out from under me and I fell, hitting the ground with all my might, landing a punishing blow with my right elbow.

The ground did not appear to suffer all that much damage. Remarkably, my elbow escaped unscathed and cleverly transferred all that momentum into my right shoulder. I did not break any bones but the frightful force had to go somewhere and was taken up by two tendons, which were ripped from my rotator cuff along with most of the tendon that attaches the bicep to the shoulder. Unfortunately, the bicep is the upper arm muscle you flex on the beach when you want to impress the girls.

All that had to be reattached if I ever hoped to swing a hammer overhead, plaster drywall seams, or impress any girls with the arm that knows how to do those sorts of things. With the surgeon, anesthesiologist, hospital and pharmacy, this billed out to about $36,000 not counting the bar tab or the hospital gift shop. It’s more than I usually pay an electrician but less than you have to shell out to buy a new pickup truck. Luckily, I had already paid this highfalutin fee through decades of health insurance premiums and self-employment contributions to Medicare.

The list of things I am not allowed to do at this time is daunting. Polo is out, that’s for sure. I mean you may still be able to control the horse but what’s the point? No handsprings, no chin-ups or cartwheels and no working out on the rings in the gym. Typing is a challenge and operating a computer mouse with your “other” hand is so unmanageable that it’s pointless.

More pedestrian restrictions include using a knife and fork at the same time. There is no driving, sleeping in a bed, using ladders or scaffolding, operating jack hammers and chain saws, or doing anything productive that involves my right arm — even if it’s just on stand-by, like on a roof where I might have to use my right arm to steady myself when my left arm is busy beckoning for help.

In the bathroom, a quick shave turns into a lengthy trial, brushing teeth is awkward, and buttoning a shirt becomes an exercise in patience. Then there are the many personal chores that the left hand might not be adept at — such as changing a toilet paper roll. Don’t let your imagination stop there.

All this brings on not only praises for my right arm but a newfound respect for the left-handed. How do you manage? Even scissors are against you.

So, as far as my school-age declaration that I would give my right arm to be ambidextrous, that’s just silly. Ambidexterity isn’t worth a right arm.