Friday Query: L & R

Remember when you began wrenching your own bike? I use the singular because it was the beginning, was it not? Before 'N+1' became the dominant formula driving the cycling side of your life, and you had to learn the different ways of mountain and road, and maybe track as well. There were some mechanical consistencies between the disciplines, there always have been. I bet one of the first you learned was 'L' and 'R'. Am I right? Most of the time left and right designated components are pretty obvious - the one just will not work on the other. Though I am sure there are people who have tried, you don't put a left brake lever on the right bend of the handlebar. 

Perhaps even more significantly for us, are the 'L' and 'R' designations on our pedals. If not for reverse threading we would quickly find ourselves footloose, at least on the left side.

Moving on. I am old enough to remember those big old, headbanger floor speakers that all us kids of the 60s and 70s would have hooked up to our stereo systems. Those speakers, as well as their smaller shelf-top descendants, all had 'L' and 'R' designations. Their wires were hooked into corresponding 'L' and 'R' ports at the backs of the stereos. There was a reason for this, and it had to do with balance control. 

Moving on. Todays earbuds still have those l little markings for left and right. The Friday Query is, why? For a long time I made sure to check that the 'R' was only going into the right ear and, unsurprisingly, that the 'L' was only going into the left ear. It was a task born of habit. Lately things have switched, and just to rebel, I give the 'L' bud to the right ear. I have not noticed any difference. The left and right wires go into a common jack, and though that jack has the ability to separate them, the iPod it goes into does not have balance control. If you were wondering, yes these are the original earbuds that came with the iPod years ago. Maybe there are devices with left and right balance control I could plug into, or are the markings there simply because that is how it has always been done?

Ah, well. I am perhaps more a creature of habit than I would like to admit, and I suppose I will continue to take a quick glance before I put the earbuds in their proper place, whether it is necessary or not. At work, not on the bike.