i have a few inconvenient glitches. i cannot tell my left from my right. thankfully, i did learn how to hold my hands out in front of me to check which one makes an “L” when i was in pre-school, but somehow i never internalized it, like most people do. so i still use this crutch when navigating the many directional choices throughout any given day. sometimes, this is problematic… if i am driving, and you tell me to turn “right” there is only a 50/50 chance that i will make the correct turn. it is best for you to also point in the direction you want me to go. otherwise, i will have to take my hands off the wheel and double check for my “L”, which probably isn’t the safest. also, i prefer a little lead time. i like that the google maps lady not only verbally tells you which way to proceed, she shows you a picture. i’ve realized that i am more of a visual learner than an auditory processor.
there are loads of other situations where inherently understanding left and right would be helpful. i get stressed at sporting events when you have to place your hand over your heart during the national anthem - that’s a double whammy - right hand, left heart… like a double negative - so confusing.
at the gas station, if i can’t pull right into the spot i need for filing my gas tank on the left side, i am loathe to circle around to an empty spot in another lane. it’s always a gamble as to whether i will end up with my gas tank on the correct side next to the pump. so i often just wait for the pump i know will match up with my left side gas tank. inevitably, the person i’m waiting on is the one washing all of their windows, buying gum in the shop and checking their texts before pulling away.
in my work as an interior designer, i purchase a lot of sofas for other people. frequently, these sofas have a chaise on either the left or right side. i have to take great care in making these orders as it can take up to three months for the piece to be made and if it has a custom fabric, the sofa is not returnable. to further complicate the process, there is no standardization of a left or right hand chaise sofa. some companies call it a left hand when you are sitting on it and the chaise is on the left and some call it a left hand when you are facing it and the chaise is on the left. i have yet to make an incorrect order, but i have the foreboding sense that it is only a matter of time. there are a few companies that make universal chaise sofas where the chaise can be moved from side to side. my heart sings a bit when clients choose this option and i know i don’t have to worry about the ordering.
at my (exercise) bar class, they don’t like it when you go rogue on your left or right side. they want everyone synchronized so that no one gets kicked. i usually have to watch and wait for the person next to me to start a set to see which foot to use. i can’t look at the teacher because they are usually doing it backwards and then there are the mirrors that turn things around. so i miss the first couple of lifts or tucks getting myself oriented… which i honestly don’t mind too much - that’s when i drink out of my water bottle.
probably related to my left/right problem is the gap in my directional ability. i get lost easily and i lose things frequently… like my car. if i could have all the time back i’ve spent looking for my car, i would probably live another ten years. i have ways of mitigating this dysfunction… i always take pictures of where i park in airports and try to take a beat and notice the cross streets when i am running errands, but too often these measures are just not enough. a few weeks ago i dropped my father off at an appointment and then parked the car on my own. as we were leaving my father said, “where is the car?” “up there,” i pointed. “on broderick?” he asked. “maybe” i answered. “do you know where it is?” he asked again, concerned. “mostly… we just have to keep walking until i recognize it.” he was astounded and i guess i should have been too, but that it is pretty much how it goes when i park alone. my kids now know to pay attention when they are with me so we don’t spend lots of extra time wandering around and clicking the keys looking for flashing lights.
until recently, i’ve generally learned ONE way to get somewhere. sometimes, i would have to go home, just to start from a familiar place. but now i have siri and the google maps lady and they have literally changed my life. i used to print out directions from google, but once you make a single wrong turn, they are moot. the google maps lady “reroutes” me if i get off course. i am now able to venture out into parts of the world i would have never found before, as long as i have cell service and a working charger in my car. it is incredibly liberating, but i do have to put a lot of trust in siri and the google lady. i have one client who lives on a horse ranch and every time i go to her house the google lady sends me a different way. i am always a little anxious that she is going to let me down and then i see the big, gray house in the distance. i just can’t believe how many different routes there are to the same place. in my twenties i was commuting out of new york city into long island. regularly, there were overturned trucks or big pile ups that made the traffic outrageous. i knew i could get off the LIE and take back streets into the city, but i had no idea which ones to choose so i would just get an extra long dose of NPR on the drive home.
i also have trouble telling time. my mother thinks i was out with chicken pox when we learned this in first grade. i don’t remember, but it is not a skill that comes easily to me. i’ve always worn a watch (it HAS to have all twelve numbers or sticks or it’s useless to me) but it’s mostly decorative. before iphones, when random people on the street would ask me the time, i would just stick my wrist in their faces because it was too much pressure to answer on the spot. luckily, i typically just get the hour wrong, not the minutes, and i am usually an hour early, rather than late. sometimes, this is nice… found time! ironically, when i was teaching second grade, time telling was part of the curriculum. i was hopeful that breaking it down for my students would help me as well… this only worked by extension. after the unit, when i would suddenly look up at the clock and gasp, “whoops guys, put your reading books away, we are late for lunch!” shojiro would say, “no ms. rhode, we don’t have lunch for another hour.” and we would all relax back into our stories. when my son was in third grade, the only volunteering slot that worked for me was during math. this was mostly okay, until we got to the time telling unit. i told his teacher that time was not my forte, especially time telling word problems… absolutely impossible! after misdirecting several students and causing a bit of confusion, we agreed that i would just work on bulletin boards until the unit was complete.
recently, i was chatting with a girlfriend about being severely left-handed and my various glitches. she has some too (though different) and is mostly left-handed. she said she thought it made us more creative. “being left-handed?” i asked. “no, being confused. i think confused people are more creative.” so maybe my glitches are of some use…