Just a heads up … It turns out that as a toddler, I missed the lesson on left and right. As a result … do not act upon any spontaneous directions you might receive from me, unless those directions are reinforced with hand signals, such as tapping on the passenger window while yelling, “Take the next LEFT.” Or, alternatively a map I might have drawn for you on a napkin at some point. 

A number of people have learned this lesson the hard way. In the years before we were able to transport our various selves, my older sister Louise acted as family chauffeur for those of us needing to be picked up and delivered to a variety of destinations. After a series of journeys involving tricky U-turns in heavy traffic, she began to ask for verification, “Do you mean your left or your other left?” It seems that all turns were left for much of my childhood. My piano teacher, Mrs. Coblenz often encouraged me to bring out the other left after realizing where the problem lay. At first, she thought it had to do with some difficulty deciphering her accent, but finally recognized that it had to do with my hand to brain synapses or something else beyond her control. 

But in fact, I have come to realize that it must have something to do with my strong visual sense of spatial recognition. I know where I am, and where we might be going, but the words used to describe the journey are meaningless. My hand tapping on the passenger window is the message. My brain lags behind the message and fills in the blank at random. As a system, it is limited. 

I grew up in the Midwest, which is easily identified as all the big middle part of America not in direct contact with the Atlantic or Pacific. When we moved to the East Coast, I knew we were right there at the edge of the map. We lived in the east, which meant that all things geographic lay to the west. Seemed pretty clear to me, but then I was only seven and had a lot still to learn about geography, and giving directions.

This became especially frustrating when trying to take direction from my father, who never ceased to give directions using compass points. He was wont to say something like, “Go north out of town and then turn east at the second light.”  Obviously, this was gibberish to me. As is the entire Interstate Highway System. Yes, I understand that the even and odd numbers correspond to north/south and east/west. But it is pretty outrageous that most of I-84 is going north or south as it meanders through Connecticut, but all the exit signs are for east or west. Just so useless!

So instead, I have learned to love maps. I love reading maps. And need I say that GPS systems are a godsend. Arriving without stress is great. All that folding and unfolding of maps can be done ahead on the kitchen counter. After that, once on the road, the irritating voice of the Waz App gives you advanced warning of turns and exit numbers and all things traffic related. But, don’t forget GPS directions involve the dread left and right. Luckily, they are reinforced with a map showing an arrow pointing toward the driver’s side window … tap, tap, tap.

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